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‘Striving for Greatness:’ Princeton’s Tosan Evbuomwan discusses road to March Madness

The forward led the Tigers in scoring as they went to the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament South Regional-Princeton vs Creighton
Tosan Evbuomwan scored 48 points over Princeton’s three NCAA Tournament games.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Princeton’s Tosan Evbuomwan led the Tigers to an impressive Sweet 16 run. The Newcastle, England, native scored in double figures in two of the Tigers’ three NCAA Tournament games. The First Team All-Ivy League selection averaged 15.1 points per game this season.

As he considers his next career move, Evbuomwan takes a moment to reflect on the journey to his first March Madness.

Carrie Berk: Why basketball?

Tosan Evbuomwan: At the time I started playing, I was looking for a new sport. I had just stopped playing soccer seriously, and I fell in love with basketball. It was nothing serious at the start. I just loved to play with my friends. We couldn’t stop. I noticed myself getting better quickly. That’s what I love about summers and offseason. You feel yourself getting better through the grind. You feel your body changing.

CB: You started off with the Great Britain U18 team at the FIBA European Championships in 2019 and 2018. What made you decide to play basketball in the U.S.?

TE: If you’re one of the best players in the country, you want to get to the U.S. That was something that didn’t even cross my mind for a while. When I had the opportunity, I realized I should do it. There’s nothing comparable when it comes to basketball in the U.K. The U.S. has a unique system where you can play at a high level of basketball and study at the same time. Being here made the most sense to me.

CB: You’ve had quite the run to the Sweet 16. What has it been like for you?

TE: It’s been awesome. The season is extended, so I’ve gotten to spend more time with my teammates. We have really felt the warmth, love and support from everybody. So many people came to our game [against Creighton] in Louisville. There wasn’t a single Princeton fan sitting down the entire game. I really felt the presence of the Princeton community, especially the alumni. I’m very grateful to have such amazing people rooting for us constantly.

CB: How does your training for March Madness compare to the rest of the season?

TE: The practices were intense, but they’re always intense throughout the year. Obviously, March Madness is the biggest stage, but to us, it was just another game in a back-to-back weekend. We’ve dealt with that all season. We prepared in the way we always do. We tried our best to remain focused and were confident going into the games.

CB: How do you and your teammates bond outside the court?

TE: It’s really strong, and I think that’s really helped us get to where we are. We spend a lot of time together off the court. The upperclassmen have a movie group. Some of the guys watch a movie together almost every night. We don’t leave out the underclassmen. We all really hang out together. It’s a fun team to be a part of. I’ve made bonds for life.

CB: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from your coach?

TE: A lot of us on the team have a really strong work ethic, me included. I love to work on my game a lot. I’m striving for greatness. Coach [Mitch Henderson] is always pushing me through the wins and losses. He pushes me to be better and never allows me to be satisfied. He never lets me settle. He puts me in a growth mindset, and that’s exactly what you need as a player.

CB: How do you recover after a tough game?

TE: I try my best not to get caught up in the highs and lows. Obviously, it’s difficult at times. We had some tough losses this year, but they really helped define our team and allow us to go on this run to the Sweet 16. We lost to Yale at home towards the end of the season. We blew a 19-point lead, and that stung. But the next day in practice, we were so locked in. The focus and energy were crazy. It was such a turnaround. That’s exactly the type of response you want. Losses are going to happen, but it’s about how you respond.

CB: What advice do you have for people who want to pursue basketball?

TE: Anything is possible. If it’s something you believe in, and if you want to put the work in, anything can happen. I’m an example of that. I started the game late in England. A lot of people counted me out. But I put my mind to it and put in the work, so there was no reason why I couldn’t accomplish what I wanted to do.

CB: What are your plans post college for basketball?

TE: I have a decision to make in terms of going pro this year or transferring somewhere. I’ll make that announcement soon. But the goal is to play in the NBA.