Familiar faces in the Big Dance
From Kemba Walker to Chandler Parsons, Rosen and Eggleston have links to this year’s NCAA tourney
March 16, 2011, 3:26 am·
“If anybody’s ever played one single game of basketball in the state of New Jersey … Zack Rosen knows him.”
Jack Eggleston may have commented on his teammate’s hoops ties half-jokingly, but the statement is grounded in fact. Rosen — an alum of basketball powerhouse St. Benedict’s Prep, located in the hoops hotbed that is North Jersey — played alongside and against some of the nation’s finest in his pre-collegiate days.
So with the beginning of March Madness just a day away, Rosen might have more connections to players in the NCAA tournament than Kevin Bacon.
In fact, just two days ago, Rosen received a call from Pittsburgh’s leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, who wished the Penn point guard a happy birthday. The two grew up together in North Jersey, and Rosen is ecstatic to see Gibbs having such a great year — the junior guard is averaging a team-high 16.7 points for the one-seed Panthers.
If that’s not intriguing enough, the list goes on and on. Before arriving at Penn, Rosen shared the court with the following big names: Connecticut star Kemba Walker, Duke standout Kyrie Irving, Villanova guard Corey Stokes, Texas big man Tristan Thompson, Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor and Louisville’s Chris Smith, brother of Denver Nuggets guard J.R.
Eggleston’s list of NCAA tourney connections isn’t too shabby, either.
He counts the Duke Plumlee brothers, Mason and Miles, among his family friends. In fact, the Egglestons and Plumlees, who live about an hour and a half away from one another in Indiana, have dinner together from time to time.
Eggleston, who went to high school in the Sunshine State, also has ties to the second-seeded Florida Gators. Eggleston played AAU ball with SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons and also matched up against the Gators’ second-leading scorer, Kenny Boynton, a few times in high school.
With friendships pulling their allegiances in different directions, Eggleston and Rosen may have a hard time choosing a single team to root for. But there are a few frontrunners.
“You want to see the other city schools do well,” Eggleston said. “So obviously we’re pulling for Temple and Villanova … It’s good for Philadelphia basketball and the reputation of the Big 5 to see those teams have success.”
Rosen, because of his friendship with Gibbs, is also rooting for Pitt, though the Quakers’ point guard added that he won’t be watching much, if any, of the tournament.
And to answer the biggest question, will either of the Penn captains cheer for a fellow Ivy League team — a dreaded rival — in 13th seeded Princeton?
“That’s a tough one,” Eggleston said after a long exhale, citing again the benefits a win would have for the League.
“I guess,” Rosen said, with similar reluctance.