State College's Drew Friberg (above, in April) will play his college ball at Princeton next fall. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Tyler Sandora (@tyler_sandora)
After finishing his final year of AAU basketball with the Jersey Shore Warriors, Drew Friberg had planned on taking some official visits to several schools recruiting him, and then make a decision after seeing all of the campuses.
There were a few that seemed to have a built-in advantage: Ryan Daly, a close family friend, is a rising sophomore at Delaware, one of the programs pursuing the 6-6 shooting guard. Bucknell, another school heavy on Friberg’s tail, is only an hour from where he grew up in State College, Pa.
But Friberg ended up going in a different direction entirely, convinced during a single visit to a legendary New Jersey institution that he’d found his future home.
After unofficially visiting Princeton last Wednesday, Friberg announced on Thursday that he will be spending his next four years in a Tiger uniform.
“I just fit well with all the coaches and it was a good campus and I just felt right. It was a gut feeling,” he said. “Just going there and talking to (head coach) Mitch Henderson and (assistant coach) Brett MacConnell and just getting the whole feel of campus and everything, it just felt right and felt like the place I wanted to go.”
Last year, Princeton won the Ivy League’s first ever post-season tournament, narrowly losing to Notre Dame in the first round of March Madness to cap a 23-win season. Prior to that, the Tigers hadn't made the NCAA tournament since 2011, the year before Henderson's arrival. Since Henderson took over, Princeton has gone 119-60.
“They want to put me in different positions on offense and they like the way I shoot the 3,” Friberg added. “They say I can fit in with their system. And just the university itself, its Princeton. It’s got great academics, so that was a big push too.”
One of the best shooters in the state of Pennsylvania in the class of 2018, Friberg’s recruitment took off once he joined the Jersey Shore Warriors for his final year of AAU. He came into the summer with offers from Penn State and Bucknell, and added scholarships from William & Mary, Delaware, Lafayette, Binghamton, New Hampshire, Mount St. Mary’s, Manhattan, Lehigh, Brown, Columbia, Penn, BU, Bowling Green and Yale.
By the time he made his decision, it was down to Princeton, William & Mary, Bucknell, Delaware and Yale.
Friberg joins two talented guards, Ethan Wright (Newton North/Mass.) and Jaelin Llewellyn (Virginia Episcopal/Va.), as Princeton’s 2018 commits. Llewellyn, a 6-2 point guard, is considered a top-100 recruit nationally. Wright, also 6-2, chose the Tigers over the likes of Seton Hall, Syracuse, Virginia, and Indiana.
At 6-6, Friberg is able to see over most defenders on the perimeter, where he can shoot a three, or drive to the basket and finish with his strong, athletic frame. The most talented shooter of the group, Friberg stands out from the other two future Tigers in a different way.
“First I’d start off with the shooting, I think that’s what is my best aspect,” Friberg said. “I can put the ball on the floor and I feel like I'm a good passer and I can rebound. I also feel like I’m a great teammate. I feel like I'm easy to play with.”
When Friberg arrives on campus next fall, guard Myles Stephens, an all-Ivy league selection as a sophomore in 2016-17, will be starting his senior year. Devin Cannady, a 6-1 guard, will also be a senior in 2018. Cannady has shot a combined 43 percent from 3 in his first two years at Princeton, and set the record for free throw percentage, averaging 93.8 percent in his sophomore campaign.
Though minutes won’t be guaranteed Friberg when he begins his Tigers campaign, his combination of size and ability to play within the Princeton system should provide him the opportunity to work his way into the rotation if he can hit shots and prove to be a reliable defender.
Last year, State College made it to the second round of the PIAA 6A state tournament before falling to Butler High, 53-50 in overtime. Despite losing six seniors, the Little Lions return a talented team which includes Friberg and his two younger brothers, Tommy (a junior) and John (a sophomore).
“We have a talented team coming back even though we lost six seniors, but i think we’ll have some younger guys who will step up,” Friberg said. “We won the Mid-Penn (Conference) last year so we're hoping to win that again, and go far in the state tournament.”