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All eyes will be on Tosan Evbuomwan when Princeton plays in the Sweet 16


It's a Cinderella story, as Bill Murray would say. Princeton returns to meet Creighton tonight in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Tigers weren't supposed to make it this far, and one reason they have is an economics major who seems equally at home on the court. Reporter Harrison Malkin takes a look.


HARRISON MALKIN: There is one guy at Princeton University's basketball practice that every reporter wants to talk to. It's Tosan Evbuomwan, a 6'8" senior forward from Newcastle, England.

TOSAN EVBUOMWAN: Yeah, no, it's been unreal, obviously. And we - like you said, we haven't surprised ourselves. We're a very confident group in what and who we are.

MALKIN: Not many college basketball fans thought Princeton would make it this deep in the NCAA tournament, as their last tournament win was 25 years ago. But the team's not-so-secret weapon is Evbuomwan, who grew up playing rugby, cricket and soccer. Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson says he is a unique talent.

MITCH HENDERSON: He is filled with humility, happiest when his teammates are doing well, an excellent student - he's crushing it academically - and I think one of the best players in the Sweet 16.

MALKIN: Evbuomwan's senior thesis is about how diversity in the NBA's front office affects team performance. Coach Henderson says the thoughtfulness of Evbuomwan's thesis doesn't surprise him. But it's not easy working on a thesis, going to classes, practicing and traveling for games and, oh, talking to the press.

EVBUOMWAN: It's taken a bit of a hold, obviously, whilst we've been playing. But I was able to get a good amount done, I think, in the winter break.

MALKIN: One of his closest teammates is point guard Matt Allocco.

MATT ALLOCCO: I call him my brother. You know, we're about as close as we get outside of being blood. So - he's so talented. You know, he's just unbelievably gifted, has a great feel for the game. And he definitely makes my job easier, I'll tell you that. He gets me a lot of open shots.

MALKIN: Before teaching a late-morning organic chemistry class, Princeton professor Erik Sorensen stopped by the team's final home practice before their game against Creighton.

ERIK SORENSEN: Tosan is a gift for our team. He's just an amazing athlete, and he's also a remarkable student. I just high-fived him. I'm very proud.

MALKIN: Professor Sorensen says the excitement of an underdog making it to one of the most competitive events in college sports is quietly reverberating among students.

SORENSEN: You know, they're into their classes and keeping up with their schoolwork. But inside there's a party going on in each one of us.

MALKIN: For Tosan Evbuomwan, who won Ivy League Player of the Year last season, he's just enjoying the moment. After graduation, he hopes to play professionally, bringing his dominant skills on the hardwood and his economic wizardry to the NBA.

For NPR News, I'm Harrison Malkin in Princeton, N.J.

INSKEEP: I had to go to bed earlier last night, so I missed that Michigan State-Kansas State game. Leila, did you catch it?


Do you not know me by now, Steve? Of course, I didn't catch it. I don't know anything about sports.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) OK, OK. Let's go to somebody who does know something about sports. Michel Martin, our newest host on MORNING EDITION, you're a sports fan.


I am.

INSKEEP: What was the game like last night?

MARTIN: It was fire. Leila, we will be doing a tutorial...

FADEL: OK, thank God.

MARTIN: ...For your benefit on...

INSKEEP: Kansas State, 98 to 93, over Michigan State. Wow.

MARTIN: Records set. So anyway, so we'll be - I'll be teaching, Leila, all about it.

INSKEEP: You can talk amongst yourselves. Talk amongst yourselves.

MARTIN: Soon I will be an expert.

INSKEEP: Another bad night for the Big Ten. We go on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Harrison Malkin