Dan Mavraides, a former Serra High basketball star, is hoping to make his mark in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
The 6-foot-4 Mavraides is a starting guard for Princeton University, which is battling Harvard for the Ivy League championship and resulting trip to March Madness.
The senior, who counts San Mateo as his hometown, is finishing off an impressive four-year run for the Tigers, who are 20-5 overall and in second place in the Ivy League at 8-1, right on the heels of 9-1 Harvard.
Entering tonight’s game against Cornell, Mavraides is averaging 12.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and a team-best 2.9 assists, while shooting 39.8 percent from 3-point range.
“It definitely feels great,” Mavraides said of being within striking distance of Princeton’s first Ivy League basketball title in seven years. “Coming into Princeton, with such a great basketball tradition, it’s something that everybody wants to do. We want to put some more stitches on the banner and win an Ivy League championship.”
Mavraides and the rest of the seniors have made it their personal mission to return the program to its glory days. When Mavraides first arrived at Princeton, the team was going through a period of rebuilding. Now, the Tigers are back on top.
“The three members of the class of 2011 have been working for this for the past four years now,” said Mavraides. “Our freshman year was the worst year in the history of Princeton basketball. To be tied for first place (earlier in the week) and be in control of our own destiny is great.”
This year, Mavraides quickly set the tone for the Tigers. He scored a career-high 26 points in a season-opening overtime victory over Rutgers.
“Beating Rutgers is something I haven’t done since I’ve been here,” Mavraides said. “In the past decade, Rutgers has controlled that series. Beating them was great for our team and a great start to the season.”
Mavraides credits his days at Serra for preparing him for basketball on the college level. He was a two-year starter for the Padres and led them to a pair of Central Coast Section titles as well as to the Northern California championship during his junior year.
“It was really great and it was in a really competitive basketball league,” Mavraides said. “We got to make it all the way to the state finals my junior year. The coaching staff there prepared me a lot for the next level. That experience was invaluable.”
Mavraides spent a post-graduate year at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. When it came time to settle on a college home, Princeton offered the perfect package.
“Princeton has an amazing tradition academically,” said Mavraides. “In terms of basketball, we’re tied with Penn for the most Ivy League championships all time. There’s a lot of history and a lot of tradition. They’ve had great coaches and great players here.”
The Ivy League title could come down to the Princeton-Harvard showdown on Mar. 5. Since the Ivy League is the only conference that does not have a postseason tournament, the regular-season champion earns the Ivy’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Mavraides is trying not to look too far ahead, but admits it’s difficult not to have dreams of getting that one shining moment.
“It’s tough to take it one game at a time,” said Mavraides. “Every day, you’re thinking about that end goal of playing in the NCAA Tournament. It’s everyone’s dream.”