LA PARKER: Former Princeton basketball player Rich Simkus left an indelible mark on Trenton | Sports


In a word association exercise, Rich Simkus cultivates a repetitive response: Cadwalader Park and the Men’s Unlimited Basketball League.

How about a Rorschach test? Looks like Rich Simkus is making a choice. And this one? Simkus with his forearm and knee-length elbow behind an opponent’s back.

Yes, Simkus played basketball at Princeton University from 1979 to 1983 and the Nets picked Jim in the 10th round of the 1983 NBA Draft. Yet his presence at Trenton left an indelible mark.

Put Simkus in Paris, Punxsutawney and Paducah or set him inside Springdale Golf Club like Tuesday, and memories of the former striker / crampon center playing basketball in the capital move all of his accomplishments on and off. ground.

“That was the time,” Simkus said, a phrase that qualifies him for instant membership in the old dudes club.

Call our impromptu meeting this week following a conversation in October 2018. Simkus requested a short interview and recalled his bumpy nights under the lights.

“Cadwalader Park,” said Simkus. He paused for a moment to allow mental time travel.

“I was just looking for games and this was the place to go. I played in the Jersey Shore Summer Pro League. But locally it was the place to go.

“There were times when I literally was the only white person there. (Once again for the effect). Seriously, I was the only white person. And it didn’t matter.

And every night, Simkus would show up, a basketball fan would ask: who is white?

“It took play. You couldn’t show up without a game,” he laughed.

“Sometimes you took it on the chin and other times you served it. And it was fun. I remember those moments very well.

Back in the days when the Unlimited League drew overflowing crowds, Cadwalader Park breathed summer energy as old stars returned and newcomers struggled to gain credibility on the pitch.

Simkus, born in Long Island, was 6-8, 215 pounds with a Detroit Pistons Bad Boys attitude. On some nights his lone wolf status came to an end when Villanova’s men’s basketball coach Rollie Massimino or Syracuse University coach Jim Boeheim attended.

The crowds were spectacular as local business owners adapted teams to play. Never violence or serious disagreement, although the playoffs can turn into tough clashes.

And the ballers?

Won’t make a list because local basketball fans will be screaming scandal for leaving out a legitimate player.

A reporter with sufficient time could publish an interesting historical account of the Unlimited League of Trenton.

Simkus made 91 of 99 possible starts for Tigers coach Pete Carril, but his boys from the summer days at Cadwalader bring back fond memories.

LA Parker is a columnist from Trenton. Find him on Twitter @ LAParker6 or email him at [email protected]

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