Scottie Pippen once said, "Sometimes, a player's greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team." It seems as though senior guard Princeton Onwas isn't having any trouble at all accepting his new role as San José State's point guard and leader on offense.
In fact, with the sun setting on his collegiate basketball career, it just may be the exact role he was destined to play for San José State. Onwas, a Houston native, has made over half of his shots while averaging 22.0 points during the last three contests since head coach Dave Wojcik moved him to the point.
Onwas has the Spartans not only knocking on the door of a Mountain West win, but poised to kick that door down, breaking into a new direction for this year's fine freshmen class to continue on. While it certainly looks like Onwas is now in his niche at San José State, his journey to find it was arduous, but, never in doubt.
"Freshman year of high school basketball was my biggest year ever," Princeton recalled. "It was the first time I ever played in a disciplined, organized program with a coach who opened my eyes to where basketball could take me."
Onwas says Seven Lakes High School coach Dan Miller gave him the confidence to pursue his potential, starting with his effort on defense. Onwas ended up becoming a two-time defensive MVP during his high school career.
He continued to develop the rest of his game during two seasons at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. After receiving offers from TCU and Kansas State, a visit to the University of Utah changed everything.
"I had a great visit," Onwas said. "I was just star-struck with the facilities, and the tens of thousands of people they had showing up to every game. On top of that, the coaches and guys on the team were great."
Onwas committed to the Utes on the spot.
"At the time, I thought it was the best decision for me," Onwas said. "But, if I could go back, I would have definitely given myself the opportunity to analyze what those other schools were like before deciding."
Onwas played 31 games in 2013-14 for Utah, and was challenged with guarding the Pac-12 opposition's best players including NBA lottery picks Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine. However, as Onwas battled for his minutes throughout the season, his impulse decision began to weigh on him.
"I was fighting for minutes and sometimes I felt like I was fighting myself," Princeton said. "It seemed like I was always having to fight and scratch my way, instead of being able to enjoy the game of basketball. I don't know, but it's harder than it might seem to some people. Knowing that I passed on options for schools where maybe I could have contributed more was something hard for me."
Meanwhile, Wojcik was in his first season as head coach at San José State, a season which the team finished 7-24 overall and 1-17 in the program's first year in the Mountain West.
Deciding to transfer was only half the battle for Princeton. The decision meant he would have to sit out the next year at whatever Division I school he landed with. This time though, after careful consideration, which included the counsel of his mother and father, Onwas chose to join the Spartans prior to the 2014-15 season.
Throughout one of the darkest years of San José State basketball, due to a roster that shrank to as few as eight players because of suspensions, and the team's 2-28 record, Onwas never missed a workout or a practice.
The team had a 7:00 a.m. practice before departing for The Wooden Legacy Thanksgiving Tournament, and Princeton was there. While the rest of the team left the off-campus practice site headed for Los Angeles, Princeton headed back to the team's practice gym on campus for some more shooting.
"I actually didn't have a problem sitting out," Onwas said. "It was tough in the summer when other guys were getting prepared to play and I knew that I wasn't going to be playing. But I definitely had some things that I needed to work on in order to become a better player, and that's what I used that year for."
"It was a really hard year for us as a team. It was hard trying to get to guys after a loss to let them know it wouldn't always be like this. But for me, that year actually went by fast, and as these days are going by now, I'm realizing that this year is flying by too."
This year is indeed flying by, with four Mountain West games already in the book and the team's 17th contest of the season ahead on Wednesday night.
Onwas says he is still learning about himself on the basketball court, especially with this recent transition from playing as a wing to running the point. As one of the team's leaders, Princeton's job is also to guide San José State's core group of talented true freshmen.
"I'm really trying to become a better leader these days," Onwas said. "I see things differently when I'm the point guard. I realize my mistakes when I played the wing and how they affect the point guard position. Now I'll be getting on guys for making those same mistakes that I used to make. But this is a good group, and they understand what I'm trying to tell them. I think they don't point the finger back at me because they see I'm really doing my best to get better too. I'm working hard at leading by example."
All of his hard work back at Seven Lakes High, adversity faced at Utah, the decision to transfer, countless hours of practice and wearing dress clothes for an entire season of games all boils down to these final contests in the 2015-16 season. Fourteen (14) regular season games and the Mountain West Championship lay ahead of the Spartans.
Onwas is hopeful for a professional basketball career, and says he wouldn't hesitate for a second to play overseas if the opportunity presents itself. Although Senior Night on March 5 is creeping up on him, Onwas can't even imagine it for the time being.
"The ball is always going to be bouncing for me," Onwas said. "I can't worry about what happens in the future because only God can control that. But I can control what's in front of me -- what's in front of us."
In front of San José State right now are the Wyoming Cowboys, who will bring the Mountain West's leading scorer into The Event Center for Wednesday night's 7:00 p.m. tip on the Spartan Digital Network.