PRINCETON: Area five unite to help launch pro-am basketball league

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
They grew up as successful athletes on the courts and playing fields of Princeton.
Now the quintet is back together on the business side of life and enjoying a different type of success.
Princeton High graduates Bram Reynolds, John Thompson and Mike Riddick started their netWORK Consulting Group, LLC and one of their latest projects has been to join with PHS grad Kirk Webber and Hun School graduate Paul Johnson, to form Princeton Elite Management Group (PEMG). Together they have helped Bryan Caver launch the Victory Sports Summer Pro-Am Basketball League.
“It has been awesome,” said Reynolds, who graduated as the leading scorer in the history of the Colonial Valley Conference, went on to play basketball at the Maryland-Eastern Shore and then attended Temple University, where he earned his Masters of Education. “It’s an incredible story. I think we’re ahead of other business partnerships because we know each other.
“Kirk and I have a history dating back as teammates on the same high school basketball team. I grew up watching Mike Riddick plow over guys on the football field. John was a leading multi-sport athlete, recruited by several Division-I schools, to Paul’s accomplishments on and off the soccer field (member of the U.S. Men’s soccer teams: U14, U15, U16, and U17 FIFA World Championships in 2001), are extremely impressive. We’ve grown up together and now we’re going into business together. We all went our separate ways and have excelled in our respective industries.”
Reynolds served as General Manager of Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia for 10 years. Riddick, an Academic All-America junior and senior years and All-State football and track senior year, played football at Bucknell University and earned his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, He has been in the resorts industry and consulting for over 20 years. Thompson, after a stint playing quarterback on semi-professional football teams in Philadelphia and New York, has made progressive advancement in corporate America, specific to business operations and finance. After a remarkable collegiate career at the University of Virginia, Johnson has remained in the Princeton area and has developed an elite-level soccer training program. Webber, who graduated Princeton High as basketball’s fourth all-time leading scorer, honed his skills as a graphic-designer and has been in the marketing and design industry for over 17 years.
Now the five are together tackling the business world from the sports side. They have a number of projects in the works and this summer has enjoyed success with the Victory Sports Pro-Am Basketball League. The league plays on Tuesday and Thursday nights at The Hun School in Princeton and features some of the top college level talent and beyond in New Jersey.
“I talked to (League Director) Bryan Caver and he said he had an idea he had been sitting on for a couple of years but he said he didn’t have a platform,” said Thompson, who has spent time in Florida but is now back in Princeton. “I told him we had a team in place that can get some things done for you. The result is the pro-am. It has become a league where these guys from the local and regional schools and universities, plus professional players, can benefit from playing against top-level competition. Having to work hard every game is essential for them.
“The vision came from almost a dramatic need for something like this in the area. We have some guys here that were in the Jersey Shore League for years and decided they wanted to play here. Eventually the goal is to rival that league and have the same type of longevity that league has had.”
On any given Tuesday or Thursday you’ll find Reynolds, Thompson, Webber, Riddick and Johnson at Hun, helping Caver build the Victory Sports league. The five being together isn’t any different than when you’d find them at Community Park on the basketball courts working on their games.
“The one thing I really like about the group is that everyone has their own area of expertise,” Reynolds said. “We don’t have two CFOs. We don’t have two graphic designers. Everyone brings their own unique element which adds a layer to our unique value. Basically there are no weak spots within our group.
“We’ve established and launched the pro-am. We have apparel. We’re also launching academies. We all work really well together and I absolutely believe because of sports and team sports, specifically, that we work so well together. It absolutely translates to business.”
The group is looking to start a soccer and basketball academy and has some other ventures in the works thanks to a strong team of individuals with their backgrounds set in Princeton.
“The business (PEMG) was formed when Bram, Mike and I were approached by Kirk and Paul,” Thompson said. “They asked us to get involved with a vision. And the more sweat equity we put into it we said maybe we can develop a partnership out of this. And we said if we were going to do it, let’s do it in the way we really envision it being done and we have a big vision. The pro-am was a way for us to start and get our brand out there and have some name recognition.
“In August, we’re looking to co-promote a soccer clinic with the Real Madrid Foundation and we’re looking at some possibilities for the winter with other sports. The idea is to do as much for and give back to the community as possible. That is how this whole vision started. What can we do for this community? We’re excited. We’re proud of what the pro-am league has become so far. We’re looking for this thing to grow. But we understand there is a lot of work to be done.”
The Victory Sports Pro-Am basketball league has eight teams and includes college players from Rutgers, Princeton, Rider and Seton Hall, as well as former college players who have played overseas and in the NBA Developmental League. In its first season at Hun and the league has exceeded expectations.
“For years I have been sitting on the idea talking to some of the Division 1 players that would come home and not have a place to play,” said Caver, who played at Seton Hall University from 1990-1994. “They would just be watching games. Guys like Khalid Lewis, who was at La Salle and Frantz (Massanet) who was at Drexel at the time. They would say there really is nowhere for us to play. They didn’t want to make the trip to the Jersey Shore or New York or Philadelphia.
“I got with those guys (PEMG) and they said let’s launch it since you’re launching Victory. Let’s bring it under the Victory banner. I thought maybe next summer but then decided, why wait, let’s do it. It has been incredible. For the coaches to let their players get involved, I think that is a testament to some of the credibility that I have and haven’t ruined. It’s been great.”
For the five from Princeton who have come together to tackle the business world, it’s been a great start getting their name out there in the community again.
“The support we have had so far for the pro-am and some of our other ventures (including a project involving an indoor sports complex) has been great,” Reynolds said. “I always envisioned giving back to the Princeton community in some capacity because of how much the town has provided for me through sport and academics.”
Added Thompson: “The goal with the pro-am is to double in size next year. We put this together in six weeks. From the day Bryan and I sat down and talked about what has been on his mind to the start of games was about six weeks. Now we have a whole year to plan.”
And once the word gets around about the pro-am league, Caver has no doubt that could happen.
“Now we have a whole year to build it,” Caver said. “We have guys like Austin Witter, who played in the D League last year. These guys are coming out. They are looking for somewhere to compete. We thank school administration and Athletic Director Bill Quirk for giving us the opportunity to launch the league at Hun. They have been awesome to work with.”