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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Courtesy: Jerry Price, Princeton Athletic Communications

The man standing next to the Class of 1952 Stadium fence is probably in his early 30s. It is the spring of 2004, and he and Bill Tierney are casually chatting before a Princeton men's lacrosse game.

"I have someone I want you to meet," says Tierney, the head coach of the Tigers. "Say hello to Dan Cocoziello."

Something has to be wrong here. This can't be Dan Cocoziello. The name is familiar. He's one of the two Delbarton kids all the fuss is about. They haven't practiced once at Princeton, and yet everyone insists they will both be all-timers.

And this guy is one of them? This guy's a high school senior?

There's something about Dan Cocoziello that makes you remember the first time you saw him.

"He was the 20-year-old in seventh grade," says Chuck Ruebling, his high school coach at Delbarton.

Alex Hewit also remembers his first encounter with Cocoziello.

"He was," Hewit says, "the kid in sixth grade with the beard."

That was the day they met, in the back of a classroom at Delbarton, both there to take the entrance exam.

"He walked in, and I just said "hey, what's up?" Cocoziello says. "It was a Saturday morning. Neither of us wanted to be there. We had to take a test. That's where we met."

Neither could have guessed where they would go together from that point. They've been inseparable ever since, through six years at the North Jersey prep school and now for four years at Princeton University.

"We've been best friends since the beginning," Hewit says. "We were friends in seventh grade, and we've been really close ever since."

They have played somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 lacrosse games together, both starting all of them except for a handful in the 2005 season before Hewit took over as the Tiger starting goalie their freshman year. They have both been All-Americas multiple times, and they will go down as two of the best players ever to play at Princeton University.

"You're trying to win games," Tierney says. "But you're also trying to develop young men. We've had a lot of great players come through who never developed the ability to lead others. Dan and Alex have come through here and become vocal, visual leaders. I can't fathom what it's going to be like around here without those guys."

To read Jerry Price's piece in its entirety, please click here.