An almost forgotten sport achieved its proper place on the Harvard scene this winter. After a decade's hibernation, the varsity basketball team woke up, and reinstated itself as a fitting representative of America's most popular game.
In the past few years Harvard fans had shown great reluctance to see a basketball game. The exhibition of play was such as to disappoint and even antagonize the most rabid court followers.
No team since 1947 had sported a winning record, and basketball had sunk into a state of semi-abandon in the eyes of too many students.
This year's surprising five changed everything. It emerged from the league cellar to a fifth-place berth; it finished with the first winning season in a decade, and above all, it put basketball back into a position of prominence among College sports.
The Crimson five finished with a 12-9 won-lost record, quite an improvement over the 8-16 performance of its immediate predecessor. With a few less mistakes, four more games could have been won, including the two Yale losses, Coach Floyd Wilson commented. "No longer are we the league's pushovers," he added.
The most impressive games the team played were against the three best teams in the league, in fact. Harvard was the only team in the league to defeat Princeton twice. After losing at Dartmouth, the varsity bounced back to gamely trounce a taller favored Indian team, and thereby eliminate it from the league championship race.
In previous seasons such a strong show against the league's best was undreamed of. This year the Crimson gained the confidence that it could win. This assurance, lacking in the past, was termed by Coach Wilson as the team's outstanding contribution for future seasons.
The outlook for next year is a mixed one. Half the ten-man squad will return, including the two high scorers, and some help is expected from the J.V. and freshman teams. But the quintet will miss the departure of five experienced seniors.
Captain Ike Canty, a three-year regular, averaged about 10 points per game and was a close second on the team in rebounding. His aggressive leadership and hustle helped considerably.
Guard Bob Hastings hit for an 11.5-point average, and played exceptionally at times. Dick Hurley, another guard, assisted especially at the start of the season, before hurting his leg. Bill Schreiber filled in capably as the tenth man, and incidentally led the team in shooting percentage.
Perhaps the man who will be most missed, however, is the relatively unheralded Bob Barnett. As playmaker he steadied the team when it needed steadying, and was the defensive standout. His speed also contributed to the Crimson's fast-break attack greatly.
The nucleus of next year's team will be formed by Dick Woolston, and George Harrington. Griff McClellan, Bryant Danner, and Neil Muncaster are also returning from this season's squad.
Last night, at the annual post-season banquet, Woolston copped the team's two highest honors. He received the vote as most valuable player, and was also picked to captain next year's team. At the same time, Griff McClellan was honored as the most improved player.
Woolston richly deserved these distinctions. The most dependable player on the team, he led in scoring, 13.4 points per game, in rebounding, and in shooting percentage, 47.5.
Harrington contributed immeasurably to the team's success. The team's driy began only after he and Barnett were instituted at the guard slots, and he proceeded to pace the team for the remainder of the season. He followed Woolston in scoring with an 11.9 average, and 41.3 percentage.
Even if next year's team does suffer from early inexperience, it will reap the benefits of its forerunner in a new era for Harvard basketball. For the team which endeared itself with seven wins in nine home games insured basketball of the sympathy and support of its new rooters for many years to come.
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