After losing five senior starters from last year’s squad, the Harvard men’s basketball team has no choice but to give fresh faces significant minutes this season. And none will be fresher than the three members of the class of 2007—Jim Goffredo, Ko Yada and Brian Darcy.
With only two returning players who averaged more than 10 minutes per game last season and only one returner who started even a single contest, the freshmen should get a chance to prove that they belong on the court.
Their transition from high school to college has been eased thus far by the friendships they have formed with each other and with the other players on the team.
“[The transition] has been pretty tough just in basketball alone,” Goffredo said. “There are so many things outside of basketball to get used to as well. As freshmen, we spend a lot of time together, and the older guys are great. We hang out together and they go over plays with us, which is a big help.”
While Darcy will begin the season on the bench due to a stress fracture in his leg, Goffredo and Yada will both immediately compete for minutes in a crowded Harvard back court.
“Jimmy and Ko will get some minutes this year,” junior guard Kevin Rogus said. “It’s great for us because we know when they go in to spell the starters, we’re not dropping off as a team.”
But not everything is working in favor of the trio seeing significant minutes. Sophomore forwards Matt Stehle, Zach Martin, Luke McCrone and second-year guard Michael Beal all return and will now get a chance to shine after spending much of last season relegated to the bench behind the quintet of seniors.
Ultimately, only time will tell what impact these three freshmen can have on a team that heads into the season surrounded by questions.
“We’re really happy to have all three of our freshmen,” coach Frank Sullivan said. “We can’t tell [who is going to play yet] because we haven’t played enough five-on-five.”
Headlining the class of ’07 is Jim Goffredo, a 6’1 guard whose shooting, dribbling and body type have already prompted numerous comparisons to Patrick Harvey—Harvard’s leading scorer in each of the past two seasons.
“Jim’s got the Harvey kind of game,” Sullivan said. “He’s got the dribble game that Pat had. He’s got the deep shooting that Pat had. He’s got some good instincts. He really was well coached in high school.”
And how does Goffredo feel about being compared to a former First-Team All-Ivy selection?
“[Harvey]’s definitely a good guy to model your game after, and I think that our games are very similar,” he said. “I [just] hope people don’t expect me to be that good right away.”
But no one is counting on Goffredo to replace Harvey’s 16.7 points per game from last year, at least not at first.
“It’s all got to play out,” Sullivan said. “Even a guy like Pat—who was probably one of the best players we’ve had around here—came off the bench his whole freshman year and picked his spots. We didn’t know he was going to be that good. As a freshman, Jim is probably as good as Pat was as a freshman. Jim’s got the same skill package.”
If nothing else, Goffredo will provide the Crimson with a deep-shooting option off the bench.
While he has certainly drawn praise for his ability to drive the paint and for his work ethic, shooting is definitely Goffredo’s forte.
Still, he anticipates contributing to the team on both ends of the court.
“My strength is definitely shooting from the outside, which is something that I feel that every team can use,” he said. “I know I’m undersized for my position, but hopefully I can also bring some defensive intensity.”
Goffredo’s teammates agree with his assessment.
“Jimmy’s a scorer and will help us put some points on the board,” captain Jason Norman said. “He plays within himself and is also solid on the defensive end of the floor.”
Early signs are that Goffredo will indeed have the opportunity to live up to the buzz surrounding him, albeit in brief spurts of playing time, especially at the beginning of the season.
Yada Yada Yada
It’s a tried-and-true axiom that the best way to see playing time as a freshman is to work hard, hustle, play tough in practice and make the most of your opportunities.
But there are other ways to get on the court as well—including joining a team that’s relatively thin at your position.
“It might be playing time by default,” Yada quipped.
According to Sullivan, junior David Giovacchini, Beal and Yada could all see time at the point. Last year, Giovacchini and Beal combined for all of 14 assists.
The 6’2 Yada is selling himself short if he considers himself undeserving of any playing time he receives this season.
In Yada, Harvard is what Sullivan terms a “combination” player—possessing the dribbling and passing skills of a point guard, but also the shooting skills and ability to drive the lane most often found in shooting guards.
“He comes in with a lot of strength—upper and lower body,” sophomore center Brian Cusworth said. “It seems like he’s really strong down low and he runs the floor very well.”
Despite his obvious talent, one factor that might keep Yada off the court—especially at the beginning of the season—is the inherent difficulty of stepping into the point guard role and being able to “quarterback” the offense as a freshman.
“It takes a while to understand our system with all the little intricacies,” Beal said. “Ko has good speed and good court awareness. It will take time to become accustomed to the level of Division I basketball, but I think [he] can make huge contributions.”
Yada especially credits Giovacchini with helping him learn the offense, which the rookie has found to be much more structured than the offense his high school team employed.
Yet Yada hopes his many skills will still allow him to contribute.
“I’m just trying to help the team out however I can,” he said. “I [was a good shooter] in high school, but I’ve never played in a college game. I’m pretty confident that if I can get open shots, I can knock them down. If I’m not open, hopefully I can distribute the ball.”
Although both Yada and Goffredo will have a hard time competing for spots in a crowded back court that features swingman Norman and Rogus in addition to Giovacchini and Beal, the pair can rely on an attribute not commonly associated with freshmen.
“Jim and Ko are both very mature,” Sullivan said. “The learning curve with them—while it’s steep—is not as steep as it sometimes is with freshmen.”
It’s a tall enough task for a freshman to earn playing time while learning a new system and adjusting to both new teammates and college life.
But the task becomes even taller when the freshman in question is sidelined after just a week and a half of basketball action.
Enter Brian Darcy. The bruiser of the freshmen class at 6’7 and 220 pounds, he had hoped to see action in a Crimson front court that features only one player bigger than 6’8.
Unfortunately, Darcy suffered a stress fracture in his leg early on and has been forced to watch the action from the sideline thus far.
“Brian’s been out for [over] a month now and I think he should be pretty close to being ready,” Sullivan said. “This will set him back a lot. When a freshman misses this amount of time, it’s very tough.”
Similarly timed injuries stunted the progress of Stehle last season and Giovacchini two years ago.
Praised by his teammates for his aggressiveness, toughness and post game, Darcy envisions contributing to the team with his strength and versatility once he is healthy.
“Hopefully I can make a quick return and help out the team in any way possible,” he said. “I think I can provide an inside presence and rebound, but also step out and hit the jump shot.”
While his injury will certainly set him back a great deal in terms of conditioning and general practice time, Darcy could see action later in the season spelling players such as Stehle, junior forward Graham Beatty and Cusworth underneath.
And what does Darcy think of the notion that, a few years from now, the class of ’07 might be contributing three players to the Harvard starting five?
“Who knows?” Darcy chuckled. “We’re definitely all hard workers and, if we keep working hard, we should have a really good team in the future.”
Although the thought of Goffredo, Yada or Darcy starting for the Crimson is likely at least a year or two away from becoming a reality, Harvard fans should keep an eye out for the trio on the court this season. After all, given how few Crimson players have significant game experience, the rookies may not have as much catching up to do as one might think.