Fifteen games into the season the Harvard men’s basketball team was standing at 2-13, one of its worst records to start a season.
In late January, with first semester finals giving the team a break from the season, sophomore center Brian Cusworth publicly announced what seemed inevitable—despite his hopes to return and help the Crimson turn around its season, he declared he would not be able to come back to the court and would have to take the spring semester off.
This season, the seven-footer will finally make his return after a year and a half away from playing college ball and with a right foot that no longer suffers from a stress fracture of the navicular.
“Sitting on the sidelines was extremely frustrating for [Sullivan],” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan says. “Hopefully that will be a factor in driving himself this year.”
He took the spring semester off from school in order to train and recover from his injury, while also applying for a medical hardship waiver to be eligible to play with the Crimson for at least half of the 2006-2007 season.
“I had a hunger over the summer to come back and have an even bigger role,” Cusworth says. “It was just a freak thing—it was devastating, but watching every game made me look forward to this season even more.”
During the off-season, however, Cusworth’s future with the Crimson was uncertain for a brief moment. While at home training, Cusworth flirted with the possibility of not returning to the Crimson, and instead remaining in his hometown of St. Louis and playing for St. Louis University.
Ultimately, however, Harvard’s starting center decided to make his return to Cambridge and spent the rest of the extended summer working towards that end.
“This is where I belong,” Cusworth says. “I’m not going to SLU, and I’m glad I’m here.”
During the time off at home, Cusworth not only worked on getting back to playing condition, but also to improve both his physical conditioning and his game.
In addition to rigorous sessions in the gym that he said will make him bigger and stronger this season, Cusworth also played in the Anthony Bonner Pro-Am league.
As Cusworth describes it, the level of play in this league was high—including a number of professional and Division I players along with myriad up-and-coming Division II and III hopefuls.
Nevertheless, as Sullivan notes, Cusworth’s biggest achievement during his time off was keeping focused on playing basketball.
“He did not do anything extraordinarily unusual,” Sullivan says. “He took the year [off] and took it seriously—he got a little stronger. More importantly, he tried to stay around the game. Sometimes when you get put on leave like that its tough to stay around the game.”
Now that Cusworth has returned, the questions about the future automatically come to the fore, and both the second semester sophomore and his coach are not sure how his eligibility will play out in the long term.