The four freshmen of the Harvard women’s basketball team have the energy and enthusiasm—the question is when they’ll have the ball.
Forwards Adrian Budischak and Lauren Freid and guards Lindsay Hallion and Jessica Knox comprise this year’s rookie class for the Ivy title-contending program.
Because the players haven’t yet suited up for the Crimson, their importance to the team remains unclear.
“It’s still early in the season, so you can’t really determine their role,” coach Kathy Delaney-Smith says.
The Harvard squad retains two seniors and five juniors this year. Combine that depth with the immense change in the quality of competition between high school and college, and the Crimson’s freshmen may not see much time on the court.
“I always think of [freshman year] Division I college athletics as a learning year,” Delaney-Smith says. “Even for the most talented of talents, there’s a learning curve when you get to college.”
The freshman challenge is two-fold—adjusting to the frenetic play of the college game and to the new intimidation that is Expos 20.
“I think all four of them have just been outstanding in their transition to Harvard,” Delaney-Smith says. “They’re jumping right in.”Knox, an honorable mention All-State selection in Oregon last year, agrees. “I’m discovering what’s expected and trying to do what’s asked of me,” she says. Harvard’s first years don’t expect to bide their time on the bench, but to push their elder teammates by improving in practice.
“Typically, I don’t think the program looks to their freshmen to make a huge impact,” Knox says. “Our job is more to support the team, make the team better, work hard, progress, and get better.”Without the guarantee of much playing time, the players’ responsibility this year is to train—hard.
“All four have tremendous work ethics,” Delaney-Smith says.
“It’s a lot mentally, just not letting yourself ever take a break at practice,” Budischak says. “You have to try to get better, to think about it as for a game and not just as a practice.”
The four are accustomed to playing competitively, but the game of basketball requires not only speed and skill but also cohesive team play.
“It’s my first year and I’m just trying to get in sync with the rest of the girls,” Freid says. “There’s a much higher level of play.”
Just as they force their teammates to attain their respective potentials, they will lead each other to new heights. “During practice, just from the competition [with each other], we push each other harder,” Budischak adds.
As freshmen who may or may not see substantial game time, their ambitions are naturally divided into dreams for the team as a whole and goals for their own progress.
Team-wise, the ambition will be to win consistently and finish at the top of the Ivy League.
“As a team, I want us to win Ivy,” Budischak says. “They started last year ranked first and didn’t win, so that was a disappointment. This year, we started ranked second, so we want to win.”
The Crimson had better pick up wins in bunches this year, because Hallion—a 5’9 guard from Westwood, Mass.—hasn’t had much experience losing, helping Westwood High win 71 straight games, including two Division 3 state championships. “It was a really amazing run for a team to accomplish, because it really needed everyone. It really said a lot for the team,” Hallion says.Or a lot about her. Hallion averaged over 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game in becoming her high school’s all-time scoring leader. She also earned Massachussetts South Sectional Player of the Year and 2004 Boston Globe Super Team honors.
“I think that in any team, to be successful, everyone has to play their certain role,” Hallion says. “Everyone has to be ready to step in and contribute any way they can, whether it’s cheering on teammates on the sideline, going in for a second and getting a loose ball, or being the leading scorer or leading rebounder.”
According to Delaney-Smith, Hallion is the most likely freshman to contribute. “[She] is a very athletic, talented point guard,” Delaney-Smith says. “She’s doing a great job, and she’s a strong 1-on-1 player for us.”
Freid, a 6’ forward from Gwynedd, Penn., could also make a push for some early playing time.
“Lauren Freid is a utility player. She’s powerful inside and comfortable on the perimeter,” Delaney-Smith says.
Freid’s alma mater, Germantown Academy, didn’t lose a league game during the two-time All-League selection’s tenure. Freid started on her varsity team four years and captained the Germantown Academy squad her senior year.
“We always had a really strong team,” Freid says. “During senior year, I was called upon to be a leader, and I was the captain.”
Freid looks forward to Ivy League play as the highlight of the season.“I grew up near the University of Pennsylvania, so I’ve been watching Ivy basketball all my life.”
If her size and high school performance are any indication, Budischak, a 6’1 forward, will prove a presence crashing the boards for the Crimson.
Budischak averaged 17 points per game during her senior year, scoring over 1,600 points through high school. During the Budischak Era, Wyomissing Area High School won four division titles and entered the state semifinals after making the district finals for the first time since the 1970s. Budischak earned a spot on the Class AA All-State second team.
“[She] is a big, powerful center,” Delaney-Smith says. “We’re pretty deep in the forward spot, so she might not see as much game time as [Hallion] might, but she’s a power forward, and that’s an added dimension to our veterans.”
Budischak opted for Harvard over Bucknell and Ivy favorite Dartmouth—the Crimson’s biggest rival. “It’d be awesome if we won [Ivies],” she said.
A prospective biology or psychology concentrator, Budischak plans to indulge her passion for photography and volunteer work.
She also likes to travel.
“I’m excited for road trips,” she said.
Knox, a 5’9 guard from West Linn, Ore., is no stranger to second place, which is where the Ivy media thinks the Crimson will finish.
As a junior, her team finished second in the state.
“We lost to Oregon City in the championship game,” Knox says. “But Oregon City is one of the top five teams in the nation. Finishing second to them was sad, but in a way it was still kind of an accomplishment.”
Last year, Knox averaged nine points, five assists and three rebounds per game, earning an Oregon All-State honorable mention.
“Harvard was my dream school since I was 10 years old, so I always wanted to come here,” says Knox, who sought Harvard’s attention early in the recruiting period. “They offered the whole package,” she said.
Knox, a potential pre-med, expresses interest in concentrating in psychology and volunteering and tutoring outside the classroom.
But first things first.
“College basketball is a huge change from everything I’ve done so far,” she says. “It’s another level, and it requires a huge step up.”
Delaney-Smith says she thinks Knox is up to the challenge.
“Every team needs a defensive stopper,” she says. “That may be a role she might jump into. She’s smart, athletic and quick.”