Center Exits With a Flourish

With NBA scouts watching, Cusworth showcases talent

Unnamed photo
Vilsa E. Curto

On Saturday night at Lavietes Pavilion, Brian Cusworth graduated with honors from the Harvard men’s basketball team.

Before the final game of his collegiate career, the 7’0 senior center from St. Louis was recognized in a Senior Night ceremony, and he then went out and made one last contribution to the Crimson.

A 19-point, six-rebound, three-block performance from its big man, on ultra-efficient 7-of-8 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 from the line, helped lead Harvard to a 92-88 victory over Brown that evened the Crimson’s record at 9-9 overall and 2-2 in the Ivy League.

Cusworth, who graduated from Harvard after finishing his eighth semester and his degree in biology this January, fouled out with a minute-and-a-half to play, allowing him to be recognized by the crowd of 1,632, which included a large contingent of his family.

As he walked off the court for the last time as a collegian after being whistled for a fifth foul, the fans at Lavietes rose to their feet to give the big man a final ovation. Cusworth shook hands with all the players on the bench, then got a hug from coach Frank Sullivan before sitting down to watch his teammates close out the final 1:34 of the victory.

“I really can’t put into words how much that meant to me. It was hard to fight off the tears and stay looking like a man out there,” Cusworth said. “I’m really glad I could put on somewhat of a show the last couple of games and get a victory.”

Cusworth put on a show right from the opening tip on Saturday, scoring 11 points in the first eight minutes. He flashed a wide range of basketball skills, blocking the first Brown field-goal attempt of the game before showcasing his shooting range by nailing a three-pointer. He later scored two conventional three-point plays, one via an emphatic two-handed dunk, and added a jump shot, another block, and four rebounds in helping the Crimson build a 10-point lead.

The solid all-around performance came a night after Cusworth scored a career-high 28 points in Harvard’s 88-78 loss to Yale. Perhaps the best back-to-back showings of his career in crimson and white provided a fitting capstone to his best collegiate season.

Cusworth averaged a career high 17.4 points and 9.1 rebounds a game, the latter figure leading the Ivy League. He currently tops the circuit with 39 blocks, and also established personal bests in field-goal percentage (.515), assists (27), and free throws made and attempted (101-of-139).

This season has helped ensure that the fifth-year senior departs Cambridge as one of the leading big men in Harvard history. Cusworth holds the all-time school record for blocked shots with 143, and his scoring output over the weekend gave him 1,042 points for his career, good for 21st on the Crimson list.

Now, however, that career is over. After the game, Cusworth sat for the last time in front of his locker, its contents packed into a gym bag open at his feet, and faced the prospect of leaving school, and his teammates, to begin preparing in earnest for a future in professional basketball.

“Putting the nametag in this bag is probably one of the hardest things I’ve done since I’ve been here,” Cusworth said. “It’s tough, very tough. I think it’ll hit me a little more when I’m sitting at home, and I’m listening [to Harvard’s games] and watching on the internet.”

Cusworth will be heading back to St. Louis next week to begin training for the Portsmouth Invitational, a tournament showcasing the nation’s top 64 collegiate seniors that takes place from April 4-7. The center is hoping that his standout senior season, as well as his performance in the Portsmouth, will lead to an opportunity with a professional team, whether in the U.S. or abroad.

“I’m aiming as high as I can, and I’ll settle for wherever I can go,” said Cusworth, whose final two games were attended by several NBA scouts. “I plan to play as long as I can, as long as I’m happy and as long as it’s as fun as it has been.

“It’s been an amazing ride, and hopefully I’m still climbing upward.”

—Staff writer Caleb W. Peiffer can be reached at cpeiffer@fas.harvard.edu.

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