After the final buzzer sounded during its 59-49 defeat of Central Florida in the championship game of this weekend’s Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, the entire Crimson roster gathered at center court for post-game celebrations.
In the moments leading up to the announcement of the tournament MVP, several of his teammates grinned and pointed towards junior point guard Brandyn Curry. Though the accolade went to co-captain Keith Wright, the message was clear.
“Keith and other players have been dubbed as Most Valuable or other awards, but I’m not sure there’s a more important player to our team than Brandyn,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.
The Thanksgiving trip to Paradise Island, Bahamas, was more business than pleasure for the Crimson (6-0), as the tournament’s eight-team field included then-No. 4 Connecticut and then-No. 22 Florida State.
While most had expected the two ranked teams to meet in Saturday’s final, it was ultimately Harvard that won three games in three days to return to Cambridge as champions of the first-ever Battle 4 Atlantis.
“Going into [the tournament], I don’t know how many people thought we could do it, but we certainly thought we could go in and win this,” Curry said. “I’m just happy that our hard work paid off and that people are starting to see that we are for real.”
None of which could have happened without Curry, the 6’1 maestro of Harvard’s offensive juggernaut.
“[Being a playmaker] is kind of his calling card,” junior forward Kyle Casey said. “He has the ball in his hands a lot. We really rely on him to create for us, and we play off of him, and he does a great job of that. He really embraces his role.”
“That’s my job–being the playmaker,” Curry added. “With all these great players we have on our team ... I’ve got to put them in the right position and get them the ball in the spots they like, so they can make the shots they do.”
Curry currently leads the team with 22 assists, but he’s not only a distributor.
In its opening round matchup with Utah Thursday, the Crimson crushed the Utes, 75-45, with some early help from Curry, who scored seven of Harvard’s first 11 points.
His main focus with Utah was neutralizing its leading scorer, senior Josh “Jiggy” Watkins.
“From the start, I was being very aggressive on defense and just trying to make it difficult for him,” Curry said.
Watkins, who went into the contest averaging 21 points a game, missed his first five shots and finished with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting along with five turnovers. Curry ended the game with nine points, three assists, and a steal.
Harvard advanced to face its toughest foe in Saturday’s semifinals: the No. 22 Seminoles, which hadn’t lost since falling in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in March.