Kyle Casey received the ball in the right corner, pump faked, and took his man baseline. The forward took off of one foot, elevated, and posterized a helpless defender.
While Casey has performed a number of awe-inspiring plays during his career on the Harvard men’s basketball team, this was perhaps the most spectacular—and certainly the most important.
The slam, which came with less than 17 minutes to play in the Crimson’s Saturday night matchup with Princeton, gave the Harvard a five-point lead and helped propel the Crimson to a 79-67 victory and at least a share of its first Ivy League title.
“His athleticism not only helps with the obvious blocks and rebounds, but even when he doesn’t block a shot, the other teams have to respect his jumping ability,” freshman wing Laurent Rivard said. “Oftentimes [his athleticism] forces [opponents] to alter their shots, and offensively, it allows him to shoot over taller defenders.”
Averaging 10.8 points and six rebounds per game, Casey exploded Saturday night with a 24-point performance, adding four rebounds and a block against the Tigers.
“First off, Princeton is a really good team and they played well, but we finally played a full forty-minutes of basketball,” Casey said. “Offensively we stepped up and collectively as a team were able to put together a game worthy of the win.”
The forward brought the crowd to its feet on two separate dunks, but it was his ability to finish around the hoop and knock down mid-range shots that forced the defense to respect his game both inside and out.
Casey was hitting most of his field goals early and often, finishing the first half with 17 points.
“After I hit my first couple of shots I started to get into a rhythm,” Casey said. “My teammates kept feeding me, and whenever I could, I tried to take advantage of the bigger defender because I was quicker off the dribble.”
Casey was hot all night, shooting 9-of-13 from the field and six-of-seven from the charity stripe. But it was his two dunks that will be most remembered.
“Dunks are good for swinging the momentum of the game,” Casey said. “Finishing strong around the rim gives us a spark that can make playing defense easier because it gives us energy and can dishearten the other team.”
His ability on offense and defense can be seen on his stat line and the highlights, but his intangibles have helped to put the Crimson at the top of the Ivy League.
“Kyle makes me better as a player because he is a great teammate,” Rivard said. “We have captains on the team, but everyone listens to everyone. We all want to improve, and since he has more experience, it’s good to have him to talk to during the game.”
Casey missed the first three games of the season with a broken foot and has been ailing from other injuries throughout the year, but has played through the ailment.
“He fights through his injury and really focuses on the game rather than his injury,” Rivard said. “We can see [the pain he’s going through] but he never complains about it. His dedication is the reason we have won many important games this season.”
Casey also contributed to Harvard’s blowout victory over Penn on Friday, supplying four points, three rebounds, and an assist.
In addition to his 10.8 points and six rebounds per game, Casey is averaging .8 steals, and a block for the Crimson this season.
“[Kyle’s] play has been tremendous,” sophomore guard Christian Webster said. “He has put our team on his back many times this year and [Saturday] he did it again when we needed it most, the biggest moment of our season.”