For Casey, Returning to the Crimson Means Sharing the Spotlight

Casey
Robert F Worley

The popular narrative of senior Kyle Casey, one of the two athletes publicly connected to last year’s Government 1310 cheating case, has reached the redemption arc.

After negotiating a year of criticism and missing out on his team’s dream-come-true of pulling off an NCAA Tournament upset, Casey and co-captain Brandyn Curry incorporated themselves back into the Harvard community and successfully defended their team’s Ivy title, giving the pair another shot at donning the glass slipper.

But to simplify the story to those terms would be to hide the transformation that Casey has had to undergo and the things he has to give up to ensure that the team dynamic cultivated last season would not be upset.

Kyle Casey has never been one to do things quietly. Flash back to March 5, 2011—perhaps his best game as a member of the Crimson. With a share of the Ancient Eight title on the line against Princeton, Casey shot 9-of-13 from the floor, putting up a season-high 24 points, two of which came on a baseline, and-one dunk over a Tiger defender that sent Lavietes Pavilion into a frenzy that actually damaged a portion of the bleachers. Everything about his play that night was loud.

Until August 2012, there was no indication that it would get any quieter. Casey’s career trajectory was linear, and always rising: honorable mention All-Ivy his freshman year, second-team All-Ivy the next year, and first-team All-Ivy his junior season. After the 2011-2012 campaign that brought Harvard to its first NCAA tournament since 1946, Casey was named the team’s most valuable player. The year off in 2012-2013 was not just a missed season—it was supposed to be his season.

A lot changed in a year. The squad that Casey returned to was one in which he would be just another piece, rather than the central piece. Junior wing Wesley Saunders and sophomore guard Siyani Chambers, who had contributed next-to-nothing and nothing, respectively, on the Crimson teams Casey had been a part of, were now first-team All-Ivy players in their own right. Casey would no longer be expected, or even asked, to carry a heavy load on offense.

But to listen to Casey tell it, his reduced role on the offensive end of the floor has been practically a no-brainer—there are other stars on the Harvard roster that need the ball in their hands, too.

“You got to do what’s best for the team,” Casey said. “Honestly, Wes has just emerged as a great player, a prolific scorer when he puts his mind to it. He’s just one of the best all-around players in the country. When you’ve got that and someone leading your team like that as far as an offensive standpoint, sometimes it’s just best to skip a good [shot] and get a great one.”

Hearing a player who seems always poised to add another clip to his highlight reel, who his coach describes as aiming for the “spectacular” play, speak so deferentially about his individual success can make one wonder what is really going on inside his head. But while Casey acknowledges his personal performance as important, his continued insistence on winning being the most important thing comes off as sincere.

“My individual success is definitely something I think about and definitely something I work hard for, and I’m not going to sit here and say I don’t, but you don’t really get that without winning,” Casey said. “There are very few players that get that from losing. Winning makes everything feel better. It makes everything look better.”

In assessing Casey’s final season in a Harvard uniform, his numbers do not look appreciably different than those of his previous seasons. He averaged 10.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in 2013-2014, compared to 11.4 points and 5.5 rebounds in his first-team All-Ivy 2011-2012 season—numbers that, by his standards, were earned pretty quietly.

Confidence has always been one of Casey’s strongest assets. It is easy to see how that confidence could be reduced when an opposing crowd could pull out the “Cheater!” trump card at any moment, as opposing Ivy student sections have done all season. But to hear Casey call out “Bucket!” in a practice shooting drill, or see him dance to his headphones into Lavietes, is to know that confidence will never be his problem. If he seems a little more subdued now, it is more likely a sign of what a year’s worth of personal growth can do to a person.

“I’m a fifth-year senior now,” Casey said. “I’m mature enough to know that winning is the goal. You just got to take the little steps to get there, whatever it is.”

—Staff writer Andrew R. Mooney can be reached at mooney@college.harvard.edu.

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