“Never, in all that time, has there been preseason buzz quite like the anticipation surrounding this season's Crimson team. Never anything close.”
Those were the words of ESPN’s senior college basketball writer Andy Katz prior to this season. Coming off of an Ivy League title and the upset of third-seeded New Mexico, Harvard was graduating only one senior, and all-Ivy seniors Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry would be returning from an academic cheating scandal to play their final year. Sophomore Siyani Chambers was the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year and expected to once again be the top point guard in the league, alongside the Ivy League’s returning leading scorer, junior wing Wesley Saunders.
The lineup was also going to feature the best shooter in the league, co-captain guard Laurent Rivard, and Harvard’s first top-100 recruit, newcomer Zena Edosomwan.
The hype was real. The lineup was so deep that many thought that Harvard’s intrasquad scrimmage at the beginning of the year could be the season’s most competitive Ivy League matchup.
With so many players on the Crimson roster to talk about, one name went nearly unmentioned over the entire summer: Evan Cummins.
In his first year, Cummins was an after-thought. As a freshman, the 6’9” forward out of Northfield Mount Hermon School averaged only 2.7 minutes, many of which came with the game already being decided. He played in only six games, scoring a total of three points on the season.
This isn’t uncommon for a freshman in the Ivy League, where playing time can be hard to come by. In fact, Harvard’s roster was actually depleted last year, so Cummins arguably got more time than he could have expected.
Coming into this season, however, the sophomore wasn’t expected to be a major contributor, or even really play. That all changed very quickly.
Early in the season, Cummins played mostly garbage minutes as the Crimson blew out teams and were able to empty the bench.
But in the Great Alaska Shootout Championship game on Nov. 30, Cummins got the chance to show why he deserved to be a part of the rotation. Though Harvard nursed a 23-point lead at the half over Texas Christian, the game crept nervously close in the second half. Cummins helped his team stave off a hungry TCU squad, coming off the bench with 11 points and 10 boards.
“He played well for us in Alaska,” coach Tommy Amaker said. “You could see the confidence growing.”
Just three days later, the Crimson was back in Boston to face a struggling Northeastern squad, in a game that should have been over before it started. But that wasn’t the case.
At half time, Harvard was befuddled, up only by five. After playing a couple of minutes in the first half, Cummins dominated the second half of play. Amaker turned to his sophomore forward, and he delivered. Cummins filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, six rebounds, and two blocks on 4-5 shooting, all in only 21 minutes.
“With [junior forward] Jonah [Travis] coming off the bench and now Evan coming off the bench, we’ve got a lot of bigs,” Casey said after the game. “We were in foul trouble tonight. What Evan can do for us brings another dimension to our team.”
The Wesborough, Mass., native continued to progress into his new role and recorded more than ten minutes in each of the next four games. In the six games in which Cummins played 10-plus minutes, he averaged 16.2 points per 40 minutes. That rate would be good enough to put Cummins among the top five scorers in the Ivy League, if he played the whole game.