The Harvard basketball team’s rise over the past few years has been slow and steady. An Ivy League co-championship in 2011. An NCAA Tournament berth in 2012. A tourney win in 2013.
But a player who has guided the Crimson along the way has taken a much more circuitous path. Co-captain Brandyn Curry has been a playmaker for Harvard, and a role player. He’s been a co-captain–twice–but the senior spent last season as little more than a distraction for the team, taking the year off after being implicated in the Government 1310 cheating scandal.
With Curry’s Crimson career now coming to a close, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker is hoping to end one of Harvard basketball’s most important and interesting journeys at a happy destination.
“It’s part of our story, and that’s why our story has been a pretty darn good one,” said Amaker of Curry’s withdrawal and return. “Great movies...have some twists and turns and dips, but that’s what makes them compelling, interesting, and inspiring. I think that’s what these stories have provided for a lot of folks. It’s been very inspiring.”
Curry first made his impact on the Crimson program by agreeing to come to Cambridge. His commitment, along with classmate Kyle Casey’s, helped Amaker put Harvard on the map, setting the stage for the recruitment of junior Wesley Saunders, sophomore Siyani Chambers, freshman Zena Edosomwan, and any Harvard recruits that follow.
As a sophomore, Curry started all 30 games and guided the Crimson to its first share of the Ivy League title in school history. The following year, he took the team to the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Vanderbilt. The Charlotte resident was named an Academic All-Ivy both years.
But Curry’s path veered off course in the fall of 2012, as he and Casey took a voluntary leave of absence to protect their athletic eligibility after becoming the face of a cheating scandal centered around a take-home test in Government 1310.
Curry said he expected the success Harvard has had during his time here. As for taking a season off, that would have definitely surprised Freshman Brandyn.
After spending the year selling insurance back home, Curry returned to a different team than the one he left. Chambers had developed into the point guard. Saunders had become the scorer.
That left Curry to fill in the gaps. Normally, younger players find a way to fit in with the older guys. But Curry and Casey’s situation is unique, and they’ve accepted the consequences.
In the first game of the year, Curry started alongside Chambers, and they both played well. But an injury sidelined the senior for nearly two months, and when he came back, Amaker wanted him to come off the bench. Curry was fine with that.
“My role is very simple, clearly defined: Be the best on-ball defender and take open shots,” Curry said. “I used to be the primary playmaker–my job was to lead the league in assists–but now that’s not my role, that’s Siyani’s role.”
It seems that Curry’s most important job on this year’s team has been to accept a lesser one than he once had.
Still, he has stepped forward at big moments.
Playing at Princeton, Curry scored a season-high 17 points, including 12 in the second half, to snap Harvard’s 24-game losing streak at Jadwin Gymnasium. Curry grew up in New Jersey and had dozens of friends and family members in attendance that night.
There are not many stops left on Curry’s path now. It’s unclear how big of a role he will play in Thursday’s game against Cincinnati, or any contests that might come after that. But regardless of how his time at Harvard ends, Curry said he’s proud of what he has accomplished.
“We’ve done a lot to build this program,” Curry said. “All the records we’ve broke and the culture we’ve built here speak enough to that.”
—Staff writer Jacob D. H. Feldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jacobfeldman4.