The Back Page's Athlete of 2011, Round 1: Jones v. Wright

Published by Martin Kessler and Robert S Samuels on January 09, 2012 at 10:12PM

2011 was a big year in Harvard athletics. Women’s soccer captured its third Ivy League championship in four years. The men’s basketball team took home a share of the Ancient Eight title and entered the nation’s Top 25, both firsts in program history. Football set a modern-era program record for points in a season, scoring 374 points en route to a 9-1 finish and a league crown. Four other teams—men’s fencing, men’s heavyweight and lightweight crew, and softball—also finished 2011 on top of the Ivy League standings.

There were a number of standout individual performances as well. Women’s fencer Alexandra Kiefer captured the NCAA Foil Individual title. Men’s basketball forward Keith Wright became just the second player in Harvard history to take home Ivy League Player of the Year honors. Women’s soccer and lacrosse captain Melanie Baskind was named to the First Team All-Ivy in two different sports and was selected as the Ivy League Player of the Year in soccer.

We at The Back Page have taken on the tall task of determining the best Harvard athlete of 2011. Here’s how it will go down: we’ve selected 16 standout Harvard athletes—eight male and eight female—and set up two single elimination brackets. Each round, Harvard’s finest will square off in head-to-head matchups. And based on their performances in 2011, we will determine who advances and who is eliminated until just one male and one female remain. Then, the two champs will square off to determine the top Harvard athlete of 2011.

After examining the matchup between Josue Ortiz and Walter Peppelman last night, we now turn to a faceoff between men's basketball star Keith Wright and men's volleyball standout Matt Jones.

Outside Hitter Matt Jones—332 kills, 91 digs, 61 blocks, 30 service aces

After a dominant sophomore season, Jones emerged as not only Harvard’s top performer, but also one of the best in the EIVA. Jones’ 332 kills in 2011 nearly matched the next two top marks on the team combined. A versatile player, the Applied Math concentrator was also fifth on the squad in digs and third in blocks.

Despite the team’s struggles in EIVA play, Jones racked up some of the best stats in the conference, and his 3.95 kills per set was fourth best in the league in 2011. While the team struggled for much of the season, Jones played a pivotal role in snapping a seven-game conference losing skid, lifting Harvard to a 3-1 win over NJIT with a 24-kill performance.

Forward Keith Wright—10.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.4 BPG

During the latter half of the 2010-11 season, Keith Wright was unstoppable. In Ivy League play, the 6-8 forward averaged 15.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, leading the Crimson to a share of its first ever Ivy League title. After the season, Wright was just the second player in program history to be honored with the Ivy League Player of the Year award.

With the addition of a talented crop of rookie forwards, Wright’s numbers have taken a dip in the first half of the 2011-12 season—he now averages just 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. But his importance to the Crimson has not decreased. In games in which Wright posts at least 10 points, Harvard is currently 9-0. When Wright fails to reach double figures, the Crimson is just 4-2.