From the very first second of the 2012-13 season, it was clear that this will be a year of change for the Harvard men’s basketball team.
When the Crimson stepped onto the court at Lavietes Pavilion for its first practice on Saturday, not only was Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” (Harvard’s theme song on its run to back-to-back Ivy League titles) replaced as the Crimson’s intro track, but Harvard was also missing four starters from last year’s championship squad.
That made Saturday’s “Crimson Madness” event especially interesting. For the first time this season, Harvard fans got a glimpse of a number of unfamiliar faces who will be called on to play major minutes this season.
From the opening tap, all eyes were on rookie Siyani Chambers, a 6’0 point guard expected to run the Crimson offense this season. Chambers handled himself well in the intrasquad scrimmage, displaying his quickness and strong ball handling skills.
While Chambers deferred to his teammates in the half court, the rookie proved dangerous with the ball in the open court, converting two and-one layups in transition.
“He can really make things happen,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “He’s capable of helping us, and we’re certainly going to rely on him.”
Perhaps even more important to the Crimson’s success than his ball handling or quickness, Chambers showed his endurance on Saturday afternoon: after nearly 20 minutes of play, Chambers was still pressuring sophomore point guard Alex Nesbitt.
Harvard, which has only two true point guards on its roster, will likely rely on Chambers for long stretches of play.
According to Amaker, sophomore Wesley Saunders, who played on the wing last season, may spell Chambers at the point. The 6’5” Saunders has been working on his ball handling and tried his hand at the point during the Crimson’s exhibition matches in Italy in August.
“We certainly think that Wesley’s capable of playing any position on the perimeter for us,” Amaker said.
After leading the Crimson in scoring in Italy, Saunders turned in another strong performance on Saturday, finishing with 13 points in the 20-minute matchup.
“He’s certainly capable of being a marquee guy,” Amaker said of Saunders. “He really kind of shot out of a cannon when we played in Italy.”
While Saunders relied mostly on his athleticism and ability to get into the paint to put points on the board, he also showed signs of an improved jumper: midway through the scrimmage, Saunders, without hesitation, drilled a jumper from just inside the three-point line off the bounce, a shot he rarely attempted as a rookie.
Sophomore Steve Moundou-Missi also displayed some new skills, putting the ball on the deck and finishing a lefty layup to score the first two points of the scrimmage. The 6’7 forward finished with 10 points, while classmate Jonah Travis recorded 12.
But it was rookie Patrick Steeves who led all scorers, collecting a game-high 14 points while knocking down four three-pointers.
“You saw exactly what he’s capable of doing which is to make open shots,” Amaker said of the 6’7 wing from Quebec. “He did a nice job. It was impressive to see that.”
Co-captain Christian Webster missed Saturday’s scrimmage with a dislocated finger.
“I anticipate him to be back sooner than later,” Amaker said.