Growing up in Los Angeles, sophomore Crimson wing Wesley Saunders grew up in the heart of Pac-12 country. Saunders, who said he lived “five minutes from USC,” never was a big fan of any of the conference’s squads growing up. Saunders considered both USC and the University of Colorado before selecting Harvard for college. But the sophomore was also interested in one of the conference’s premier programs and Harvard’s Saturday opponent—the Arizona Wildcats (26-7, 12-6 Pac-12)—in high school.
“He came to our elite camp, and he was a good young player,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. “We watched him a lot, and he was on several teams that we watch quite a bit in the summer. So we’re familiar with him.”
But Saunders was never offered a scholarship by the Wildcats, whose Class of 2014 recruiting class ranked seventh in the country. Miller instead offered scholarships to five-star recruits Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson, both of whom, like Saunders, can play both guard positions. While Turner was suspended for some of his freshman season for violating team rules and eventually transferred, Johnson was second on the team in scoring as a sophomore.
Saunders, who was a three-star recruit himself, will likely match up with Johnson on the court Saturday. In his second year for the Crimson, Saunders averages 16.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.4 assists a game. He shot 54 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep, scoring in double figures in every game for the Crimson. Johnson has averaged nearly 12 points for the Wildcats, adding 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game and shooting 45 percent from the field and 38 percent from behind the arc.
Saunders said that what elevated Harvard above larger, more prestigious programs like those of the Trojans and the Buffaloes were the well-rounded aspect of the school and the recruiting pitch of Harvard coach Tommy Amaker.
“I thought Harvard was the best of both worlds,” Saunders said. “It had the academics already and the athletics were on the upswing. [Amaker] lets our program speak for itself. He is honest in his recruiting.”
“Amaker is a great coach and I couldn’t ask to be in a better program,” he added.
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CrimsonDPFreed.