Just before the Harvard men’s basketball team started off its season, it already began to plan for the next one. On Tuesday, Vermont Academy three-star guard Corey Johnson became the fourth player to join the Crimson’s class of 2015.
Johnson, who boasts size (6’6”) and a nice shooting touch, is part of Harvard coach Tommy Amaker’s effort in recent classes to replace the shooting that left Cambridge last spring—when able shooters Brandyn Curry ’13-14, Kyle Casey ’13-14, and Laurent Rivard ’14 graduated.
The signing cements Harvard’s growing ability to recruit north of the border. Johnson, who is from Ontario, would be the fourth Canadian on the Harvard roster—joining freshman Chris Egi (Markham, Ontario) and juniors Agunwa Okolie (Ajax, Ontario) and Patrick Steeves (Montreal, Quebec).
Johnson will join Tommy McCarthy, Weisner Perez, and Blasa Dragovic in the four-person class, which could expand to five later this fall. McCarthy and Johnson, along with current sophomore Corbin Miller and freshman Andre Chatfield, will be the core of the future in the backcourt for Amaker’s squad.
After the Harvard men’s basketball team (1-0) opened its season with a 21-point win over Cambridge neighbor MIT, it faces a stiffer challenge Sunday against Holy Cross in the Coaches v. Cancer tripleheader. Below, The Back Page takes a quick look at the three main things to keep your eye on heading into Sunday’s tilt.
In his first Bracketology prediction of the year, ESPN expert Joe Lunardi has placed the Crimson as a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This would be the highest seed that Harvard has ever had in the Big Dance by a factor of a half after the Crimson entered the Big Dance last year as a then-record 12th seed.
Harvard is the unanimous favorite to win the Ivy League. Junior co-captain Siyani Chambers and reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Wesley Saunders are no longer stars—they are superstars. The dynamic backcourt is one of the most dangerous in the nation, and the return of senior center Kenyatta Smith will bring size to an already-loaded frontcourt. Ranked No. 25 in the AP preseason poll, the Crimson will surprise nobody this year as it looks poised to make a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Player To Watch: Siyani Chambers, junior guard
Chambers is the team’s steadiest ballhandler on the floor and will take on a larger scoring role this year.
After losing Sean McGonagill, the team’s starting point guard and leading scorer at 17.4 points per game last year, Brown will rely on its stout defense in 2014-2015. Reigning conference defensive player of the year Cedric Kuakumensah anchors a tough, gritty Brown squad that will have a hard time creating offense without McGonagill running the point.
Player To Watch: Leland King, sophomore forward
For Brown to move into the league’s top half, King must build upon a noteworthy first season.
Having come in second in the league for the past six years, this Crimson squad is itching to return to the top. Though Harvard graduated its top scorer in guard Christine Clark ’14, the team welcomes four talented rookies and returns senior forward Temi Fagbenle, who averaged 13 points per game last season.
Player To Watch: Temi Fagbenle, senior forward
Fagbenle will be one of three 6’4” women on the Crimson’s squad, but the most experienced of the bunch.
After finishing last season 4-10 in the Ivy League and 10-18 overall during longtime coach Jean Burr’s last season at the helm, the Bears will turn to first-year coach Sarah Behn. Behn has big shoes to fill, as Burr retired as the winningest coach in Brown women’s basketball history after 26 years. Senior guard Sophie Bikofsky should lead the Bears’ offense again this year.
Player To Watch: Sophie Bikofsky, senior guard
Bikofsky led the nation in shooting from deep last season and will be crucial to Brown’s offense again.