The Harvard men’s basketball team will play its final game of 2016 when it hosts Howard on Friday evening at Lavietes Pavilion (7:00 PM, Ivy League Digital Network). Harvard (5-4) has won its last four contests while the Bison (3-10) has dropped its last two. The Crimson made a trip to Washington, D.C. last season over Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend to take on Howard at historic Burr Gymnasium and visit the MLK Memorial. Harvard took last season’s matchup, 69-61. Men’s basketball beat writer Stephen Gleason highlights three things to watch in Friday’s contest.
By playing the nation’s ninth-hardest schedule as ranked by Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings, the Bison has had to play eight of its first 11 contests away from Burr Gymnasium. Unfortunately for Howard, road gyms and Division I opponents in general have not been too friendly to the Bison. Howard is 0-8 on the road, with its only win against a Division I opponent coming at Burr Gymnasium against American on Dec. 3. The Bison is 0-8 on the road and has been outscored by an average of nearly 25 points per contest. Howard has dropped its last 11 road contests, with its last win coming against Delaware State on Jan. 11. The Crimson is 3-2 at home and has won its last two contests in Cambridge.
This year’s Bison team is being profiled in a documentary by The Undefeated, a sports website owned by ESPN, entitled View from the Hilltop. Howard is looking to make its first NCAA Tournament since 1992. Junior guard James Miller has been a bright spot on a veteran team. So far, however, the team has taken more than its fair share of lumps to begin the season. Harvard will avoid facing James Daniel for the second consecutive season. Daniel was the nation’s leading scorer when the Crimson traveled to the nation’s capital last January. Daniel, last season’s MEAC Player of the Year and this season’s MEAC Player of the Year pick in the preseason, has yet to appear in a game this season due to an ankle injury. Howard has struggled mightily in Daniel’s absence. The Bison is only averaging 61.6 points per game while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from three-point range. The most eye-opening stat for Howard, however, may be that it only averages 7.8 assists per contest on the offensive end. For context, Harvard co-captain Siyani Chambers averages 7.6 assists by himself while only playing 32.1 minutes a game. Like the Ivy League, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference figures to only get one team into the NCAA Tournament. While the Bison has struggled to begin the season, all would be forgotten if Howard catches fire once it begins its conference slate next Wednesday.
COMING IN HOT
The Crimson has won its last four contests, including road wins against Houston and Boston College. Despite shooting just 31.6 percent from the field, Harvard found a way to beat the Cougars last Friday night as freshman point guard Bryce Aiken took over in the second half. If good teams always find a way to win, the Crimson looked like a good team its last time out. Harvard has won each of its last four games in different fashions—taking a defensive battle against Fordham, shooting the lights out against Northeastern, dominating the paint against BC, and winning an ugly game against Houston. Unlike last season in which Harvard’s whole team seemed to go into slumps at the same time, the Crimson’s freshmen have provided an offensive spark for Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, one the Crimson may not need against Howard but surely will come Ivy League play.
Harvard’s elite contingent of professional athletes continue to make a substantial impact as we near the end of 2016.
JEREMY LIN ‘10
The Nets’ brand-new starting point guard and lone Ivy alum in the NBA, is off strong start in his seventh year in the league. Through four games, Lin is averaging 16.3 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.3 rebounds, all of which would be good for career-highs. A down year in Brooklyn figures to give Lin the opportunity to cement himself as a centerpiece of the team.
RYAN FITZPATRICK ’05
The former Crimson standout's struggles have been well-documented through the first eight weeks of the 2016 NFL season. A dismal performance against the Chiefs in Week 3—a game in which he went 20-for-44 in the air and threw six picks—helped lead to his league-leading 11 interceptions and lowest completion rate (56.1%) among QBs with at least 200 attempts. With replacement Geno Smith out for the season after tearing his ACL in Week 7, Fitzpatrick regained the chance to turn around the Jets disappointing 3-5 start after a 2015-16 resurgence.
JIMMY VESEY '16
The New York Rangers’ is tied for second in the NHL with six goals, trailing only Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos. Vesey’s rookie campaign is off to a flying start, and with nine points, the Boston native is already skating with the first line. The breakout left wing tallied three points last night against the Blues, scored and assisted in a 5-2 dismantling of his hometown Bruins Oct. 26, and netted two goals four days earlier against the Caps. It figures to be a race between Vesey and Toronto’s first overall selection Auston Matthews for the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the rookie of the year.
Just before it became the first Ivy League team to crack the top 10 of the ESPN recruiting ranking lists, the Harvard men’s basketball team signaled that it wasn’t satisfied. On Saturday, the No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2017, Wendell Carter Jr., announced that his first official visit will be going to Harvard in the fall.
Carter Jr., who has been ranked among the top 10 prospects for the Class of 2017 all year, listed Harvard alongside Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky as his choices last weekend at the Nike EYBL. He is the most prominent prospect to ever take an official visit to Cambridge; rumors of Mohamed Bamba—a similarly high-quality prospect in the Class of 2017—taking a visit to Harvard a couple weeks ago proved to be unsubstantiated, per sources close to the athletics department.
The prospect had previewed the move in early January, when he announced on his USA Today blog that he was “planning to visit Harvard … soon”. In that same post, Carter Jr. discussed a common theme surrounding his recruitment—his tie to Gary Trent Jr., a fellow five-star guard. The two have discussed their recruitment as a package deal, with Carter Jr. putting the chance that they play together at “maybe 75 percent”. Trent Jr. has not been tied yet to Harvard, however.
Carter Jr. also noted on Saturday that he and Trent will be visiting Kentucky for Big Blue Madness, the school’s midnight festival introducing its basketball team for the upcoming season.
Carter said that he wants to “just see what the atmosphere is like during big games, how the fans treat players, and them coming out and filling up in the gym” during his trip to Kentucky.
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After a disappointing fourth-place Ivy League finish in 2016, the Harvard men’s basketball team showed why pundits think it is on the fast track back to the top of the league Wednesday, finishing with ESPN’s No. 10 recruiting class of the season. It is the first time an Ivy League team has ever cracked the top 25 of the recruiting rankings.
The Crimson cracked the top 20 on the strength of one of the largest and deepest recruiting classes in the nation. Harvard had seven recruits in the class, which matched Mississippi State (ranked No. 5 overall) for the most in the nation. Kentucky, which led the rankings, was the only other school with six or more prospects.
In addition to size, Harvard boasted a deep recruiting class that had four members of the ESPN top 100. The Crimson had assembled the class over the entirety of 2015, starting with the addition of power forward Chris Lewis (No. 68 overall) in January 2015. Lewis, the son of former New York Jets player Mo Lewis, was the highest ranked recruit ever to pick Harvard.
Lewis’ signing kicked off a trail of ensuing decisions. Five months later, small forward Seth Towns committed to Harvard, marking the first time the Crimson had ever received two top-100 recruits in the same season. Robert Baker Jr. and Bryce Aiken, four-star recruits from Georgia and New Jersey, respectively, committed during the late summer and early fall to bring the class together. All three players finished towards the bottom of the top 100, but their recruiting score was a single point lower than Lewis’.
Harvard’s success was atypical in the Ivy League, which did not enjoy a large recruiting haul outside of the Crimson. Two-time defending champion Yale receives a single three-star in 2016, South Carolina native Jordan Bruner. While Princeton brought in two three star recruits, the Tigers could not match the Crimson in either size (three total players) or depth (their best player ranked eight points worse than the Crimson’s best).
How each of the recruits will become involved in the framework of the team is unclear. The team faces a glut at the point guard position behind captains Siyani Chambers and Corbin Miller and last year’s starter Tommy McCarthy. Harvard coach Tommy Amaker could not offer any guidance on Aiken’s position before the end of the season. Lewis will likewise face a crowded big man rotation, needing to stand out alongside second-team All-Ivy Zena Edosomwan to find success.
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at email@example.com.
Former Harvard assistant coach Yann Hufnagel, who was fired from the same position at California in March after a university report that he had sexually harassed a reporter, was hired Friday by the University of Nevada for the same role.
Hufnagel, who vehemently denied the allegations against him at Cal, had appealed to the university—turning over a lot of personal information to school investigators in late March an effort to clear his name. However, the former Harvard assistant coach dropped the suit late Thursday before the Nevada athletic department made the announcement the next day.
“The toxic environment at UC Berkeley has made it impossible for Mr. Hufnagel to rejoin the basketball team he loves, even if he is vindicated in full, as the facts show,” Mary McNamara, Hufnagel’s attorney, told The San Francisco Chronicle. “He needs to look out for the student-athletes he coached, as well as his own future. Earlier this morning and after much consideration, he decided it was time to move on.”
Hufnagel, whose public statements sine the allegations were released in mid-March were sparse and largely proclamations of innocence, Tweeted Thursday morning for only the second time in three weeks to announce the move.
“I’m back doing what I love … coaching basketball!”
–Staff writer David Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.