Men's Basketball Nabs ESPN's 10th Best Recruiting Class

Published by David Freed on April 29, 2016 at 9:56AM

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 david.freed@thecrimson.com.

No. 2 Men's Basketball Prospect Wendell Carter Jr. Plans Official Harvard Visit

Published by David Freed on April 29, 2016 at 1:13PM

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 david.freed@thecrimson.com.

Former Harvard Assistant Hufnagel Hired by Nevada

Published by David Freed on April 13, 2016 at 10:26AM

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 david.freed@thecrimson.com.

Princeton Tabbed Early Favorite in 2016-2017 Bracketology

Published by David Freed on April 13, 2016 at 10:24AM

With the dawning of April have come the way-too-early projections for the 2017 college basketball season. Kicking off the empirically foolish prognostications is Joe Lunardi, who selected Princeton as the Ivy League’s representative to the 2016-2017 NCAA Tournament. Lunardi has Princeton, a 12 seed in the South regional, playing Iowa State in the first round.

The Tigers are the obvious frontrunner for the Ivy League title last year, returning every single player who got meaningful minutes this year and adding Hans Brase, a Class of 2016 forward who withdrew from school to preserve his eligibility after tearing an ACL in November. In his last full year for the Tigers, Brase ranked second on the team in scoring (11.5 points a game) and led Princeton with 7.5 rebounds a contest.

At 6’8”, Brase gives the Tigers a post presence they lacked in his absence; 6’10” junior Pete Miller, the team’s nominal center, averaged just six points a game this year and had just five points and four rebounds in the team’s 73-71 loss to Harvard that eliminated the Tigers from Ivy League contention. Behind Brase, the team is stocked with wings that can score and shoot. Juniors Henry Caruso, Steven Cook, and Spencer Weisz all averaged double digits while shooting better than 35 percent from three and 70 percent from the line. Freshman point guard Devin Cannady was a sparkplug in limited action, scoring nearly 12 points a game in 22 minutes and making 46 percent of his threes and 90 percent of his free throws.

Behind Princeton, the league is unsettled. Harvard brings in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes and All-Ivy point guard Siyani Chambers to flank junior Zena Edosomwan, but there are a lot of new pieces for Tommy Amaker to integrate in the offseason. The Crimson is undoubtedly as talented, if not more, than Princeton, but it will have to make up for its lack of continuity. While Princeton’s starters have been playing together for three years, the hypothetical Harvard starting lineup—Chambers, Edosomwan, freshman Corey Johnson, and sophomores Chris Egi and Andre Chatfield—has never played a single minute together.

The Crimson and Tigers remain the surest bets in a league of uncertainty. With the departure of Kyle Smith and the graduation of Maodo Lo, Alex Rosenberg, Grant Mullins, and Isaac Cohen, Columbia loses the head of its program and nearly all of its productivity. Cornell and Dartmouth will likewise try to integrate new coaches, while Penn will build on a promising fifth-place finish in the absence of its dependable senior big man Darien Nelson-Henry. With the last two Ivy League Rookies of the Year, the Big Green’s situation closely resembles Brown’s, who hopes to ride up the standings behind its young guns (Miles Wright and Evan Boudreaux for Dartmouth, Tavon Blackmon and Obi Okolie for Brown).

The league’s biggest puzzle, however, is two-time defending champion Yale. The Bulldogs will likely get sophomore standout Makai Mason back—his declaration for the NBA draft appears to be more of a promotion than anything—but lose two-time Ivy League Player of the Year Justin Sherrod and fellow starters Nick Victor and Brandon Sherrod. Freshman Blake Reynolds and junior Sam Downey had some nice moments in the tournament, but have never seriously received playing time. With Mason and junior Anthony Dallier, the team will have some good building blocks to rely on, but if the team makes a run, it will likely hinge on Mason averaging north of 25 points a game.

–Staff writer David Freed can be reached at david.freed@thecrimson.com.

Yale's Makai Mason Declares for NBA Draft

Published by David Freed on March 25, 2016 at 11:22AM
Makai-ing Moves

Yale sophomore point guard Makai Mason, shown above being defended by Harvard point guard Siyani Chambers in the 2015 Ivy League playoff, has declared for the NBA Draft.

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Monday, Yale sophomore point guard Makai Mason shook the Ivy League by declaring for the NBA draft. Seniors declaring for the NBA draft is rare enough in the Ancient Eight; Mason’s decision, even coming on the heels of a 31-point outburst against fifth-seeded Baylor in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, is nearly unprecedented.

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