Wesley Saunders To Join Utah Jazz for NBA Summer League

Published by Jake Meagher on June 26, 2015 at 3:42PM
Joining the Jazz

Wesley Saunders '15, shown competing against North Carolina in the NCAA tournament in March, will join the Utah Jazz for the NBA Summer League.

Former Harvard basketball standout Wesley Saunders will get his chance to play his way onto an NBA roster. According to reports from RealGM and SBNation, Saunders will play in the NBA Summer League next month as a member of the Utah Jazz.

Saunders, a three-time All-Ivy League first-teamer and the 2013-2014 Ivy League Player of the Year, was ranked 68th in the rising NBA draft class according to ESPN’s Chad Ford. But Saunders was not among the 60 prospects selected by NBA teams at Thursday’s draft.

According to an interview he gave to Hoops Rumors, Saunders scheduled workouts with the 76ers, Hawks, Clippers, Bulls, Knicks, Bucks, Magic, and Mavericks in the weeks leading up to the draft.

The Jazz were not mentioned, but Saunders will suit up for Salt Lake City in just a matter of weeks nonetheless. Utah will play six games this summer in addition to a tournament at the end of the short season.

The 6’5” wing averaged 16.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game in his senior season, carrying the Crimson to its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. In his final taste of tournament action, Saunders recorded 26 points and five assists, nearly willing Harvard to an upset over heavily favored North Carolina.

Now as he shifts his attention towards the professional ranks, Saunders has an opportunity very similar to the one that another Crimson basketball standout took advantage of in 2010.

After going undrafted, Jeremy Lin ’10 received an invite to play in the Summer League from the Dallas Mavericks. Then after averaging 9.8 points and 18.6 minutes over four games, Lin earned the attention of the Golden State Warriors, who signed the guard to a deal at the end of July.

All 30 NBA teams will have the opportunity to sign the wing at the conclusion of the summer league. Saunders will get his first chance to make his case on July 6 against the Boston Celtics.

—Check TheCrimson.com and follow @THCSports for updates.

Men's Basketball's Moundou-Missi Signs With Agent

Published by David Freed on May 24, 2015 at 3:39AM
Scorer 1st, Rebounder 2nd

Senior forward Steve Moundou-Missi, pictured in action against Brown on March 7, has signed a contract with Scorers 1st.

As he begins to pursue a professional basketball career, Harvard senior forward Steve Moundou-Missi has signed with the agency Scorers 1st. The organization also represents Moundou-Missi’s former teammate, Brandyn Curry ’13-’14.

Along with teammate Wesley Saunders, Moundou-Missi has set his eyes squarely on playing basketball after college ends. The Yaounde, Cameroon, native had a banner season in his last year on campus, taking home both the 2015 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year award and his third All-Ivy designation.

The signing with Scorers 1st indicates that Moundou-Missi will likely follow Curry to Europe. No current players signed with the agency play even in the NBA D-League, with its most prominent signings known best for either name—like Patrick Ewing Jr.—or ridiculous achievement—like Jack Taylor, holder of the NCAA record for points in a game with 138.

The Keys To Victory for Men's Basketball

Published by David Freed on March 19, 2015 at 12:34PM

As covered earlier this week, the Harvard men’s basketball team (22-7, 11-3 Ivy) is being seen a substantial underdog to its first-round NCAA opponent—the North Carolina Tar Heels (24-11, 11-7 ACC). Below, men’s basketball beat writer David Freed looks at the five things Harvard needs to do to pull off the upset.

1. Control the Pace: In today’s media sessions, the top main topics were the pace of the game and the ability of the Tar Heels to control the boards. UNC likes to get out and run, where its athleticism can overcome opponents and generate early looks in transition. The Tar Heels just 1-5 in games with fewer than 65 possessions, whereas Harvard averages just 63.8 possessions a game. If the Crimson can keep the game slow, minimizing turnovers, they can keep a potent UNC offense in check.

2. Stop Marcus Paige: The heart and soul of the Tar Heels is junior point guard Marcus Paige, the team’s best perimeter scorer. Paige will be checked by a litany of Harvard defenders, likely starting with 6’0” starting point guard Siyani Chambers. Chambers guarded Yale combo guard Javier Duren for many of the final two contests with Yale and has improved vastly as a defender in year three. If he does not excel here, however, Harvard’s chances will fall from slim to none.

3. Hold its Own on the Glass: Against a team that ranked second in Division I in rebounding, it is crucial Harvard be able to keep defensive possessions to one shot. UNC boasts length, depth, and size across its front line, while Harvard often eschews defensive rebounding to send people (read: junior Agunwa Okolie) out in transition. Junior wing Wesley Saunders and co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi are the team’s two best rebounding rotation players and the two keys to the game. On the other side, Harvard will likely eschew rebounding to send extra players back in transition, as stopping the Tar Heel break is a priority for the squad.

4. Bench and Balance: Harvard coach Tommy Amaker is often quoted with these two words, his personal keys to the Harvard offense. Against a deep UNC squad, Harvard will need both its bench to provide solid minutes and support its big three—Chambers, Moundou-Missi, and Saunders—who will not overcome the Tar Heels on their own.

5. Regress To The Mean: In its biggest games of the year, Harvard’s shot has failed it when it needed it most. Two brutal three-point shooting performances against Yale were preceded by brick fests against Virginia and Boston College. Saunders went a combined four-of-26 in the two games, while the Crimson as a team shot just 24.5 percent. While some credit is due to the defenses of the opposing squads, Harvard missed a number of wide-open shots in each contest—against the Cavaliers in particular, the Crimson generated a series of early good looks. If the percentages revert back to the mean, Harvard will defy many of the doubters about its offense.  

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

Men's Basketball Starters Ranked Among Worst by ESPN Insider

Published by David Freed on March 18, 2015 at 12:34PM

In a post Tuesday night, ESPN Insider Jeff Goodman ranked Harvard junior Agunwa Okolie and sophomore Zena Edosomwan among the 10 worst starters in the NCAA tournament. No other team—including all of the 15 and 16 seeds—had two starters ranked among the worst 10. All in all, Okolie ranked 331rd of 340, with Edosomwan coming in just one spot behind.

Okolie and Edosomwan both had lackluster statistical seasons for the Crimson, averaging a combined 8.4 points and 7.1 rebounds—or roughly the output of Northeastern’s Zach Stahl (8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg), the 299th ranked player on the list.

The Crimson snuck only one player inside the top-250, senior wing Wesley Saunders. Saunders, who had received some fringe Naismith Award buzz earlier in the year, came in at No. 178 despite averaging 16.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from three. Ten spots ahead of Saunders was Georgetown freshman forward L.J. Peak, who averaged 7.8 points and 2.4 rebounds on 38 percent shooting from the field.

Harvard co-captains, junior point guard Siyani Chambers and forward Steve Moundou-Missi, came in at No. 252 and No. 264, respectively.

The list was overall very top heavy. Kentucky placed all five starters within the top-66, while Arizona had all five in the top-80. Harvard’s first-round opponent, the North Carolina Tar Heels, had all five starters ranked in the top-100, headlined by junior point guard Marcus Paige, who ranked No. 29. 

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

Men's Basketball Becomes Consistent Presence on Biggest Stages

Published by Andrew Farber on March 18, 2015 at 12:34PM

Eleven of the Harvard men's basketball team's games were broadcast on national television this season.

Most “Crimson Crazies” will tell you that the last time their team played on national television, co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi was jogging back on defense with a face of restrained jubilation after hitting a jumper with 7.2 seconds left to clinch his teams fourth consecutive NCAA tournament berth. While those fans wouldn’t be wrong, they might be a little misguided.

Though ESPN3 did broadcast that 53-51 win over Yale to a national audience, the last time the entire rest of the college basketball world was fixated on the Harvard men’s basketball team (22-7, 11-3 Ivy), the scene was much different. In a December matchup that pitted the Crimson against the undefeated No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers, a sold-out crowd and national audience watched as the Cavaliers toyed with the Crimson, who had been nationally ranked themselves only a couple of weeks prior.

As ESPNU’s Mike Couzens and Dan Dakich began desperately and awkwardly scrambling for anything other than basketball to talk about amidst the 76-27 blowout, one couldn’t help but feel sorry for the Crimson, who failed to reach double digits in the first half. To an outsider, Harvard looked like a lowly Ivy League team that had mistakenly wandered onto the grounds of an almighty ACC, a league home to 12 official NCAA Basketball championships, unable to handle the limelight of such elite competition.

In fact, that same outsider would likely say that Harvard coach Tommy Amaker’s squad will meet a similar fate when it faces off on national television against perennial powerhouse and No. 4 seed North Carolina. Undeniably, there are plenty of similarities between Thursday night’s matchup and Harvard’s embarrassment in Charlottesville, Va. Having to play another top tier ACC opponent is certainly daunting enough, but doing so on TNT with millions of people watching could spell disaster for the Ancient Eight champions.