Elite Teams Rebuild Quickly

Questions Abound for Young Crimson Squad

Pak Mentality

On March 14, 2012, when the final buzzer sounded at the Harvard-Vanderbilt men’s basketball game in Albuquerque, N.M., the Crimson’s 2011-12 season came to a close. Harvard, finishing with a 26-5 overall record (12-2 Ivy), had earned its first NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament bid in 66 years and its first-ever solo Ivy-League title.

I watched with excitement as the Crimson became the latest Ivy-League darling to generate buzz in Division I basketball, challenging a star-studded Vanderbilt squad that featured three future NBA players.

While Harvard’s moment in the national spotlight eventually faded away, questions of whether or not the Crimson was a legitimate tournament team for the future continued to linger in the media.

While Harvard would lose senior forward and former Ivy-League Player of the Year Keith Wright and senior guard Oliver McNally to graduation, the Crimson would retain the services of junior point guard Brandyn Curry and junior forward Kyle Casey and have the chance to build on the promising, young talent put together by Harvard coach Tommy Amaker.

The future looked exceedingly bright for a Crimson squad that would spend the summer retooling and looking to improve upon its 2011-12 run.

Fast forward seven months, and Harvard has again garnered national attention, only this time, it’s not in a positive way. In the midst of an “unprecedented” cheating scandal involving about 125 students, Crimson co-captains Curry and Casey ultimately made the decision to withdraw from school and miss the 2012-13 basketball season.

Just like that, Harvard lost its all-Ivy League forward and starting point guard, leaving the team even more questions to answer.

With the departure of four of its starting five from 2011-12, the Crimson will go from the favorite to repeat as Ivy-League champion to a team with a lot of young talent but not a lot of time.

Harvard—which begins its season in about a month at Lavietes Pavilion against MIT—will undoubtedly feel the brunt of the losses of its starters sooner rather than later.

In the post, the Crimson returns talented but relatively unproven sophomore forwards in Jonah Travis, Kenyatta Smith, and Steve Moundou-Missi, while upperclassmen Jeff Georgatos, Ugo Okam, and Tom Hamel all have career averages of less than eight minutes per game.

On the wing, Harvard will rely heavily on the play of junior sharpshooter Laurent Rivard—the only remaining member of last year’s starting five—as well as 6’5” forward Christian Webster.

That leaves the team with five freshman recruits and a couple second-years with little-to-no playing experience at the collegiate level.

At this point, it seems easy to write off the 2012-13 season as a rebuilding year for the Crimson and start looking to next year when Curry and Casey are projected to return.

How can Amaker’s group of youngsters be expected to replace four of Harvard’s best defenders and shoulder 62-percent worth of offensive possessions? Will the Crimson be ready to compete with forward Ian Hummer and Princeton? Oh and don’t forget, without McNally, Curry and sharpshooter Corbin Miller, Harvard has a gaping void at the point guard position.

In many ways, the year looks bleak for the 2012-13 Crimson, but what we forget is how far the program has come in the past few years.

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