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This is the first of a series of articles on the basketball team. The second will appear on Monday morning.
On the center court of the Indoor Athletic Building's top floor yesterday afternoon a perfectly routine practice session was in progress; the Varsity basketball team was opposing the Yardling five in a stiff, hard fought game, and as the ball travelled up and down the floor the first year men scored regularly against Bill Gray's outfit. But in the long run the more experienced team was rolling up a bigger and bigger margin as plays would click, passes connect beautifully. It was just one part in the final drive of the best basketball team Harvard has over had.
On next Tuesday and Saturday nights this final drive will reach its peak when the five faces Columbia and Yale in their last two league clashes. They will not be fighting for first place, for the great Pennsylvania team has cinched that; but if they can weather these two games they will be in a second place tie, or perhaps sole possessor of that runner-up berth. This is in itself a truly remarkable record, for Wes Fesler had no naturally gifted basketball players. They have literally made that team good out of mediocre material.
Basketball at Harvard enjoys a peculiar standing; unlike almost every other College in the country, it is a minor sport; and when Yale, as it is generally expected, makes it a major sport, Harvard will be the only team in the League whose players will not receive major insignia as there reward for the season's work.
The situation today is nothing to what it was when Fesler first came to coach here. Bill Bingham heard him speak once in New York when Fesler was Freshman coach at Ohio, and hired him as a result. Previously, the new coach had been all American in both football and basketball at Ohio, and was used to playing the latter game where basketball was the one sport during the winter.
When he arrived in Cambridge for his first winter, the situation that faced him was to a mid-westerner unbelievable; basketball here was nothing, the teams were awful. The result of his work has been amazing; Harvard joined the Intercollegiate League; and with that as a starting point, more Undergraduates started to come out for the team, and a little interest was aroused, even though up to this year the League results haven't been too successful. But this season sees the team with six League wins already, twice as many as a Crimson team has ever won before; and they have what is certainly a good fighting chance to pick up two more. with the growth of better teams there was an accompanying growth in interest in the sport.
This interest reached a new high just before mid-years when the Penn team came to Cambridge and the Crimson and the Quakers found themselves fighting for the League lead. The band came to the game, the stands were jammed full, a cheerleader even appeared. Many an Undergraduate who frankly admitted that he had never been to a basketball game before was also in the stands, and when that thrilling battle was over he had to admit it was a pretty good game. This rise of interest in Harvard has had its results, for all over New England the spurt has caused the sport to take a new lease of life. The only natural result will come when the court game is a major sport and the big League clashes are played before bigger houses, perhaps in the Boston Arena.
The Columbia clash Tuesday in New York will be an all-important one as far as Crimson hopes go, for with this and the Yale game Harvard faces two tough clashes, while the Dartmouth team, which is in the second place tie with Fesler's team has two setups ahead they should have little difficulty taking. But regardless of how Tuesday's game in New York comes out, the Yale game here Saturday should be a thriller not even surpassed by the Penn game. The Elis will be looking for revenge as a result of their defeat Saturday by the narrowest of margins, the colorful Larry Kelly will be playing on the Blue team, and he always provides action.
The Lions will be a far tougher team to beat in New York than they were here. They play a rougher game than any other team in the League, and the Crimson will be far more bottled up. Red Lowman scored 18 points in that clash a few weeks back in the Indoor Athletic Building, and as a result the Light Blue team will be trying to cover him far more closely. Yale beat the Columbia five when the teams clashed in New Haven, but in the return game a few nights ago they found the going much tougher, lost by a few points.
Tomorrow afternoon, in a breather game before these two crucial contests, the Varsity five faces a Brown team they shouldn't have too much difficulty taking. The Brains will be bring to Cambridge the type of outfit that throws long wild passes, and if they happen to be connecting in the Indoor Athletic Building tomorrow, the Crimson will be in for a tough afternoon. But in the ordinary course of events Fesler's men will win by a substantial margin.
On the road, the Crimson invariably play to larger houses than at home. The 2000 at the Penn game was probably the tops of the season here in Cambridge, but at Philadelphia in the first clash with the Red and Blue there was over 5000; at Yale Saturday, in an afternoon game, 3000 turned up. Hockey is still the big sport here in the winter time, but the game of basketball is on its way up, and if Fesler can turn out a championship team some year in the not too distant future he will do more than anything towards placing the game on a permanently stable basis.
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