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Coach Floyd Wilson takes his basketball team to Amberst this Saturday with a great many uncertainties in his mind. Some them may disappear after the initial trial; hopefully most of them will be gone by the time the team begins its Ivy schedule early in January.
The biggest uncertainty right now is whether or not Harvard will have a basketball team consistently able to offer some reasonable facsimile of college level play. Last year, the team had a 10-14 record. its protracted losing streak at the end of the season tended to erase the hopeful beginning. Many games were lost by a second half collapse or heavy fouling.
It is hard to say exactly why Harvard basketball squads do not compare with the school's other athletic teams. The backgrounds of the players are certainly as impressive as those in other sports. The high school-like gym and a de-emphasis atmosphere may have something to do with it, but one suspects that a winning team would quickly build a following.
"California Type Offense"
One aspect of the Crimson game widely blamed for Harvard's troubles was the complicated Drake shuffle offense. It has come as good news to players and spectators that this system has been abandoned. In its place Wilson has installed what he calls a "California type offense," which stresses two and three man play combinations and is much more flexible than the Drake pattern.
Under the new system, the guards will feed the ball to a forward, who will then look for an opposite forward to cut in or will try to feed the post man for a book shot or short jump. The guards will occasionally drive in two and three man patterns, or work for shots on give and go plays or screen set-ups.
The emphasis here, as in the defense (tight man-to-man) is on individual excellence rather than full coordinated five-man maneuvers. Therefore the kind of year seniors Pete Kelley and Denny Lynch and junior Bob Inman have is the key to the team. If these boys mature into consistent scorers in the 20 point range Harvard will surprise some people. If not, there will be many dismal nights in the IAB for all concerned except the visiting school.
In addition to teaching the new offense, Wilson has other problems. The loss of Gary Borchard, second highest scorer in Harvard history, and two other starters from last year (Joe Deering and Bill Danner) has forced heavy reliance on sophomores. The disability of team captain and defensive ace Gene Augustine has also hindered pre-season, practice.
In Saturday's game, for instance, the Crimson may have three sophomores in the starting line-up: guards Leo Scully and Al Bornheimer, and pivot man Merie McClung. Augustine, who has been kept off the floor by a broken foot, may be able to play at full speed by the end of the month, but in the interim the team has missed both his teaching skills and the opportunity to develop coordination with him in there.
Scully, high scorer for the freshmen last year, is the most promising sophomore on the varsity, and may become one the better youngsters in the League. An energetic play-maker with a tendency to drive hard for the basket, Scully, with some experience, should give the Crimson the scoring strength at guard it has missed.
McClung Possible Point Maker
McClung might become a pointmaker, but this is not certain at the present the ball well, he apparently lacks confitime. While he has the moves and handles dence to take enough shots.
Bornheimer has a future, although it may be a year from now before he is really qualified for a starting job. Until Augustine returns, though, he will play opposite Scully, and Wilson is hoping his scoring potential will compensate for some of the rougher parts of his game.
Harvard basketball followers (a tight select group indeed) are already acquainted with the various skills of Lynch, Kelly, and Inman, and the hope is that the new offense will give them enough opportunities to demonstrate their talents.
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