By four o'clock yesterday afternoon, there was only standing room left at the Indoor Athletic Building. The word had been spread that Harvard has a superteam in freshman basketball this winter, and anyone who even remotely cared about the sport was there.
The team was legendary as early as last April, when it was revealed that Floyd Lewis and James Brown, perhaps two of the finest high school players ever to come out of the Washington D. C. area, were coming to Cambridge. Coach Bob Harrison had promised a renaissance to a Harvard audience that was tired of waiting. Yesterday, he delivered the first installment.
The match between the varsity and freshmen was only a scrimmage, but no one on either squad ever believed it for a minute. Neither did anyone in the stands. From the opening whistle, it was almost a blood game between what is the Harvard basketball tradition of the past, and what is hoped to be the tradition of the future. The past won-yesterday.
But if Brown had not fouled out with ten minutes remaining in the game, if the freshmen had had a little more practice time, the results could well have been reversed.
Because of his disqualification and early substitution. Brown played only about twenty minutes. Although it was clear by halftime that this is no super team, several performers are better than almost anyone who has ever played for Harvard.
When the starting team of Brown, Lewis, Marshall Sanders, Jean Wilkinson and Stan Mark was on the court, it played the Crimson varsity to a standstill, frequently outrebounding it, and usually coming up with the picture plays.
And the audience was almost overwhelmingly in favor of the freshmen. The reason is obvious. The freshmen were going to bring Harvard basketball to an Ivy title and perhaps national prominence in the next few years, and a loss to the varsity-the varsity that has wallowed in the second division for years-would have shattered the dream.
The varsity might have sensed it, and it went after a victory with unusual determination. There is a feeling that a few starting positions on next year's varsity were decided yesterday afternoon, and the feeling may be more than conjecture. Brown is assured of one, and at least one or two of his teammates should join him.
So basketball fever, a phenomenon that has never really hit Cambridge with full force, was born yesterday. Brown and his cohorts should make it a chronic affliction.