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Basketball coach Bob Harrison had a serious problem to resolve last weekend. After weeks of coaxing, Harrison had convinced Washington D.C high school star James Browns to visit Harvard.
But Brown had been wined and dined by most of the nation's high-powered recruiters. The Harvard coach was naturally reluctant to let him see the inaccessibility, limited seating capacity, and general unsavoriness of Harvard's home court.
Harrison, disappointed with the showing of this year's team, has injected considerable enthusiasm into the new recruiting drive. To encourage Brown a black, he arranged for newly-elected captain Ernie Hardy, also a black, to host the visits to Cambridge. "Hardy," said one player, "took Brown under his wing."
Brown's reaction to Harvard went unrecorded, but latest reports indicate he will probably attend if accepted.
An aggressive style of recruiting is new to the Harvard basketball program. In the pre-Harrison era, if a high school hoopster displayed the initiative to come to Harvard for an interview, he could probably meet the coach and some of the players. If he ware lucky, he might get a tour of the IAB.
Harvard's recruiting policies still forbid coaches to leave the campus to interview prospective players unless such a meeting is sponsored by alumni.
To compensate for his lack of mobility, Harrison has begun a nationwide network of alumni contacts. Some, like Saul Marsch of Low Angeles, who reported to the coach at the IAB two weeks ago, have been waiting patiently for the alma mater to involve them in the basketball program and responded eagerly to the new coach's enthusiasm. Marsch, a former Celtic and one of three Harvard players to merit first team All-Ivy notice, has recruited extensively in the Los Angeles ghettoes for tall, smart, and motivated athletes.
Until the acceptances come out next month, even Harrison won't know for sure what kind of a freshman team he'll have next season. But some of the other Eastern coaches already see the Crimsons a building power.
Lou Carnesecca, head coach as St. John's, one of the top teams in the East, is so impressed by rumors of the upcoming Crimson freshmen that he has asked Harrison to bring them along when the two varsities clash in next winter's opener in New York.
Coach Harrison is very proud of a lot of things his team did this year. Harvard gave NIT finalist Boston College one of its toughest tests all year and played well against Ohil State and San Jose. In the first Columbia game, Harvard came very close to upsetting the League's number two team. Harvard led the Ivies in rebounding, was second after Columbia is scoring, and placed five scorers in the Leaue's top 24.
Harvard's final record last year was terrible and no one denies it. Next year's outfit might surprise if freshman captain Matti Bozek plays as well expected.
But like the Bill Bradley freshman team at Princeton and the McMillian-Dotson freshman team at Columbia--both stepping stones to basketball dynasties--a major attracting for Harvard's basketball fanciers next year will be the first personally recruited Harrison team.
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