The Emu Who Soared

Joe Carrabino doesn't especially look like a basketball player.

At 6-ft., 9-in. and 235 pounds, the senior forward looks like he'd be more at home on a football field. In fact, he was a star in both sports and baseball at Crespi Carmelite High School in Los Angeles.

When he ran down the Briggs Athletic Center court, it is more often to calls of "Emu"--a large, flightless bird--than to more positive epithets.

But anyone who's seen him play basketball for the Crimson for the past four years should be convinced that the Encino, Calif, native made the right choice in discarding his shoulder pads and batting gloves to concentrate on roundball.

All Carrabino has done in his tenure on the Harvard basketball team is win the Ivy Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year awards, make the All-Ivy team four times, make Academic All-American teams twice, and set the all-time Harvard scoring record.


Not bad for someone who looks out of place as he runs up and down the court.

"I don't think there's a doubt in anyone's mind," Harvard Coach Frank McLaughlin said last year, "that he's the best player in the Ivy League. He might not be the best athlete in the league, but he's certainly the best player."

Despite being recruited by national hoop powers after his outstanding prep career, Carrabino--encouraged by Joe, Sr., a UCLA professor--chose Harvard for its academics.

He instantly made his presence felt on the basketball court, setting a Crimson record for most points scored by a freshman (380) while being named Rookie of the Year and honorable mention All-Ivy.

After an appearance on the second team roster following his impressive sophomore campaign (14.8 points per game), the Economics concentrator took a year off to rest his injured back.

Carrabino returned from his hiatus with a bang, averaging 22.0 points and 7.3 rebounds to snag the first Player of the Year ever won by a Crimson cager.

He even broke onto the national scene, ranking 21st nationally in scoring and second in free throw percentage (90.5).

Despite failing to win his second straight Player of the Year honor this year, Carrabino arguably had his best season ever, scoring 21.4 points and grabbing 8.0 rebounds per game. He was tabbed for the All-Ivy first team for the second consecutive year and was named are Honorable Mention All-American--becoming Harvard's first All-American since 1946.

His finest moments undoubtedly came on March 1 of this year. On that day, Carrabino was named to the Academic All-American first team in the afternoon, and shattered the all-time Harvard scoring record for an encore that night.

His 24 points against Columbia pushed him over the 1800 mark and past Donald Fleming '82 as Harvard's most prolific scorer toward his eventual 1880-point career mark.

Through it all, Carrabino has remained modest. "I look back on my career and I've scored over 1800 points and I don't know where they all came from," he said after his record-setting performance.

Wherever Carrabino goes after graduation, whether into a promising business career or to Europe to pursue basketball, he's sure to be a success.

But to Harvard fans, he'll always be "Emu," the large, flightless cager who just might have been the best Crimson basketball player ever.