All summer long, on courts across the country, it happened.
Jared Leake in New York City. Tarik Campbell in Cambridge. Darren Rankin in Chicago. Terrence Mann in Southern California. Kyle Snowden in Boston. The list goes on and on.
No matter where they spent their summers, it seems, the members of the 1993-94 Harvard men's basketball team decided that this season would be about hard work and sacrifice and, as team captain Campbell put it, "not selling ourselves short."
This year, the team wants respect.
"We want to start off the season fast and get a little confidence going," said Rankin, a sophomore power forward. "We're going to be a lot better this season, and we want the other teams to realize that."
Such words sound strange for a team coming off two consecutive 6-20 seasons. They sound even stranger when you consider that the squad has lost its top scorer and rebounder from last season, and that no player on the current roster has averaged more than 11 points per game in college.
But the boys of Briggs Cage just might be on to something.
With a talented backcourt, improved depth at every position and a slightly easier schedule, Harvard stands poised to make several breakthroughs this season.
"We have a lot of questions, obviously, with Tyler [Rullman '93, the school's third all-time leading scorer] and Arturo [Llopis '93, the Ivy League's leading rebounder last season] gone," said Coach Frank Sullivan before a recent practice.
"We don't have any recognized scorers or All-League players, and only time will tell how we respond to those challenges," he continued, scanning the host of fresh faces warming up on the court. "But we do have a lot of interesting potential."
Ah, potential. That old word again. When was the last time that Harvard basketball wasn't defined with that term? Jaded fans probably wish that "potential" would give way once in awhile to "winning."
But those fans might get their wish this season.
"We'll be better this year. I'm optimistic of that," junior guard Jared Leake said. "Our schedule's a lot more favorable, and I think people are picking us too low in the Ivy League."
Indeed, the Crimson starts its season with three eminently winnable games at home, against Babson, St. Francis and Colgate, and then plays Lehigh, Vermont and Boston University, three more possible wins, in the next five games.
And while Penn and Princeton are the acknowledged favorites in the race for the Ancient Eight crown (see related story), players and coaches alike seem unwilling to concede to the seventh place prediction accorded to Harvard in the League's preseason media poll.
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