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Turning the Program Around: Is This the Year?

Cagemen Hope to Ride Fast Start to Respectability

By Peter K. Han

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.

"After Penn, Princeton and maybe Cornell, there's sort of a logjam that only the season will be able to separate," Sullivan said.

"It's going to be a question of who can becomegood in that group, who can have their playersrise to the occasion. We are prepared to look atourselves as part of that," he said.

Looking at his team, Sullivan has a wider arrayof weapons from which to choose than he did lastseason.

The backcourt, without a doubt, is the squad'sstrong point. The explosive 5'10" Campbell leadsthe way (see related story), averaging 11.5points, 5.9 assists and 4 rebounds per game lastseason as the team's point guard.

Junior James White, who started at off guardlast season until he suffered a nasty toe injuryhalfway through the campaign, will be a key partof the rotation. So will sophomore Mike Gilmore, aguard-forward who averaged 7.7 points last yearwhile shooting .390 from three point range.

Junior Dan Morris, who was Campbell's primarybackup last season, will provide depth, as willLeake, who started two years ago as a freshman butwho suffered through a lackluster sophomorecampaign.

Add in senior Matt McClain, who sat out most oflast season after averaging nearly 10 points pergame two years ago, junior Fred Scott and freshmanDavid Demian--"He scored loads of points in highschool out in California," noted Sullivan--and itbecomes clear that there are almost too manybodies for Sullivan to play.

The frontcourt, unfortunately, is anotherquestion. With the departure of Rullman, Llopisand power forward Eric Carter, Harvard loses acombined 34 points and 17 rebounds per game.

"We have a lot of bangers coming in, and theyhave to get with the experienced guys tocompensate for the loss of [Llopis] inside,"Campbell said.

Kevin Fricka, a junior who transferred in fromArmy, will attempt to fill the void at center.With his savvy, physical play, the 6'8" Fricka hasalready garnered the respect of his teammates andcoach.

"In Kevin, we have someone with a lot ofDivision I experience [Fricka started for a seasonat Army] who can pass the ball and create someoffense inside," Sullivan said. When Fricka comesout of the game, junior Paul Kubiak and seniorAnikar Chhabra, two still-improving players, willlikely see time.

They will be joined by a strong contingent ofpower forwards which is led by sophomore DarrenRankin, the starter during the second half of lastyear. Rankin will combine with classmate TerrenceMann and two freshmen, Kyle Snowden and ChrisGrancio, to beef up the Crimson presenceunderneath the boards.

Even when the personnel questions are answered,though, a host of other concerns greets the team.

Harvard ranked sixth in the Ivy League in fieldgoal percentage last season and dead last in freethrow percentage. That may improve. "We're a lotbetter of a shooting team, for one thing," Gilmoresaid.

As for the defense, however, the picture fromlast season gets worse. Sullivan and his troopsran a variety of man-to man and trapping zonedefenses, but Harvard still ranked last in bothdefensive field goal percentage and in scoringdefense among Ivy League teams.

"Defense is probably one of our biggestquestions right now," Gilmore said.

Assuming that Harvard can iron out theseproblems--and that's a pretty big assumption--thekey to the season would then be the mental game.

It's on this point that Harvard bases itshopes.

"Consistency is important," Leake said. "Doingthe little things day in and day out, doing themall the time without complaining, is somethingwe're going to have to do to win."

From all indications, that mental toughness,more than any points or rebounds or assists, maybe the area of biggest improvement for this year'ssquad over its predecessor.

"Collectively, I think a lot of guys havebecome more competitive and aggressive than lastyear," Campbell said. "There's a definitedifference in attitudes."

Whether this newfound resolve will withstandthe season could determine the ultimate success ofthis team. Stay tuned.CrimsonAmanda M. DawsonFreshman KYLE SNOWDEN

"It's going to be a question of who can becomegood in that group, who can have their playersrise to the occasion. We are prepared to look atourselves as part of that," he said.

Looking at his team, Sullivan has a wider arrayof weapons from which to choose than he did lastseason.

The backcourt, without a doubt, is the squad'sstrong point. The explosive 5'10" Campbell leadsthe way (see related story), averaging 11.5points, 5.9 assists and 4 rebounds per game lastseason as the team's point guard.

Junior James White, who started at off guardlast season until he suffered a nasty toe injuryhalfway through the campaign, will be a key partof the rotation. So will sophomore Mike Gilmore, aguard-forward who averaged 7.7 points last yearwhile shooting .390 from three point range.

Junior Dan Morris, who was Campbell's primarybackup last season, will provide depth, as willLeake, who started two years ago as a freshman butwho suffered through a lackluster sophomorecampaign.

Add in senior Matt McClain, who sat out most oflast season after averaging nearly 10 points pergame two years ago, junior Fred Scott and freshmanDavid Demian--"He scored loads of points in highschool out in California," noted Sullivan--and itbecomes clear that there are almost too manybodies for Sullivan to play.

The frontcourt, unfortunately, is anotherquestion. With the departure of Rullman, Llopisand power forward Eric Carter, Harvard loses acombined 34 points and 17 rebounds per game.

"We have a lot of bangers coming in, and theyhave to get with the experienced guys tocompensate for the loss of [Llopis] inside,"Campbell said.

Kevin Fricka, a junior who transferred in fromArmy, will attempt to fill the void at center.With his savvy, physical play, the 6'8" Fricka hasalready garnered the respect of his teammates andcoach.

"In Kevin, we have someone with a lot ofDivision I experience [Fricka started for a seasonat Army] who can pass the ball and create someoffense inside," Sullivan said. When Fricka comesout of the game, junior Paul Kubiak and seniorAnikar Chhabra, two still-improving players, willlikely see time.

They will be joined by a strong contingent ofpower forwards which is led by sophomore DarrenRankin, the starter during the second half of lastyear. Rankin will combine with classmate TerrenceMann and two freshmen, Kyle Snowden and ChrisGrancio, to beef up the Crimson presenceunderneath the boards.

Even when the personnel questions are answered,though, a host of other concerns greets the team.

Harvard ranked sixth in the Ivy League in fieldgoal percentage last season and dead last in freethrow percentage. That may improve. "We're a lotbetter of a shooting team, for one thing," Gilmoresaid.

As for the defense, however, the picture fromlast season gets worse. Sullivan and his troopsran a variety of man-to man and trapping zonedefenses, but Harvard still ranked last in bothdefensive field goal percentage and in scoringdefense among Ivy League teams.

"Defense is probably one of our biggestquestions right now," Gilmore said.

Assuming that Harvard can iron out theseproblems--and that's a pretty big assumption--thekey to the season would then be the mental game.

It's on this point that Harvard bases itshopes.

"Consistency is important," Leake said. "Doingthe little things day in and day out, doing themall the time without complaining, is somethingwe're going to have to do to win."

From all indications, that mental toughness,more than any points or rebounds or assists, maybe the area of biggest improvement for this year'ssquad over its predecessor.

"Collectively, I think a lot of guys havebecome more competitive and aggressive than lastyear," Campbell said. "There's a definitedifference in attitudes."

Whether this newfound resolve will withstandthe season could determine the ultimate success ofthis team. Stay tuned.CrimsonAmanda M. DawsonFreshman KYLE SNOWDEN

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