Clinging to a five-point lead with 2:11 to play against crosstown rival Boston College, the Harvard men’s basketball team was in need of a basket. The Eagles had cut the Crimson’s 11-point lead to five in less than two minutes, and momentum was swinging away from the visiting Harvard squad.
That’s when rookie Laurent Rivard stepped up.
With the shot clock winding down, junior co-captain Keith Wright received the ball in the high post. As the Eagles sent a double team at Wright, Rivard cut to the basket, took a pass from Wright, and finished a lefty layup to put the Crimson back up by seven.
It was fitting that Rivard—the player who had carried the Crimson all night—would be the one to seal the victory.
The 6’5” guard finished the game with a career-high 23 points, shooting 7-of-15 off the bench.
“He was really putting the team on his back,” said sophomore point guard Brandyn Curry of Rivard’s performance in the Jan. 5 matchup against the Eagles. “He carried us, man. That was very impressive. In such a big moment, for a freshman to step up and do that, I was really impressed.”
But given his collegiate debut, some may not have believed that Rivard had what it took to lead the Crimson against an ACC opponent.
In his first game in a Harvard uniform, Rivard—a highly touted recruit with a sweet shooting touch—struggled mightily. In 23 minutes, the guard went 0-of-11 from the field, missing seven shots from beyond the arc in the Crimson’s 66-53 season-opening loss to George Mason.
When Harvard returned to Cambridge that night and the rest of the Crimson players went to sleep, Rivard went straight to the gym to work on his jump shot.
“I think when we got back, he didn’t even go to sleep. He just went back to the gym,” Curry said. “He is in the gym constantly, working on his game.”
Soon enough, the hard work began to pay off for the freshman. Rivard reached double figures in his third game and led the Crimson in scoring over a three-game stretch leading up to the start of Ivy League play.
In the most successful season in Harvard basketball history, Rivard finished third on the team in scoring, averaging 11 points per game, while leading the squad in three pointers with 61.
Perhaps more impressive, Rivard emerged as a clutch player to whom the Crimson went in pressure situations.
“For a freshman, this year he played with unbelievable swagger,” sophomore Kyle Casey said. “He really got the job done for us.”
“His confidence is through the roof; that’s why in late games, whenever we need a three, Coach is always ready to call his number,” Curry echoed. “He’s one of the best shooters in the league already…and he still has a long way to go, which is scary.”
—Staff writer Martin Kessler can be reached at email@example.com.
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