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Seven years ago, Harvard men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker had a vision. He wanted to transform Lavietes Pavilion from just another hardwood hall in the Ivy League into the home of one the elite basketball programs in the nation. Now, his vision is becoming a reality.
The Crimson has built a dynasty. Amaker’s team has won at least a share of the conference regular season title in each of the past four seasons, made three straight tournament appearances, and beaten a plethora of top ranked opponents, including Florida State, New Mexico, and Cincinnati.
Now, Harvard is posed to be ranked in the top-25 in the nation this season (ESPN’s Dick Vitale has the Crimson at 20th) and is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as Eight Ancient champions.
So what’s the key to Amaker’s success? Recruiting.
After bringing to Harvard top-100 recruit Zena Edowsman last year and four-star recruit Chris Egi this season, Amaker has now added two more big names to his future rosters.
Last week, Weisner Perez and Tommy McCarthy both committed to the admissions process at Harvard.
Perez, who hails from Morton, Illinois and stands at 6’ 6’’, will give Harvard a big height advantage at the small forward position in the Ivy League. Perez, who received interest from top programs such as Xavier, Creighton, and DePaul, has been receiving Division I scholarship offers since his sophomore year.
“After that in junior year it really started to heat up,” said Perez. “There was times I got four a day. Most were Ivies.”
Perez, who is incredibly academically focused, believed in exactly what Amaker was selling: a top academic institution with a high mid-major basketball program.
“Eventually the ball stops bouncing,” said Perez. “The Ivy League was the best situation for me where I could play basketball and have a great education. Harvard speaks for itself.”
As for Perez’s future with the Crimson, Mike Irvin, Perez’s AAU coach, calls him a “a mismatch nightmare…who is big enough to bang with the big guys but fast enough to get past the smaller guards.”
During the recruiting process, Amaker—who is prohibited by NCAA rules from discussing the commitments until May 1— pitched Perez on a future role similar to the versatile senior forward Jonah Travis. Nonetheless, Perez has been working to develop a jump shot off the dribble to make him a more inside-out player.
Perez rebounds at an incredibly high rate, and had the state’s only 20-20 game last season. As a result, Amaker should be able to find a spot for Perez early on next season, with Harvard’s top three rebounders from last season all current seniors.
Like his future teammate, McCarthy also found Amaker’s pitch of attending a preeminent institution and playing for a potentially nationally ranked team irresistible.
Much like junior captain Siyani Chambers, McCarthy plays point guard, stands at just 6’ 0’’, and is a natural-born leader.
“Me and Siyani are both good leaders,” said McCarthy. “He is a great floor general and passer. Coach Amaker liked me a lot because of my ability to lead and shoot.”
With schools such as BYU, San Diego, and Rice all interested, McCarthy decided that he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to play for the former Duke point guard Amaker.
“I started getting recruited by Harvard my sophomore year,” said McCarthy. “I’ve been hearing from Harvard for a while, but didn’t hear from Coach Amaker until the beginning of this summer.”
One of the reasons Amaker’s interest peaked this summer was McCarthy’s ability to shoot the rock. He can spot up, shoot of the dribble, and pull-up from range reminiscent of Laurent Rivard ’14, Harvard’s top all-time three point shooter.
But what stands out more than McCarthy’s jump shot is his guts. With 1.3 seconds left in one of California’s biggest rivalry game, McCarthy calmly knocked down a game-winning three point shot to beat No. 4-ranked Torrey Pines in front of a standing-room-only crowd against his former school.
Though McCarthy won’t be able to have an impact on the court for Harvard this year, he has already begun making an impact, reaching out to Northfield Mount Hermon senior and four-star recruit Aaron Falzon during Falzon’s official visit to recruit him to join McCarthy at Harvard.
—Staff writer Andrew Farber can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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