With the graduations of co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi ’15, leading scorer Wesley Saunders ’15, and key reserves Jonah Travis ’15 and Kenyatta Smith ’15, the Harvard men’s basketball team already needed inexperienced players to step into bigger roles this season.
However, the team’s biggest loss came over the summer when co-captain and starting point guard Siyani Chambers tore his ACL. Chambers, who has consistently been deemed the team’s most important player over the last three seasons by Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, was slated to be the focal point of the Crimson offense and the team’s floor general this season before the injury derailed that plan.
“Obviously, you count on losing the other guys, [but] we never counted on losing [Siyani], and I don’t think anyone did,” Amaker said. “You adjust, and it is all about that all the time—to maneuver and adjust and maximize who we are and where we are.”
The three-headed monster tasked with attempting to replicate Chambers’s production consists of an untested freshman, the team’s top three-point shooter, and a junior who has played all of 60 minutes in his college career. For Tommy McCarthy, Corbin Miller, and Matt Fraschilla, the injury to Chambers provides an opportunity to lead the starters of the five-time defending Ivy League champs.
While each member of the trio figures to see game action, Amaker has been coy about how he will divvy up minutes.
“If we had to begin today or tomorrow, we have a few guys we’ve kind of looked and changed and tinkered,” Amaker said. “We’ll get a chance to see what that’s like this weekend. I think that gives us a few more days this week to experiment, if you will, but I do think this weekend we’ll have a certain lineup. Will that lineup be the one we stay with? Who knows, but this weekend gives us a chance with an exhibition.”
For McCarthy, the injury means that his opportunity to make an impact comes earlier than expected; for Miller, it signals a potential position switch; for Fraschilla, it creates a chance to see meaningful minutes and push his teammates.
“I realize this is a huge opportunity for me to step in and fight for some minutes on the floor,” McCarthy said. “Coming in, even with Siyani here, I was hoping to make an impact freshman year, but, obviously, this kind of enhances that. It’s a huge opportunity for me.”
McCarthy, a three-year starter at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, Calif., is expected to shoulder the lion’s share of the point guard load. Amaker is no stranger to placing responsibility on his younger players, and McCarthy has had to be a leader on an upperclassman-laden team before.
“He was in a similar situation for me as a sophomore,” said David Cassaw, McCarthy’s high school coach. “He was starting with four seniors. He’s got a lot of pride and a lot of confidence in his game. I think what’s going to carry him is he’s confident, and the reason he’s confident is because he’s put a lot of time in.”
Three seasons ago, Amaker started Chambers at point guard for all 30 of the team’s games after Brandyn Curry ’14 withdrew from the college. As a freshman, Chambers averaged nearly 38 minutes a game en route to claiming Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors and quarterbacking the team to its first NCAA tournament win in program history.
“I’m not the same player [as Siyani],” McCarthy said. “There’s a lot of things that he does that I can’t do, and I think there’s some things that I can do that he didn’t bring. I think it’s a different style, but the leadership role is what’s going to be a constant.”
McCarthy started opposite Fraschilla in the team’s Crimson and Black scrimmage during Crimson Madness last month. The freshman averaged 19.6 points and 4.4 assists last season at La Costa Canyon and was rated a three-star prospect by several recruiting outlets.
“He was always playing, always working on his game, always evolving his game,” Cassaw said. “The thing I saw was his ability to become more and more confident as a ball handler. I saw him becoming more confident as a passer and more well-rounded as a player. By the time he got to his senior year, he was setting the table for us, making passes, scoring when necessary.”