UPDATED: July 28, 2015, at 9:55 p.m.
After playing in six NBA Summer League games for the Utah Jazz, former Harvard men’s basketball star Wesley Saunders '15 has reportedly agreed to a partially guaranteed deal with the New York Knicks.
According to league sources, per ESPN New York’s Ian Begley, Saunders will participate in training camp with the Knicks. Reports of a signed agreement began to surface late Friday evening and early Saturday afternoon, but the deal remains unconfirmed. The signing of a contract has also yet to officially be announced.
The former Ivy League Player of the Year would join an organization that has given rise to two of the four Harvard alumni who have ever played in the NBA — Edward Smith ’51 and Jeremy Lin ’10.
"I am thrilled for Wesley's new opportunity,” said Harvard men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker in a text message to The Crimson on Monday. “Wesley is a dynamic athlete with the ability to impact every facet of the game, and I am excited to see him compete at the highest level. We couldn’t be more proud of him and his achievement.”
Former assistant coach Christian Webster ’13, who played alongside Saunders for two seasons before coaching him for two more, expressed similar sentiments in a text to The Crimson late Friday night.
“I'm extremely excited for Wesley,” Webster said. “He deserves this more than anyone. He is obviously one of the most decorated players in the history of the Ivy League, but he is an even better friend and teammate. It was a true honor to coach him for 2 years!”
Saunders recorded 1,511 points over the course of his Crimson career, placing him fourth on Harvard’s all-time scoring list. In his senior season, he averaged 16.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists—all career highs.
Through five games in Las Vegas and one in Salt Lake City this summer, however, Saunders had struggled to make his mark.
Saunders averaged just over 15 minutes of playing time in his six games for the Jazz, averaging 2.8 points and 2.7 rebounds per contest. But he began to do in the pros what he did well inside Lavietes Pavilion—shoot the ball efficiently (7-13 from the floor) and spread the ball around (2.2 assists per game, five against the Timberwolves on July 13).
The former Crimson wing was one of a number of college stars trying to crack the final roster for a Jazz team that already had 14 players under contract for 2015-2016, per basketball-reference.com. However, with NBA teams only being allowed to carry 13 players on their active rosters, his chances of making the team were slim.
Nonetheless, the versatile forward had seemed likely to receive interest from elsewhere. Before the draft, Saunders worked out for eight teams, including the Knicks. He projects as an eventual three-and-D player in the NBA and has worked hard to improve both facets of his game since coming to Harvard.
—Check TheCrimson.com and follow @THCSports on Twitter for updates.
—Staff writer Andrew Farber contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at email@example.com.