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Men's Basketball Christens Renovated Lavietes Pavilion with Crimson Madness

Rim Rocker
Freshman guard Mario Haskett throws down a dunk during Friday night's Crimson Madness at Lavietes Pavilion.

Lavietes Pavilion has officially re-opened.

The Harvard men’s basketball team hosted the athletic complex’s welcome-back party with a new dose of energy on Friday at the seventh annual Crimson Madness.

The sense of freshness went beyond the multi-million dollar renovations done over the summer at Lavietes Pavilion, which included a new state-of-the-art scoreboard, bleachers, and hardwood floor. For a team that suffered a heartbreaking early exit in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament last season, this year marks a renewal in spirit as Harvard coach Tommy Amaker’s program hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.

The showcase, which featured a three-point shootout, slam dunk contest, and an intrasquad scrimmage, capped off the Crimson’s first official week of practice. Harvard fans also had their first glimpse of the three new members of the team, freshmen Danilo Djuricic, Reed Farley, and Mario Haskett.

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Among those in the stands on Friday evening were former standout Zena Edosomwan ’17 and 2017 Boston Celtics first-round pick Jayson Tatum.

The 2017-2018 edition of the Crimson will rely greatly on its bounty of second-year contributors, who earned a large chunk of minutes in Amaker’s rotation last season. Upperclassmen Chris Egi, Corey Johnson, and Weisner Perez will likely see playing time alongside the star-studded crop of sophomores.

In the 16-minute scrimmage, the chemistry among the sophomores was reinforced on the first two points of the game, as guard Christian Juzang threw a lob to 6’11” forward Robert Baker for a powerful dunk. Baker would finish the half with six points, while sophomore forward Chris Lewis led the Crimson team with seven points in a 30-24 victory over the Black squad.

Several guards saw success beyond the three-point line, a point of emphasis in Amaker’s inside-out offensive approach. Juzang, who started at lead guard for the Crimson team and figures to compete with the injured junior Tommy McCarthy for backup point guard minutes, nailed a triple to give his team an early lead. Johnson, the team’s three-point specialist from a season ago, and sophomore point guard Bryce Aiken were also successful from long range.

During a break in the action, Jeremy Lin ’10, Wesley Saunders ’15, and Siyani Chambers ’16-’17 were featured in a video message on the new scoreboard, offering positive encouragements to the team for the upcoming season.

The younger talent of the team will need to take over the on-court and off-court roles of these former cornerpieces of Amaker’s program. Amaker will likely rely on Aiken to replicate Chambers’ and Lin’s court vision and Saunders’ scoring ability, while Lewis and Egi figure to take over Edosomwan’s inside presence in the Crimson frontcourt.

Six members of the squad participated in the three-point shootout, which saw impressive first-round performances by Aiken and classmates Justin Bassey, Henry Welsh, and Seth Towns. Welsh, an important frontcourt anchor for Amaker, showed his confidence beyond the arc as he sank multiple shots from the first two racks of the contest. Welsh did not attempt a single shot from beyond the arc in his first season in Cambridge.

However, the big man was eclipsed by Bassey and Towns in the contest, and in the final round, Bassey earned the victory, scoring 13 out of a potential 18 points.

The slam dunk contest featured both young and experienced talent, as Egi ultimately took over the crown from last year’s winner, Edosomwan. Haskett also impressed, earning a first round score of 50 on his second dunk. After bouncing the ball between his legs off the backboard, the freshman threw down a powerful right hand dunk to the thunderous roar of the crowd. Egi matched this performance, donning a Vince Carter jersey before emulating his signature “elbow-in-the-rim” dunk for a perfect 50.

In the final round, Egi jumped over fellow senior guard Andre Chatfield after receiving a pass from his mother. After several missed attempts, Egi successfully nailed the slam, good enough to bring home a final round 46 and the victory.

Harvard fans will need to wait another month to see the Crimson play its first game, as it takes on MIT at home on Nov. 10. The season opener will mark Amaker’s 11th season as head coach for the program. If Friday is any indication, the season looks to be a promising one for Amaker’s bunch.

—Staff writer Henry Zhu can be reached at henry.zhu@thecrimson.com.

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