Optimism abounds in New Haven as the Yale Bulldogs return most major pieces from a team that advanced all the way to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) final last March. Let there be no mistake: led by Ivy League Player of the Year favorite Justin Sears, the 2014-15 Bulldogs have their best shot at an Ivy League title in the last decade. Despite the media’s unanimous crowning of the Bulldogs’ arch-nemesis up in Cambridge, Yale was voted second in the preseason poll and already proved last year that it can hang with the big boys in Lavietes, notching a dominant, league-rattling 74-67 victory over the Crimson in the midst of a seven-game winning streak that brought dreams of March glory to southern Connecticut. Coach James Jones has done a remarkable job of keeping Yale competitive consistently during every season he’s had at the helm, but he’s still looking for that elusive NCAA berth to hang his hat on. If it’s going to happen, it will probably be this year with his hard-working point guard Javier Duren in his senior season and the team building off the momentum of last year’s thrilling postseason run. After exploding in 2013-14, Justin Sears will get a lot of defensive attention this year, so it remains to be seen if the rest of the squad will be able to take advantage of their opportunities.
Additionally, the loss of sixth man Brandon Sherrod to the dulcet tones of the Whiffenpoofs is a tough pill to swallow for Bulldogs fans. The senior is taking his talents to the choir room, leaving behind John J. Lee for “Grace Kelly”. A lot will depend on the ability of the young bench to get up to speed by the time conference play rolls around.
#1 Anthony Dallier — Guard— 6-6, 190 — So.
Showed promise in his freshman campaign but looked tentative at times. With an offseason under his belt, should be a true contributor off the bench in his second year.
#4 Jack Montague — Guard — 6-0, 185 — Jr.
He came on strong late in the season for the Bulldogs. Montague is a real threat shooting from range, and delivered a career performance at Cornell last season when he went 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. Also put in some big performances off the bench during the CIT, proving he can handle the stage. Montague should be a rotation player this year.
#5 Eric Anderson — Guard/Forward — 6-7, 215 — Fr.
The athletic freshman will most likely—like most of Jones’freshmen—take his first year to get his collegiate feet wet on the bench, perhaps making an occasional on-court cameo if his three- pointer is as good as advertised.
#10 Khaliq Ghani — Guard — 6–5, 205 — Jr.
End of the roster player. Unlikely to make a serious impact on the court.
#11 Makai Mason — Guard — 6-1, 185 — Fr.
The NEPSAC Class A Player of the Year may be the rare freshman (see Sears, Justin) to see some court in his debut campaign. The backcourt is a bit crowded, but Mason may be able to separate himself as the backup point guard behind Duren over the course of the season. Either way, he’s the hands-on favorite to be the ball handler of the future for the Elis.
#12 Armani Cotton — Guard — 6-7, 215 — Sr.
The New York City native continues to improve each year, and Bulldog fans are excited to see what the senior has in store for the final chapter of his Yale career. The athletic guard can get after it on the boards and will have a big opportunity to fill up the scoresheet this season when Sears gets extra attention from opponents. Cotton is the third major weapon in the Bulldogs’offensive attack and his play will be a huge barometer of how far the Elis can go this year.
#20 Javier Duren — Guard — 6-4, 185 — Sr.
Duren made the leap in his junior year, going from a turnover-prone sophomore to one of the league’s biggest threats with the ball in his hands. He morphed into a fearless slasher and improved his range, all while learning to manage the game and tempo. Duren is a major asset on both ends of the court and matches up well with all of the league’s backcourts. He put the team on his back in a jaw-dropping performance at Columbia in the CIT, going for 33 points and 9 rebounds in the quarterfinal victory. We’ll see if he can replicate that kind of offensive production in his final go-around for the blue and white.
#21 Nick Victor — Guard — 6-5, 220 — Jr.
Victor worked his way into a starting role in his second year, proving his worth as a smart player that can buckle down on the defensive end. He spent the summer playing in the Dallas Pro-Am league and should return to the starting lineup as the third guard next to Duren and Cotton.
#22 Justin Sears — Forward — 6-8, 205— Jr.
Sears injured his wrist in the CIT semifinal last April. In recent interviews, he has alluded to the injury as taking longer to recover than anticipated, hampering his ability to be as productive this summer in developing his range as he had hoped. Assuming that injury is completely healed now, the sky is the limit for Sears. IHO’s 2013-14 Player of the Year will look to add the official Ivy League award to his mantle in ’14-’15, and there’s no reason to doubt him. The Bulldogs’star gets it done at in the paint, at the line and on the boards. He has a top 100 block rate nationally and a top 25 fouls drawn rate. Despite his high usage numbers, his efficiency has only improved. He’s a matchup nightmare for the rest of the league and shows vertical athleticism rarely seen in these parts. If Yale is going to dance in March for the first time since 1962, it will be in large part because of Justin Sears.
#23 Landon Russell — Guard — 6-2, 180 — Fr.
Quick guard who is a good passer with range. Probably needs a year in the program before he’ll be able to make an impact on the court.
#25 AJ Edwards — Guard — 6-5, 190 — So.
End of the roster player. Unlikely to make a serious impact on the court.
#32 Greg Kelley — Forward — 6-8, 225 — Sr.
The Bulldogs’senior captain didn’t see meaningful minutes much last year, but when he did, he seemed to take advantage of them. Kelley’s a shooter that can get hot, as he did against Providence last season, scoring 11 points in 14 minutes on 3-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Kelley will have the opportunity to see more of the court this season with the front court a little less crowded with Sherrod’s departure, though his game is very different from the departing crooner so we’ll have to see how Jones mixes and matches.
#42 Matt Townsend — Forward — 6-7, 240 — Sr.
It’s hard to read an article about Townsend that doesn’t mention his accomplishments in the classroom, but we’ll try to focus on his work on the court here after we remind you that he’s an Academic All-American, Phi Beta Kappa as a junior (top 1 percent of his class), 4.0 GPA-having future elite medical student. Besides all that, Townsend will start on this team next to Sears in the front court and resume where he left off as a hardworking post option with big man defensive assignments. He averaged 4.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game and will look to pick up the void in minutes left by Sherrod’s departure.
#44 Sam Downey — Forward — 6-9, 230 — So.
Downey didn’t see much of the court last year, but after a summer playing ball in China and a dearth of true height on this roster, it’s possible that he may work his way off the bench a bit more.
#50 Sem Kroon — Forward — 6-10, 240 — Fr.
It’s rare to see a true big man step right in and play in the Ivy, but the Northfield Mount Hermon alum did attract some impressive A-10 offers and has a chance to have an impact by the end of his freshman season.