Sorry, rest of the Ivy League. Harvard’s still Harvard.
Laurent Rivard, Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey may be gone, but Harvard’s ranked No. 25 in the nation and appears to be locked in cruise control en route to a fourth straight NCAA appearance, even in a loaded Ivy League. But let’s start with the negatives. Where is the perimeter depth now? 2013-14 Ivy Player of the Year Wesley Saunders is back and so is Siyani Chambers, who we’ll get to below. Agunwa Okolie, two-year Mormon church mission hiatus-taker Corbin Miller and rookie Andre Chatfield will all be stepping up to provide that depth. The frontcourt boasts the return of shot-blocking phenom Kenyatta Smith as well as the very well-rounded Steve Moundou-Missi. If the Crimson can find a potent three-point shooting wing who can complement Saunders and Chambers, they’ll be just as good as last year. Even if they don’t, they’ll win the Ivy League anyway.
#1 – Siyani Chambers – Guard – 6-0, 170 – Jr.
The two keys to Chambers’s game have always been speed and ball distribution. His assists per game dipped last season, but few players can drive and kick like Chambers can. His court vision is unparalleled in the Ivy League. Along with Wesley Saunders and Steve Mondou-Missi, Chambers is part of a “big three” that the rest of the conference can only envy from afar. Chambers himself is a dark horse candidate for Ivy Player of the Year, so expect him to improve upon his 11.1 points per outing from a year ago. Maybe the most interesting element of Chambers’s game to watch will be his three-point production. He shot 37.9 percent from beyond the arc, canning 1.61 threes per game. Three-point shooting may be a question mark for this team going forward, and Chambers could be an answer. If he’s not, the Crimson are in trouble because this roster doesn’t have very many dependable outside shooters.
#2 – Alex Nesbitt – Guard – 6-1, 175 Sr.
For the first time in his career, Nesbitt may be a key bench player as opposed to merely a benchwarmer. The Crimson are going to go as far as their backcourt takes them, and Nesbitt is has a bit part in that journey. His bit? Solid defense and productive minutes spelling the league’s finest.
#3 – Matt Brown – Guard – 6-3, 205 Sr.
Only played in 10 games deep off the bench last season and isn’t likely to make a significant impact on the court as a senior. But he does play wide receiver for Harvard football, so there’s that.
#4 – Zena Edosomwan – Forward/Center – 6-9, 245 So.
Harvard’s top recruit from a year ago notched 5.7 minutes per game last season en route to a relatively quiet rookie campaign. He’ll be a crucial bench component this season but, as he improves his paint presence at the collegiate level, he’ll continue to rightfully cede minutes to Mondou-Missi.
#10 – Patrick Steeves – Guard/Forward – 6-7, 220 Jr.
Steeves may be a junior, but he’s never played a minute for the Crimson after sitting out as a freshman and then being sidelined by injury last season. Not likely to play much this year either.
#11 – Chris Egi – Forward – 6-9, 215 Fr.
Highly touted freshman who should work his way into Amaker’s frontcourt rotation pretty quickly and make a solid impact off the bench with his physical play.
#12 – Matt Fraschilla – Guard – 5-11, 165 So.
An undersized three-point shooter who nevertheless won’t contribute much as a sophomore.
#13 – Andre Chatfield – Guard – 6-4, 185 Fr.
This athletic sharpshooting rookie is likely to get solid minutes playing on the wing for Amaker as he finds his way at the collegiate level.
#14 – Steve Moundou-Missi – Forward – 6-7, 225 Sr.
Moundou-Missi will return to power forward after holding down the center spot admirably well following Smith’s season-ending foot injury last year. He’s reliable and very efficient at both ends of the floor, posting 10.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in just 25.2 minutes per game. Moundou-Missi is certainly one of the biggest reasons the Crimson finished 14th in the country in points allowed last season, and his defensive prowess is sure to continue in his senior campaign.
#15 – Corbin Miller – Guard – 6-2, 180 So.
Miller will get minutes at wing this season now that Curry and Rivard are gone. The jury’s out on him, but now’s his chance to contribute. The fact that he shot 45.6 percent from beyond the arc as a freshman could be his ticket to a more substantial role in 2014-15.
#21 – Zach Yoshor – Guard – 6-6, 205 Fr.
Isn’t likely to make a major impact at the two spot this season.
#23 – Wesley Saunders – Guard/Forward – 6-5, 215 Sr.
Saunders will once again start at the two spot, where he averaged 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists on 46 percent shooting from the floor. Don’t expect those numbers to rise much, if at all, this season, especially since his numbers actually declined slightly last year. But do expect Saunders to continue making the big plays and dominating ball possession for the Crimson on offense. Saunders makes more plays than anyone else on this team, but the beauty of his contributions for the Crimson is that he doesn’t have to carry this team game after game. In the nine games that Saunders scored fewer than 10 points last season, Harvard was 8-1, including two 80-50 romps over Dartmouth and Penn early in conference play. Saunders doesn’t have to make every play for this offense, yet it’s safe in his hands anyway.
#24 – Jonah Travis – Forward – 6-6, 225 Sr.
Travis could start at the three spot after averaging 12.8 minutes per game a season ago. Travis has a high basketball IQ as evidenced by his shot selection and ample rebounding as a small forward. His overall production took a slight hit last season, but what’s important is the Travis-related stat that has never changed at all. He has never attempted a three-pointer in his collegiate career, which contributes to Harvard’s question mark beyond the arc.
#25 – Kenyatta Smith – Center – 6-8, 245 Sr.
Smith’s defensive rebounding and shot-blocking will anchor Harvard’s defense now that he’s back after suffering a broken bone in his left foot that sidelined him for good last season after missing the first 17 games of his junior campaign with an injury to the same foot. Smith owns the paint and Moundou-Missi will surely benefit from Smith’s return.
#32 – Charlie Anastasi – Forward – 6-6, 225 Sr.
#33 – Evan Cummins – Forward – 6-8, 215 Jr.
Averaged 10.1 minutes per game last season and should log a similar range as a junior. Long and strong, Cummins will contribute to a strong Harvard frontcourt.
#35 – Agunwa Okolie – Guard/Forward – 6-8, 205 Jr.
Can provide mismatches for Amaker but, like Travis, he isn’t a three-point shooter by any stretch, which will be a problem at times. He’ll get more minutes as a junior and will continue to show he is most valuable at the defensive end of the floor, where he’ll make a positive impact early and often.