Harvard Season Preview: Watch Out For the “Rebuilding” Crimson

Even after five straight Ivy titles and two NCAA Tournament wins, leading this year’s Harvard team to another title would probably be the greatest accomplishment of Tommy Amaker’s career. It’s not that Harvard doesn’t have talent – but other teams may have much more proven talent. Here are my thoughts about the ‘15-’16 Harvard basketball team, taking into account the players’ performances on October 16 at Crimson Madness (the season’s kickoff practice and scrimmage at Lavietes Pavilion, which is open to the public) and how last season unfolded.

Read moreHarvard Season Preview: Watch Out For the “Rebuilding” Crimson

Reading the Ivy tea leaves – Harvard roundup

Thanks to all those who shared their thoughts on their hopes and expectations for the Crimson this season:

Jonah Travis, Harvard forward ’15: There’s a couple different things that I’m most looking forward to watching this season. I’ll be interested to see which one of our upperclassmen is able to take the reins and steer the team towards another championship. With so many seniors graduating, they’ll be able to influence the team in many ways they haven’t been able to before. I’ll also be interested to see which freshmen step up and put in the work to be a contributor. The opportunity is there for them, it’ll just take a high degree of work ethic to make it happen.

David Tannenwald, Harvard Magazine: I’m excited about a few things for the upcoming season:

Read moreReading the Ivy tea leaves – Harvard roundup

Haiku Corner – Harvard season preview edition

Chatfield pulls a Wes? (link to roundup)
McCarthy pulls a Chambers?
Question mark offense

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By league play, defense (link to preview)
Will be lockdown, Amaker
Knows how to push them

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Tommy won’t wear a tie
Blazer buttons both buttoned
It’s creepy, that’s why

How will Harvard replace Siyani Chambers?

On Wednesday, Harvard lost its most important player to a devastating injury. The team announced that captain and starting point guard Siyani Chambers has suffered a torn ACL and will miss the entire 2015-16 season. He will not enroll in school this year, and he will re-enroll in 2016-17 (his final year of eligibility).

Read moreHow will Harvard replace Siyani Chambers?

Harvard guard Siyani Chambers to miss 2015-16 season with torn ACL

Siyani Chambers will return in 2016-17.
Siyani Chambers will return in 2016-17.

Harvard senior guard Siyani Chambers will take a voluntary leave of absence from school this year after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee, the school announced Wednesday.

Chambers is taking a leave of absence because the Ivy League does not permit graduate students to play. Chambers, who has been a starter for the Crimson each of the past three seasons and is a three-time All-Ivy selection, is expected to return for the 2016-17 season.

Harvard will make a bid for a fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015-16, but without Chambers and factoring in the losses of top two 2014-15 leading scorers Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi to graduation, such an achievement seems unlikely, particularly given the greater roster experience enjoyed by Columbia, Princeton and Yale.

Chambers has averaged 11.1 points, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game in his Harvard career, including 9.9 points per contest last season, as Chambers struggled early in the season on offense.

Harvard backcourt players such as junior Corbin Miller, sophomore Andre Chatfield and freshmen Corey Johnson and Tommy McCarthy will have to pick up the slack left by Chambers.

Harvard freshman Weisner Perez: Economics major, rebounding machine

This past summer I had a chance to talk to Weisner Perez, a 6’6″ forward from Chicago who is one of six highly touted members of Harvard basketball’s class of 2019. This past spring, Perez graduated summa cum laude from Morton West High School, where he is the all-time leading scorer. A few months after leading his Morton squad to the Regional Championship his senior year, he played for the Dominican Republic U-19 National Team over the summer. Meet Weisner Perez.

Why did you choose Harvard, and what set it apart from the other schools recruiting you?

The first thing that set Harvard apart was the academics. It’s the best. If you go there, you’re set for life. But I actually got offered by every Ivy school. Harvard just gave me a better chance to be successful than anywhere else. I thought, I can go here and get a great education, and play basketball at a place where I’m going to get noticed. We have a good shot to make the NCAA Tournament, and I have a chance to play right away.

Was there a moment when you realized Harvard was the right place for you?

On my official visit, I knew. It was an amazing atmosphere and I loved it. A few weeks later, I committed.

Read moreHarvard freshman Weisner Perez: Economics major, rebounding machine

From Serbia to L.A. to Cambridge: Meet Harvard freshman Balsa Dragovic

(insidesocal.com)
Balsa Dragovic’s stellar perimeter shooting should give him a chance to have an impactful freshman campaign at Harvard. (insidesocal.com)

Balsa Dragovic, a 6-foot-11 power forward, was born in Montenegro but moved to Serbia nine years ago. After attending grade school in Serbia, Balsa and his family decided that a U.S. high school would be the best choice for him. After enrolling at Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary in Montebello, Calif., Balsa was faced with not only the normal challenges of high school, but also a whole new language and culture.

Having to essentially be an adult at age 14, he adjusted well to these changes and thrived both in the classroom and on the basketball court. Basketball runs in the Dragovic family. Both of Balsa’s parents played professional basketball, and even his grandmother played basketball in her youth. Last fall, Balsa committed to continue his academic and basketball career at Harvard, where he will be a member of the Class of 2019. I had a chance to interview Balsa last month.

Read moreFrom Serbia to L.A. to Cambridge: Meet Harvard freshman Balsa Dragovic

Kyle Casey added to Phoenix Suns training camp roster

Harvard 2014 graduate Kyle Casey has signed a training camp agreement with the Phoenix Suns, according to the Arizona Republic.

Casey averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds during his four-year Harvard career.

Casey has most recently played for Helios Domzale in Slovenia, averaging 12.6 points and 7.2 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game. Casey also played for the Nets summer league team in 2014 after going undrafted.

Casey and teammate Brandyn Curry were involved in a 2012 cheating scandal involving 125 students, and both withdrew from the school for the 2012-13 season.

Harvard all-time moment No. 1: Crimson capture first ever Ivy title

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. We did the Crimson next because, hey, it”s their dynasty.

When Harvard players awoke on the morning of March 5, 2011, they were part of a basketball program that had never won an Ivy League basketball championship. That night, however, they would have a chance to make history. One win over Princeton would give the Crimson their first title and bury the demons of the past 50 years.

Read moreHarvard all-time moment No. 1: Crimson capture first ever Ivy title

Harvard all-time moment No. 2: Harvard stuns New Mexico

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Harvard is next because the Crimson wreak havoc on 10-year contracts.

Harvard won its third straight Ivy League title in 2013, but the Crimson were happy just to be mentioned on the nationally televised Selection Sunday Show, as this would be only its second NCAA Tournament appearance. When the matchup with the 11th-ranked, third-seeded Mountain West Champion New Mexico Lobos was finally announced, Harvard players and fans gulped at the daunting challenge that lay ahead. Then they sat on the edges of their seats to hear the CBS analysts’ take: “I like this New Mexico team to go to the Final Four!” Doug Gottlieb said enthusiastically. With that, the Crimson headed to Salt Lake City as 11-and-a-half point underdogs.

Read moreHarvard all-time moment No. 2: Harvard stuns New Mexico