Harvard men’s basketball brings in another strong recruiting class

Despite having ups and downs during its non-conference schedule, the Harvard men’s basketball team (18-14 overall, 12-2 Ivy) played consistently great defense (Adjusted Efficiency of 98.3; 55th in the nation). In conference action, the team was able to solidify its rotation, improve its outside shooting (three-point percentage increased from 30.0 to 42.2 percent), and weather a major injury to its leading player to win a share of the regular season title and claim the league’s top seed heading into the Ivy Tournament. A road game with co-champion Penn and an injury to the Ivy Player of the Year late in the second half may have been the only things keeping the Crimson from winning Ivy Madness. With a healthier 2018-19, Harvard will look to stay on top of the Ancient Eight and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.

Rising junior Bryce Aiken, a first team All-Ivy and Rookie of the Year in the 2016-17 season, averaged 17.6 points per game in the first 10 games of the season. However, a knee injury would force him to see limited minutes in only four more games through the rest of the season. A complete rehabilitation can hopefully allow him to build upon his first-year form where he averaged 14.5 points and 2.9 assists a game.

With Aiken mostly on the sidelines, rising junior Seth Towns led the way with 16.0 points per game, shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from three.  During Ivy play, he upped his game, averaging 18.6 points per game with a shooting rate of 45.8 percent overall and 49.3 percent from three.  For his efforts, he was rewarded with a unanimous spot on the Ivy League’s first team and its Player of the Year Award, as well as an honorable mention selection on the AP All-America team.  After injuring his knee with 8:21 left in the Ivy final, Towns missed the remainder of the championship game, as well as the entire NIT first round 67-60 loss to Marquette three days later.  According to a member of Harvard Athletics, Towns and Aiken (as well as senior Tommy McCarthy) are expected back for the start of the 2018-19 season.

Joining Towns on the All-Ivy first team was another member of next year’s junior class, Chris Lewis.  The 6′ 9″ forward/center averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds a game, while leading the conference with 1.5 blocks a game and having the league’s second best shooting rate of 60.1 percent.  While his role may change with the return of Aiken, Christian Juzang should continue to be a valuable part of next year’s squad.  In his first year, he averaged 1.0 points, 0.6 assists and 0.9 rebounds a game in 12 appearances.  After the first 19 games of his sophomore campaign, he averaged 3.8 points, 1.6 assists and 1.9 rebounds a game.  Over the last 10 regular season games, though, Juzang significantly increased his production to 13.3 points, 4.8 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per contest.

The co-champs will only lose two seniors to graduation, captain forward Chris Egi and guard Andre Chatfield.  Chatfield finished his career averaging 1.3 points and 0.4 assists over 49 appearances.  Egi may have only averaged 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game this season, but he was selected as one of two undergraduate speakers at Harvard’s recent Commencement and made headlines when he announced he would forgo a professional basketball career to head to Wall Street.

On June 6th, coach Tommy Amaker announced the arrival of Harvard’s four newest players in the Class of 2022.  Spencer Freedman may be the biggest name in the group.  The 6′ 2″ point guard, an ESPN four star recruit, from Mater Dei High School in Southern California chose the Crimson over USC and Washington.  The 20 year old incoming first year, who has his own Wikipedia page, was an All-State selection in his junior and senior years, as well as the only three time MVP of the Trinity League.

Noah Kirkwood is a 6′ 7″ combo guard from Ontario who recently finished a prep year at Northfield Mount Hermon.  247 Sports lists Kirkwood as its No. 126 rated recruit for 2018 and the No. 1 player from Canada.  In the summer of 2017, he joined rising sophomore Danilo Djurcic as a member of the Canadian U-19 team that beat the USA for the Gold Medal in the 2017 FIBA World Cup.  According to 247 Sports, he chose Harvard over Virginia, Texas, Wichita State, Vanderbilt, Pitt, Virginia Tech, George Washington, St. Bonaventure and Tulane.

Kale Catchings, a 6′ 6″ forward, spent three years at Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis before transferring to nearby Wentzville Liberty High School for his senior year.  In his junior year at CBC, he averaged 16.6 points and 6.1 rebounds a game as he was named first team All-State. This season, he set Liberty school records for points per game, total points, total made field goals, made free throws and rebounds.

Mason Forbes, a 6′ 8″ center/forward from Fulsom High School in Northern California, was named to the Sacramento Bee’s All-Metro first team, in addition to Cal-Hi’s second team All-State.  In his senior season, he passed the 1,000 career point mark, averaged 15.2 points per game and brought down 11.2 rebounds.  Forbes is known for his long wingspan, his defensive prowess, and his Afro.  According to Joe Davidson at the Bee, the young athlete was sold on the Crimson when Harvard’s coaches told his family they wanted him to stay true to himself.  As Forbes told the writer, “The Harvard coaches were great about me being me.  They said they want to deliver a better person when I’m finished.  A better person, a better player – a focus on both parts.”