Yale men’s basketball enters Jones’ 25th year at the helm loaded

Junior guard Bez Mbeng, who coach James Jones has told Ivy Hoops Online is the best on-ball defender he’s ever coached, is among the many talented veterans on Yale men’s basketball’s 2023-24 roster. (Photo by Erica Denhoff)

Seems like you can never have too much money or happiness in life.

The same goes for depth in team sports.

We’ll find out about this last adage in March, as Yale men’s basketball may actually have too much depth. Sound impossible? Not really.

James Jones has 13 players who could either start or see considerable time for any other Ivy League team. Heck, why limit it to the Ivies? Yale returns roughly 75% of its points per game from last season.

 The Ivy coaching dean’s acumen will be tested throughout the season, as he’ll be tasked with coming up with the best team rotations.

But Jones has a squad that can compete on the road with its two toughest opponents, preseason top 10 foes Gonzaga and Kansas.

“Our 2023-2024 roster is the deepest we’ve had in my tenure at Yale,” Jones told Ivy Hoops Online. This will be his 25th year at Yale’s helm.

Jones would never say it, but his 2023-24 second team would be a strong candidate to go 7- 7 in the League.

Look no further than Yale’s trip to Greece in August. The Bulldogs went 3-0. That was expected.

Their leading scorer was sophomore Nick Townsend. That was unexpected.

The 6-foot-7 Townsend averaged 2.5 points per game last season and was about 15th on the depth chart.

In the five practices leading up to the trip, Townsend was giving Yale star Matt Knowling fits on defense and was making three-pointers with abandon. Nothing changed in Athens.

It would be a huge upset if Yale didn’t start these veterans: August Mahoney, Knowling, John Poulakidas, Bez Mbeng and Danny Wolf in the Nov. 6  home opener against Vassar. But that would mean that Casey Simmons, who came over from Northwestern where he started on day one as a frosh, would open up play as the sixth man. Simmons is the most athletic player on the team and among the top athletes who Jones has coached in his Yale tenure.

Mahoney shot 47% from three-point range last season, and with Poulakidas, comprises the best outside shooting duo in the Ivy.

Samson Aletan, a 6-foot-10 center from Dallas, who chose Yale over Houston and Texas, should also occupy a key reserve role in the post behind 7-foot Wolf, who starred on Team Israel at the 2023 FIBA under 20 European Championships in Greece, where he averaged 17.7 ppg and 12 rebounds.

Not to be ignored are Yussif Basa-Ama, Yassine Gharram, who saw considerable action last season at almost 16 minutes per game, Jack Molloy and others.