The 2015-16 season was rough for Harvard, and saw the Crimson post a 14-16 record. After enjoying a 5-year run as Ivy League champions, Harvard was long expected to have a tough season, with the graduation of Wesley Saunders. Harvard’s woes were compounded by the season ending injury of Siyani Chambers. But now, the Crimson are primed to re-establish their dominance, and it looks as if they are returning with staying power.
The Ivy League is known for many things, academic excellence chief among them. If academics were athletics, Harvard would be Kentucky, the perennial champions whose graduates go pro and prosper. But now, Harvard is looking to expand its realm of dominance.
The Crimson’s 2016 recruiting class is good for 24th in the nation. You’re reading this correctly: the entire nation. Harvard’s group ranks above schools such as Auburn, Syracuse, and Oklahoma, who, if you recall, made it to this year’s Final Four. Harvard’s roster will now boast two four star prospects, and four three star players.
How has Coach Tommy Amaker been able to amass such a talented group?
Well, it doesn’t hurt that Amaker took over the helm as head coach and turned the program around. After 66 years without making it to the NCAA tournament, Harvard went four years in a row, as was aforementioned. Amaker has been able to make the prospect of competing in the Ivy Group an attractive one.
So, who are these powerhouse players?
Chris Lewis, a 6-foot-8 power forward, committed to Harvard in January. Lewis turned down offers from schools such as Memphis, Miami, and Notre Dame in favor of Harvard. Lewis has been turning heads on the basketball court for a long time, garnering two division one offers (from Memphis and New Mexico) while in eighth grade.
Bryce Aiken, a 6’0" point guard, and Harvard’s second four star player (Lewis is his counterpart), comes from a high school not unfamiliar with elite talent. Aiken went to the Patrick School, whose alumni include Kyrie Irving, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and veteran NBA player Al Harrington. Aiken received a plethora of offers, including fellow Mid-Major competitor, Manhattan.
Joining Lewis and Aiken are Seth Towns, Robert Baker, Justin Bassey, and Henry Welsh. The Crimson’s cast of three star players is nothing to sneeze at. Towns earned offers from powerhouse schools such as Ohio State, and other competitive schools Michigan, Purdue, Dayon, and Iowa.
Amaker’s starting five varied a bit over the course of the 2015-16 season, but the group that most consistently started was consisted of Evan Cummins, Zena Edosomwan, Corey Johnson, Tommy McCarthy and Agunwa Okolie. Cummins and Okolie are the only two matriculating Crimson starters and, according to Amaker (circa the beginning of June), Siyani Chambers still has no set return date. The departure of two starters and the continued absence of Chambers leaves more than adequate room for Harvard’s highly touted class to flex its worth.
Competition for minutes at the point guard spot will increase exponentially if Chambers returns. With Chambers, four-star recruit Aiken and rising sophomore Tommy McCarthy in the mix for playing time. Harvard will also be in the hunt for size and a more physical presence. Edosomwan is the Crimson’s one true center on the roster, and the graduation of Cummins and Okolie put the Crimson out players who are 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-8 respectively. Highly touted recruits Lewis and Towns will infuse the roster with more size, and add depth at both forward slots.
Hold on to your astrophysics textbooks, guys. Harvard is a force to be reckoned with.