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John Harvard's Journal

Hoop Hopes

January-February 2015

Senior Wesley Saunders, easing in for a layup in the early- season loss to Holy Cross, led Harvard in scoring through the first six games, averaging 20.2 points per game.

Senior Wesley Saunders, easing in for a layup in the early- season loss to Holy Cross, led Harvard in scoring through the first six games, averaging 20.2 points per game.

Photograph by Steve Banineau

During the past four years, the Harvard men’s basketball team has been a model of consistency: four straight Ivy League championships, three consecutive trips to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, and opening-round victories in the last two of those appearances.

But this year’s squad has been harder to figure out. After entering the season ranked twenty-fifth in the Associated Press national poll (the first time an Ivy League team has received such pre-season recognition since 1974), Harvard began its campaign by besting MIT (a Division III opponent) 73-52, but then tumbled to Holy Cross, 58-57. The margin of defeat was narrow, but the squad’s 24 turnovers and stagnation on offense were disturbing.

Four days later, when the Crimson retook the hardwood against Florida Atlantic, the squad again looked unfamiliar—but for a different reason. Head coach Tommy Amaker had benched all five starters to send a message that he expected every player to live up to the team’s internal “standards.” The move paid dividends. After Amaker reinserted his regular line-up several minutes into the game, Harvard unleashed a 34-9 run, en route to a 71-49 victory. The blowout began a three-game winning streak that culminated with a two-point win over the University of Massachusetts, Harvard’s toughest opponent to date.

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Will the team live up to its pre-season billing? The reaction to the squad’s early hiccup underscores the difficulty of what Amaker is trying to accomplish. He believes that his team can compete with the best in the country—but as the Crimson grows more successful, the margin for error narrows, and the target on its back grows bigger. If this year’s team is to sustain or exceed the consistency of past squads, it will need to be different: it will need to be better. A year-end road trip to Virginia and Arizona, and the beginning of league play in mid January, should quickly bring those prospects into focus.

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We have handoff: After receiving the ball from quarterback and classmate Jake Smith, Harvard sophomore running back Aaron Shampklin scanned the line for an opening—the kind that he ran through all afternoon.
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications

Crimson Football 2018: Harvard 36, San Diego 14

In the 1980s, future U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ’86 and future Stemberg Family Coach Tommy Amaker faced off on the basketball court, Amaker as a Duke point guard and Duncan as a Harvard forward. This image of the two greeted attendees at a Kennedy School Forum event with Duncan.
Photograph courtesy of David Tannenwald

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Arguably the Ivy League’s most dangerous offensive weapon, the Crimson’s return man and wideout Justice Shelton-Mosley ‘19 is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Photograph by Gil Talbot/Courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications

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We have handoff: After receiving the ball from quarterback and classmate Jake Smith, Harvard sophomore running back Aaron Shampklin scanned the line for an opening—the kind that he ran through all afternoon.
Photograph by Gil Talbot/Courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications

Crimson Football 2018: Harvard 36, San Diego 14

In the 1980s, future U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ’86 and future Stemberg Family Coach Tommy Amaker faced off on the basketball court, Amaker as a Duke point guard and Duncan as a Harvard forward. This image of the two greeted attendees at a Kennedy School Forum event with Duncan.
Photograph courtesy of David Tannenwald

Arne Duncan at Harvard Institute of Politics

Arguably the Ivy League’s most dangerous offensive weapon, the Crimson’s return man and wideout Justice Shelton-Mosley ‘19 is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Photograph by Gil Talbot/Courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications

Harvard “return man” Justice Shelton-Mosley, profiled by Dick Friedman