After withdrawing from Harvard for 2012--13 because he was being investigated as part of an academic scandal involving 125 students, senior guard Brandyn Curry (above, center) spent the year in his hometown of Huntersville, N.C., learning new skills. He became a licensed life-insurance- salesman, making more than 200 calls per week. He read self-help and motivational books like Jeff Olson's Slight Edge. He took yoga classes Monday through Friday at the YMCA. And by following the Crimson from afar, he saw how a team can coalesce into a contender over the course of a season. "You don't notice when you're playing," says Curry, "because you're so wrapped up in the day-to-day."
Now that Curry and forward Kyle Casey have been readmitted to the university and the basketball team, coach Tommy Amaker has a problem: How should he reintegrate the duo that had been expected to be the best players on last year's team with the four returning starters who did lead Harvard to its first NCAA win, a 68--62 upset of No. 3 seed New Mexico? The most notable adjustment will be in the backcourt, as Siyani Chambers took over Curry's point guard duties and became the first freshman to be named first-team All-Ivy. "We need Brandyn to think more off the ball [and be] a little bit more of an offensive threat," says Amaker.
But it's not the increased scoring burden that worries Curry the most. He must learn to crash the boards instead of retreating on defense and to sprint to the wing in transition rather than wait for the outlet pass. Still, the hiccups have been minor and the expected payoff is huge, especially with sharpshooting senior guard Laurent Rivard and Ivy League player of the year favorite Wesley Saunders (above, 23) also providing outside firepower. "Once we put it together" says Curry, "it's going to be really dangerous." He's seen it happen before.
Player to Watch: Wesley Saunders
The last time Curry suited up for Harvard, Wesley Saunders was a freshman averaging 3.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in 13.9 minutes per game off the bench. Now the 6' 5" L.A. native is the Ivy League's premier player, a do-it-all wing who took on a wide range of responsibilities as a sophomore and ranked among the conference leaders in points (16.2 per game, second), assists (3.5, seventh), steals (1.8, third), and rebounds (4.2, 19th). And based on what he's seen this preseason, Curry thinks even greater things may be in store for his junior teammate. "He's even more in shape: slimmer, he's moving quicker, he's jumping higher," Curry says of Saunders. "It's really scary, actually. He's a monster. He really is just a beast."
Telling Number: 4
The number of Crimson returnees to be named All-Ivy first team (Saunders, Chambers, Casey) or second team (Curry) in the last two seasons.
SI: Personally, what has been the best part of the run you've been on the last few years?
TA: The most meaningful piece to all of that has been the connecting of our institution. You can walk on this campus and find greatness in so many different areas. But we just haven't been as connected. I'm so proud when you see so many walks of life and different races and religions and all these pockets of folks that are connected in some way, whether that's alums, faculty, fans. There are just so many ways we've been able to connect our community through the sport of basketball -- that's the part that has been so incredibly meaningful to me.
SI: Who are you looking for to step up this season?
TA: We really have to have what we think would be really, really solid production by our post guys up front by committee. There's no one in particular, but we're just expecting that group to give us the shot in the arm that we think that this team needs. We also have talked about our bench and our balance. We need to be a very balanced team. I think it's important that those two 'b' words are prominent with our program and our team: bench and balance.
SI: Did Wesley Saunders exceed even your expectations last season?
TA: Wesley proved going into last year that he was our best player. We took him on a tour with all these guys on our team here -- Brandyn and Kyle and all those guys -- and he was the best player on our team. And with those guys on the move, we heaped more on his shoulders and he was ready for it.