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Harvard Basketball Hosts High Major Talent
by Andrew Force, Future150 (11:00 AM CT, Wed November 5, 2014)
Towns considering Harvard
Towns considering Harvard
Andrew Force
Andrew Force:

Future150 National Analyst. Covering High and Middle School basketball.

Columbus, OH (Future150) -- Harvard Athletics. Once the big business of college athletics took over, the aforementioned phrase hinted at an oxymoronic existence.  For a university devoted to academic excellence, doubling as football or basketball powerhouse seemed impossible.

The hiring of head coach Tommy Amaker brought a change and a bright future for Crimson Basketball. Amaker has led Harvard to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances after a 66-year drought, defeating high major opponents like New Mexico and Cincinnati in successive years.


In the last couple years Harvard University has been targeting exceptional basketball players, and do not assume this means they are lowering their academic standards.  Fortunately, the program has achieved a level of success that enables them to host top-100 guys like 2016 PF Chris Lewis (Future150, #88) and 2016 SF Seth Towns (Future150, #78).

“The most important thing to me would be the opportunity for Seth to pursue the academics that he is interested in,” said Seth’s mother, Melissa Smitherman.  “And the basketball program facilitating that.  Sometimes you hear that they try to make you pick a lesser academic course load.”

Smitherman will not be swindled by a coach attempting to use her son’s athleticism without returning an academic advantage. Towns will either enter college as an engineering major or in pursuit of a law degree.

“I think (Seth) will be able to select between the two by the end of his high school career,” said Smitherman.  “He does very well."

Ohio State was the latest to offer Seth on his unofficial visit Saturday, and his entire family is prideful of Columbus and the surrounding region. In the coming weeks, the Ohio State offer will be settling in amongst the previous suitors.  Where will they rank in Seth’s mind?

Wide Net

Being a former Big Ten coach himself, Amaker will pursue players far beyond the Northeast as well.

Recruiting has taken the Crimson staff to the south, as Georgia-native Robert Baker has garnered their attention.

“They are very interested,” said The Walker School Head Coach Bryce Brickhouse.  “I expect an offer (to Robert) in a couple days from them.”

Baker stands six-foot-nine and shoots with a surprisingly swift motion, and already has a lovely midrange game and continues to develop around the rim.

“Still long, wiry,” said Coach Brickhouse.  “Left, right hook. Shoot off the glass, shoot of the dribble. He will be our best player.”

Fellow Georgia-native Chris Lewis and his father visited the Harvard campus just two weeks ago.

“It went very well,” said Lewis.  “I like the campus and the city. I got to meet an engineering professor.  We got to walk around the campus. I really liked the city. It is really nice. You are able to walk around, like Harvard Square in Cambridge.”

Lewis wants to major in engineering, and he was able to meet up with an engineering professor while visiting the school.

“We just talked about his class and what he does,” said Lewis.  “I got to sit through a class that he taught. Since I wanted to be an engineer I thought it was very inspirational.”

Harvard returned the favor by visiting Lewis just last week. With his season still two weeks away, Lewis ran through a high school team practice for the interested evaluator.

Five years ago, a representative from Harvard University would have been wasting his time with top 100-caliber players like Lewis and Towns. That has changed now because a player can get a high-quality education, and still have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.

For the Crimson staff, the options are better than they once were.  Getting Lewis and Towns on campus was a coup. The next step is convincing elite talent to ultimately sign on. Overtaking a school like Ohio State or Florida will be a massive statement of intent.

Harvard athletics.  Better believe it.


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