Harvard coach Tommy Amaker and sophomore forward Jonah Travis celebrate the Crimson's first-ever NCAA tournament win over New Mexico
When Harvard graduate, Jeremy Lin, took the nation by storm with the New York Knicks in 2012, he was the first player from the Ivy League to play for an NBA franchise since Penn’s Matt Maloney and Yale’s Chris Dudley in 2002-03.
However, in recent years, the Ivy League—not traditionally a professional basketball feeder—has seen an uptick in its reputation, with Harvard both winning its first career NCAA tournament game against New Mexico and landing the league’s first-ever top 100 recruit in 6’9” power forward, Zena Edosomwan.
With the strength of the Ivy League’s non-conference schedules improving, it is becoming clearer how the league leaders match up with projected NBA draft picks from major conferences. Harvard faced Cal, Memphis and St. Mary’s this season, Princeton took on Syracuse, and Penn matched up with Villanova.
Though the NBA may not be ready for another Ivy League player right now, there are a number of young and talented prospects who have the potential to pan out professionally.
This season, Saunders—who averaged 3.3 PPG as a freshman—emerged as an offensive and defensive powerhouse for the Crimson. In the NCAA tournament, Saunders went man-to-man with New Mexico guard, Tony Snell—predicted to be drafted 38th by nbadraft.net—and shut down the Lobos' second-leading scorer, holding him to nine points. Saunders’ is not always pretty to watch, but his ability to get to the basket at any cost and make his free throws down the stretch makes him an obvious impact player.
Although Hicks’ freshman season was plagued by inconsistency, four 20-plus point games—including a 29-point night against Cornell—showed that the guard is capable of putting up big numbers. Hicks’ greatest weakness has been his ability to hold onto the ball, but with three years left, reducing turnovers should be a fairly easy adjustment. The freshman’s scrappy style of defense and ability to make big plays will only improve as he matures.
The 2012-13 Ivy League player of the year has been a major factor in Princeton’s offensive dominance over his four seasons with the Tigers. As the league’s leading scorer and fifth leading rebounder, Hummer’s combination of size, strength and athleticism makes him a formidable opponent on both ends of the court. This season, Hummer was an honorable mention all-American and is ranked No. 88 amongst graduating seniors by Draft Express.
The point guard emerged as the Crimson’s backcourt playmaker this season and became the first freshman to be named first team all-Ivy. Chamber’s athleticism and speed allows him to be effective against much bigger players, and—though he shoots better than 43 percent from behind the arc—he scored more than 60 percent of his field goals in the paint. Chambers had an exhausting season—averaging 38 minutes per game as Harvard’s only true point guard—so his output will likely only increase with fresh legs.
Averaging 17.7 minutes per game, the freshman established himself as a dominant post presence who will only continue to improve. He led the Ivy League in efficiency with 54 percent shooting in the paint and had a number of impressive offensive performances, including back-to-back 17-point games against Saint Joseph’s and Cornell. In his first season, Nelson-Henry relied on his strength down low, but the freshman also showed remarkable finesse and played a very clean game given his size—racking up only 2.4 PF per game.