The Ivy League is not known as a basketball power by any stretch of the imagination, but ever since Tommy Amaker began to turn the Harvard Crimson into annual conference world-beaters it has become a league that has boasted a much more followed product.
In turn, Harvard’s success has been parlayed to Ivy League growth, and the long-term ramifications can lead to a decent sized gain for the league.
That’s how companies are meant to grow. Whatever the best product in the company is, here being Harvard basketball, it will use it to help elevate all the other products until it reaches a level of growth that people are satisfied with. All of that is obviously ignoring the fact that no company — sports programs, too — is ever actually satisfied with its growth. There’s aways a want for more.
Amaker and Harvard apparently want more, too. More success, more Ivy League dominance, and the type of growth that turns it from a neat little mid-major story to being a yearly national beast.
And, well, it appears the Crimson are trending in that surprising direction at a rather rapid pace.
This isn’t a joke, either. Nor is it some form of hyperbolic thought or a statement made relative to a team playing in a mid-major. It is a potential soon-to-be-fact that Harvard is quickly becoming a version of Duke in the north.
The Crimson’s 2016 recruiting class already has a few big time commits. Ranked as the 24th best class in the country, Amaker has lured four-star talents Bryce Aiken and Chris Lewis to the university, as well as four three-star recruits. Not to mention the fact that a few uncommitted top-tier players — Wendell Carter, the number two prospect in the 2017 class, being one of them — are still considering Harvard as a destination spot.
Obviously, a lot still has to fall into place for those players to actually go to Harvard and for that to be parlayed into success, but is a start.
A start to something potentially great, mind you, that is patently absurd. After all, at its surface it is odd to consider that a school that doesn’t even offer basketball scholarships is in contention to land some of the nation’s very best prospects.
Then again, that’s only a surfaced level view of it. Harvard — which is, obviously, a rather famous institution — has an endowment fund that is in the billions and billions of dollars. The “no scholarship” aspect of this discussion, if ever had, is overblown. If the Crimson want to land a top-tier player, and that player wants to come to Harvard, it will happen — the financial aspect of it won’t be an issue to the player.
Even without the commitments of some of the top players of the 2017 class either yet to happen or never going to, Harvard — save for last season — has been dominating for a few years now. Even “only” receiving commitments from four-star guys, the program is staying leaps and bounds ahead of its competition.
From a conference only standpoint, its dominance is nowhere near ending.
Success does beget success, and as tired as a cliché as that is, it holds merit. Especially when, mostly in theory, those four-star talents not only receive an elusive Harvard degree, but go on to play professional basketball in any capacity.
That last part is important to note. As NBA players are now regularly being found literally all over the planet — from the grassroots level, to international hoops, to Division III schools — a gifted basketball player no longer has to go to a program that is on ESPN on the daily. He can go wherever he wants and the NBA will find him if he so deserves to be found.
Not to mention that those national TV networks will also find him. If Harvard — or whatever program, really — had a plethora of talented guys, Fox Sports, ESPN, and the like would begin airing more of their games. Think Ben Simmons at LSU, but with a program like Harvard scooping up an insane number of four-stars.
Couple that with people who love the idea of Harvard being nationally great, and we are talking a next-level type of coverage.
You see, not only do people like the story of the underdog, but with the idea of amateurism still running rampant and folks wanting to romanticize the landscape of the sport by people doing things the “right way”, Harvard can become a next-generation Duke Blue Devils of sorts, but slightly less hated because it will have that new car smell.
Anyway, a lot of this depends on the decisions made by a few prospects in the 2017 class, who claim to have Harvard as one of their top potential destinations. Still, even if those players don’t go to Harvard, Amaker has already shown the ability to regularly land four-star prospects, which will be enough to make the Crimson into annual members in the NCAA Tournament.
Seriously. It is 2016 and we’ve reached a point in college basketball where “Harvard is the next big thing” while actually already being a relatively big thing, is a rinse and repeat story. Why?
Because it feels inevitable — Harvard is going to be nationally relevant annually.