November 2, 2007

Forwards Possess Versatility and Depth

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According to what coaches and players have been saying, the men’s basketball team’s forwards are a lot like Kelsey Grammer’s character on Cheers — the ensemble cast can’t work without him, but no one appreciates him until he gets a spinoff.
“People talk about our guards, but we have a group of forwards and centers that are good as any in the Ivy League,” said head coach Steve Donahue.
While none of the forwards will be defecting any time soon to start their own teams, their contribution to the team this year may be overlooked with all the focus on an athletic backcourt and the run-and-gun offense it allows Donahue to run. The front line was also hit hard by graduation with the loss of the post presence of Andrew Naeve ’07 on both offense and defense.
However, the loss of Naeve allows the forwards to join the guards in this transition-oriented approach.
“Andrew was a half court defender and player,” Donahue said. “He was a huge reason why we didn’t run much.”
“With that run-and-gun kind of offense that we have, I think the big men we have this year are really fit for it,” said senior Jason Hartford. “We’re really capable of thriving in that setting.”
Hartford will bring some veteran presence to a team where he is the only senior on the active roster. Hartford will also bring an ability to stretch the floor — he was 12-of-26 from long distance last year — with junior Brian Kreefer.
“Kreef knows he needs to find a way to make the head coach put you in,” Donahue said. “He knows how to play, moves the ball well and passes well for a big man.”
If Kreefer and Hartford lack one thing, it’s quickness. Hartford preached to the versatility of the corps of forwards, though, countering that developing sophomore Pete Reynolds and sophomore transfer Andre Wilkens are two athletic guys who can get up and down the floor.
“We have one of the most athletic lineups, I would say, even in the league,” he said. “… Playing the 1-3-1 [zone defense] … needs athletic people out on the court and I think we’ll play that a lot once we get the hang of it.”
Donahue has also pegged sophomore Alex Tyler as a very improved player who could make an impact.
“Alex Tyler surprised me and exceeded my expectations,” Donahue said. “We realized that he was terrific, that he was different. He is a good low-post scorer and understands his strengths.”
Hartford has noticed these strengths going up against him in practice.
“He’s a bruiser, is what our trainer Mark Chamberlain calls him,” Hartford said. “He likes to bother you. On the offensive end he pushes you around and gets really low post-positions. He just turns around and he’s right there by the hoop.”
Hartford has also been impressed in practice by junior transfer Jeff Foote, a seven-footer with a 7-6 wingspan, who will be eligible to play in mid-December.