The blank spaces on the banner that hangs in Harvard’s Lavietes Pavillion tell the tale of Harvard’s basketball past.
An NCAA Tournament appearance in 1946 was followed by a 66-year drought before the Crimson broke through last year. A year later, Harvard once again is in the tournament — this time led by a freshman point guard who brings a basketball history of his own.
“If you know anything about Siyani [Chambers], he’s been a winner all of his life,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said this week. “He’s only played that one position on the basketball floor, as a point guard. I think he relishes these opportunities. He was a three-time high school state champion. He was Mr. Basketball in the state of Minnesota. I think he expects those things to go well for himself, and he wants to be in the position to have that kind of impact for his team.”
Chambers, a smooth 6-footer from Golden Valley, Minn., has started all 29 games for Harvard this season. He averaged 12.9 points and a team-high 5.7 assists a night en route to becoming the first freshman to ever earn first-team All-Ivy League honors.
“For as long as the Ivy League has been around and for him to be the first freshman, that says it all there,” senior Christian Webster said.
Teammates marveled at how quickly Chambers stepped into his role.
“He has led the team the whole year,” said Wesley Saunders, Harvard’s leading scorer. “He’s gotten our team into the sets we need to. He’s been our floor general. He’s done everything and more that we have asked him to do, and it’s crazy he can do this as a freshman coming into the program. Everything he picked up so quickly is great.”
“I don’t know where we would be without him,” forward Laurent Rivard added.
Arizona, Harvard’s third-round opponent, also has taken notice of Chambers.
“Their point guard is like their engine,” the Wildcats’ Solomon Hill said Friday. “He gets guys involved and makes things a lot easier for the rest of the team.”
Chambers played 40 minutes Thursday night, scoring five points and tallying a game-high seven assists in a 68-62 win over New Mexico. The underdog’s upset of the No. 3 seed Lobos was Harvard’s first tournament victory ever.
And at the end, it was Chambers with the ball in hands, celebrating history.