Boston Colleges: Jonah Travis

Notebook: Harvard hoops hurting

January, 31, 2014
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- In the end, it was the cruelest of cameos.

After missing the first 17 games of the season, Harvard big man Kenyatta Smith returned from a foot injury to play two low-pressure minutes in the Crimson's blowout win at Dartmouth on Sunday. He didn't take a shot, grab a rebound or even commit a foul. He met with reporters Monday, when he talked about how excited he was to be back, and then roughly an hour later he broke a bone in his left foot in practice.

He'll miss the rest of the season with the injury.

"Very disappointing for him, first of all," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. "And then certainly disappointing for our team, knowing that he was gonna be an integral part of this season, of whatever success we were gonna have. And know we don't have him. We didn't have other pieces here tonight, either, so it was a very tough game for us to figure out without having a full complement of players."

The Crimson were also without junior forward Jonah Travis, who suffered a concussion in the win over Dartmouth, and sophomore guard/forward Agunwa Okolie, who is dealing with a sore knee and missed a couple days of practice this week, in the 82-76 win over Princeton. Amaker said they're both out indefinitely.

"We anticipate having those guys at some point, they're not out for the season," Amaker said. "They're banged up now. We're very hopeful that we'll get them back and have those guys fill in our rotation. But will that be tomorrow? We don't know."

Harvard hosts Penn on Saturday night (9 ET).

"It was different, but Coach [Amaker] always prepares us," Harvard co-captain Laurent Rivard said of playing without the trio. "He always says 'Stay ready, so you don't have to get ready.' Whether we have those guys or not, we just stay true to our identity. Maybe we have to play some more minutes, but a lot of us are used to it."

Against Princeton, Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders each played 38 minutes, and Amaker mostly relied on his starting five when things got tight in the second half.

"Guys do a great job in practice to stay ready," Rivard said. "And everybody works hard so that when Coach calls your name they're ready to go in. We do the same thing whether guys are in or out. Injuries, they're not fun to have and we miss these guys but we do the same thing whether they're on the court or not."

Loving Lavietes

The 82-76 win was Harvard's 18th straight at home, one of the longest streaks in the nation (Duke has the longest active home win streak, at 28).

Holding serve at home is important, Rivard said, because the Crimson know just how hard it is to win on the road. So don't expect the Crimson to slack off Saturday just because Penn comes in on a downswing, at 4-12 overall and 1-1 in the Ivy.

"Coach always says the league is won on Saturday nights," Rivard said. "If we lose tomorrow we're back in the mix with everybody else. We're trying to separate ourselves from these teams, so it's a big game for us tomorrow."

"Our conference is a bear," Amaker said. "And I don't think anybody is gonna feel like they're gonna have a chance when it's all said and done if we can't feel like you have a very good home record within our league."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Harvard's Chambers emerges just in time

November, 10, 2013
BOSTON -- Maybe Siyani Chambers had a bad first 20-plus minutes, or maybe the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2012-13 was simply taking a lesson from show business.

Either way, Chambers definitely saved his best for last.

After Holy Cross’ Malachi Alexander hit a free throw to convert an and-1 and put the Crusaders ahead by 1, the Harvard sophomore came alive after being held scoreless in the first half.

Fouled, Chambers calmly drilled both free throws. On the next Crimson possession, the 6-foot, 170-pound point guard swished a stop-and-pop jumper from left of the free throw line. And when Brandyn Curry drove into the lane to draw the defense, then kicked to the corner, Chambers coolly set his feet and drained a back-breaking 3.

After the shot went in, Chambers flexed his arms and shouted “Let’s go!” toward his teammates on the bench.

“That was a critical stretch, obviously,” coach Tommy Amaker said after his Crimson closed out the 82-72 win. “When the game got very tight and we lost the lead, they showed an incredible amount of composure. I don’t think [Chambers] had played very well up to that point, so to have him step forward and make those kinds of game-changing plays for us -- that’s just the kind of player he has been for us. And we’re very, very pleased he was able to come through for us again tonight.”

Holy Cross coach Milan Brown called timeout, but the damage was done. With his personal seven-point run, Chambers had turned a one-point deficit for Harvard into a six-point lead.

“We’re not big obviously at the moral victories, so we’re very disappointed in the outcome,” Brown said. “I didn’t have any doubt that we’d compete at the level that we did, but the last five minutes [got away from us]. We played a team that understands how to win and has been in big moments. They’re at a level that we’re trying to get to. They made some big, game-winning plays.”

While Chambers made his plays in the most important moments, the Crimson wouldn’t have been in position to win if not for the play of reserve big man Jonah Travis. The Minneapolis, Minn., native came off the bench when Kyle Casey got in foul trouble and, as Amaker put it, “gave us a huge shot in the arm.”

“I know my job,” the 6-6, 225-pounder said. “My job is to come in there and provide energy for the team and if that helps them get over the hump or the slow start that we had, that’s what I need to do. They need me to grab rebounds and set screens or score points when I was open.”

Travis did all of that Sunday night -- fouling out with 20 points and 10 rebounds, both team highs for Harvard -- setting the stage for Chambers to start the Crimson’s season off with a win.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.