March 8, 2013

Brothers In Blue: Three Seniors Reflect On Yale Careers

Grace, Martin, Morgan Have Made Outstanding Contributions To Yale Basketball

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Michael Grace, Sam Martin and Austin Morgan share a common bond. The three arrived together at Yale in 2009, and over the last four years have grown together, both on and off the basketball court. There have been good times and bad times, but the three have always stuck together.

"We are brothers," said Grace. "While we don't always agree, we always support each other and will not hesitate to shoulder one another's burdens. [Sam and Austin] have been great teammates but more importantly great friends."

The three make their final appearance in the John J. Lee Amphitheater this weekend when Princeton and Penn visit.

Grace, Martin and Morgan have made outstanding contributions to the Yale Basketball program over the last four years. Combined, they have played in 319 games, scored 1,770 points and helped the Bulldogs to nearly 50 victories.

Perhaps a testament to their success, each has a different most memorable moment.

"Sweeping Penn and Princeton on the road this year was something I will always remember probably because it was such a team effort," Martin said. "It felt really special to be able to come together and do something Yale Basketball hadn't done since the 1980s."

"My top memories are beating Boston College on the road sophomore year and defeating Harvard at home that same year," Morgan says.

Grace's is more personal.

"By far my top memory was returning home to compete against my best friend, CJ Harris," he said of the Bulldogs trip to Wake Forest in his junior year. "I rarely get to play in front of my family members because of our schedule. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to play in front of so many of the people who have supported me throughout my basketball career. It was also a great game that we had an opportunity to win down the stretch."

Grace, a Winston-Salem, N.C., native, has played in 104 games in his career. This year he is sixth in the Ivy League in assist/turnover ratio (1.7) and is second on the team is assists (66). Against Nevada in December, he scored a career-high 17 points. In his junior year, he shot 82.1 percent from the free throw line and started a career-high 16 games. As a freshman he appeared in all 29 games off the bench and was third on the team with 58 assists.

"I am a completely different person than the one who walked into the locker room four years ago," Grace said. "It has not been an easy journey, but I am a much more mature and humble person for it."

Martin, the team captain and a West Warwick, R.I., native, has emerged as one of the top three-pointers in the Ivy League this season. He enters the weekend second in the league in three-point field goal percentage (.465) and has made 16 three-pointers in league play.

"I think my three-point success is a result of my coaches and teammates," Martin said. "They all always encourage me to shoot the ball. The coaches have spent countless hours with me over the years getting shots up, and my teammates are always looking for me in the games. I have worked hard too, but the success has to do with a lot more than simply that."

Morgan also has enjoyed success from beyond the three-point arc as well. He enters the final weekend with 196 career three-pointers, the third most in Yale history. Morgan, though, also has made a mark at the foul line. He is third in the nation in free throw shooting with a .908 percentage after finishing fifth last year. Earlier this season, he made 33 straight free throws, tying a school record, and his career percentage of .857 is the best in school history.

"I think I've been successful because I've remained calm and disciplined at the free throw line," Morgan said. "I'm also quite superstitious and keep the same free throw routine - 2 dribbles, spin the ball, and shoot - every single time." 

Like Grace and Martin, Morgan feels he has grown as a person during his time at Yale.

"I've matured as a person and realized how great an opportunity I've had to come [to Yale]," he said. "I hope to use this amazing experience as a platform for doing positive things in the future. I've changed completely in all aspects, for the better."

Morgan hopes to play professionally overseas for a few years before attending graduate school for business or architecture, his major at Yale.

Grace and Martin also hope to continue playing after graduation.

"I love this game and I want to prove to myself that I can play it at a professional level and be successful," said Grace, who then plans to attend Duke or Wake Forest Law School.

Martin, who interned for Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed in the summer of 2011, also would like to attend law school after playing.

"Playing at Yale has taught me to keep working hard even if you are not immediately rewarded," he said. "It has taught me how to be a teammate in ways I never knew before college and it forced me to learn how to be a leader while I served as the captain this year."

Whatever lies ahead, all three agree that their experiences at Yale will have them well prepared.

"Being a college athlete is not easy, being college athlete at a university as prestigious as Yale is down right difficult," Grace said. "But my career at Yale has better prepared me for the rigors that I will face in the next step of my journey."

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity

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