March 7, 2009
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The paths this year's five seniors have taken to their final appearance at the John J. Lee Amphitheater are quite different, but Chris Andrews, Ari Greenberg, Ross Morin, Travis Pinick and Brandon Rose have made a lasting impression on everyone associated with the Yale Basketball program. The five will be honored prior to the start of Saturday's game against Harvard.
"It is always difficult to compare athletes from one year to another, but these young men simply stand out," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "If they are not the best, they are certainly among the best group I have coached. Their leadership and desire has been unsurpassed, and they will leave a strong legacy on the program and the athletes that will follow them."
Yale's Class of 2009 helped lead the Bulldogs to more than 50 wins, including a 32-23 mark in Ivy League games. Twice during their tenure, Yale has entered the final weekend still in contention for the Ivy title. Combined, they have played in 314 games, scored nearly 2,000 points and grabbed 1,100 rebounds.
Andrews has overcome two separate knee injuries to enjoy a very productive senior season. He has started all 13 Ivy games and is in the top 10 in the league in assists and steals. In Yale's 72-60 victory over first-place Cornell, he scored 10 points and handed out four assists.
"Part of me always wonders where my career would have been had I been healthy, but I feel like I learned a great deal from the whole situation," Andrews told the New Haven Register in February. "I'm mentally tougher than I would have been."
As a junior he was the recipient of the Josh Hill Award for hard work and dedication. He also was involved in one of the most memorable moments of the season. It came at home against Dartmouth when he made his first appearance since his freshman year and scored his first points when Greenberg passed up a breakaway layup to feed him, sending the Amphitheater crowd into a frenzy.
"When Coach [Matt] Kingsley approached me about entering the game, I was ambivalent and extremely nervous," Andrews said. "I had a burning desire to play but was also sure that I was not the same player I was two years before. Once I entered the game, however, the crowd support quickly wiped away any mixed feelings I had. When Ari passed me the ball and I made the layup, I was overwhelmed by the appreciation from the fans. Although I would have been happy to score regardless of their reaction, they truly made that a special moment for me. A moment I'll never forget."
Greenberg has a little bit of an understanding of what Andrews went through. Greenberg has been unable to play this season due to injury but has still remained a valuable member of the team.
"I tried to bring a sense of perspective that you sometimes lose when you get caught up in the emotions of playing," he said of his role this year.
Greenberg, who will work at Morgan Stanley after graduation, is a three-time recipient of the team's Richard Derby Academic Award. That award has gone to a member of the Greenberg family for five straight years. Ari's older brother Josh, the captain of the 2005-06 Bulldogs, is a two-time winner.
"My favorite memory from playing at Yale was taking the court in a game for the first time as a freshman with my older brother," Ari said.
Pinick has missed only one game in his career as a Bulldog. His 119 career steals are the ninth most in school history, and he grabbed his 500th career rebound in last Friday's win at Penn. This season he is in the top-10 in the Ivy League in four categories and was named the Ivy League Player of the Week after scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against Alabama. In his junior year, he was named second team All-Ivy after leading the league in rebounding in Ivy games and was the recipient of the George McReynolds Award as Yale's top defender. As a sophomore, he shot 52.4 percent from the field, and in his rookie year, he appeared in all 29 games off the bench.
"Playing basketball at Yale is a unique opportunity that very few people are allowed to partake in," said Pinick, who hopes to continue professionally. "I have played basketball at the highest level and learned at a top-notch institution. I also learned how to push myself in multiple areas. In high school some things came easy, and I could get away with not giving 100 percent effort. Coming here has instilled in me an attitude and work ethic to give 100 percent in every aspect of my life because that is what you need to be successful."
Hard work also has been a key part of Rose's tenure at Yale. In his first two years with the team he served as a practice player and team manager. His efforts impressed Jones, who brought him into his office this fall and told him he had earned a spot on the roster.
"I was overwhelmed by emotion," said Rose of the meeting. "Firstly, I thought of all the hard work that I put into realizing this dream. I thought of all the people who doubted me, and at the same time I thought of the people who supported and helped me. I remembered the times where I was frustrated by the situation, and possibly mostly of all, I thought about my family and how they were behind me the entire time."
Rose's first career basket, a three-pointer in January against MIT, led to a jubilant celebration on the Yale bench.
"This entire experience with the basketball team is something I will never forget," Rose said. "It helped me mature, understand the true meaning of working hard to attain something you want and produced lifelong friendships."
Morin, the captain, has been a three-year starter for the Bulldogs. He is a career 52.6 percent shooter, which is among the most accurate all-time at Yale. This season he leads the team in rebounding and is second in scoring. As a junior, he earned second team All-Ivy recognition and was the recipient of the Dutch Arnold Award as Yale's MVP. In his sophomore year, he started 25 games and was second on the team in rebounding, and in 2006, he received the John C. Cobb Award as Yale's top freshman.
"I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to play four years here," Morin said. "Basketball has taken me all across the country and even to Spain. I've played in great arenas and have met awesome people."
Morin, who hopes to continue playing professionally, has already made his last weekend memorable. He became only the 22nd player in school history to score 1,000 career points, and he was happy to do it in the Amphitheater.
"It doesn't get much better than playing at home in front of our fans," he said. "I've enjoyed coming to work every day with great teammates and will miss the team aspect of playing basketball more than anything."
Yale's fans will miss the entire Class of 2009 just as much.
Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity