Jones woos strong basketball recruits

James Jones’ revival of the Yale men’s basketball team continues.

Since Jones took over the then-foundering program two years ago, the team has made a number of positive strides, like playing a more competitive schedule and battling for the Ivy League title. This year’s recruiting class is another step in the right direction. Jones and his staff have sought to convince prospective recruits that Yale basketball is priming to reach new heights, and this year’s recruiting class illustrates that Jones’s message has found receptive ears.

Headlining the basketball class of 2005 is Edwin Draughan, a senior guard at Mayfair High School in Lakewood, Calif. The 6-foot-5-inch, 170-pound Draughan was ranked in the Top 100 basketball prospects by CNNSI.com in its preseason rankings and was rated a “Super Prospect” — one of only 189 high school seniors to receive that designation — by FansOnly.com. Draughan chose Yale over a host of quality Division I basketball programs, including Big East schools Providence and Rutgers.

Draughan will be a versatile addition to the Bulldog lineup. Jones said Draughan, who played both point guard and shooting guard in high school, could play any at either guard spot or even at small forward.

“He is a class of athlete that could come in and help us right away,” said Jones, who believes that Draughan may be the best new player in the Ivy League next year. “He is very agile, a very good ball handler. He has the ability to make others around him better.”

Snagging a player of Draughan’s caliber is no small feat for an Ivy League program. Jones was able to beat out schools that compete on a national level and also offer full athletic scholarships.

“I like to think our vision is that we can get involved with any recruit,” Jones said. “It doesn’t make a difference with who else is involved. You have to be involved with some of them to get some of them.”

There was the possibility Jones was going to pull off another coup in landing Karl Hollingsworth, a highly rated forward from Jonesboro, Ga. Hollingsworth was considering Yale, along with Southeastern Conference power Tennessee and Tulane of Conference USA. Jones said Hollingsworth wanted to come to Yale but was not accepted. Hollingsworth will attend Tulane in the fall.

In addition to Draughan, Jones has secured a pair of frontcourt players to help his squad overcome the loss of graduating big men Neil Yanke ’01 and Tom Kritzer ’01. Replacing the 6-foot-11-inch Yanke and 6-foot-10-inch Kritzer will not be easy, but Jones hopes that newcomers Mark Lovett and Jerry Gauriloff will be part of the solution.

Lovett, a senior at Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh, will be called upon to play the power forward spot. At 6-feet-6-inches, Lovett would be a diminutive big man in the nation’s top basketball conferences, but Jones believes he may have just the right skills for the four spot in the Ivy League. He is a solid outside shooter who can rebound and put the ball on the floor. As a junior, Lovett averaged 22.5 points and 9.5 rebounds while leading Shadyside Academy to the Pennsylvania state championship.

“I would not have decided to go to Yale if I didn’t believe it was going to turn into an Ivy League power,” Lovett said. “I want to go to the NCAA tournament, I want to win some Ivy League championships.”

Gauriloff, a senior center from Slate Hill, N.Y., is another player that the Elis will look to in the low post next year. At 6-feet-10-inches, 220 pounds, Gauriloff will be the biggest player on the team next season and has the ability to provide a strong defense presence.

“Gauriloff is old school. A hard worker, he does a good job on defense, rebounding, blocking shots,” Jones said.

In addition to the departure of big men Yanke and Kritzer, the Elis will also lose starting guard Isaiah Cavaco ’01. Alex Gamboa, a senior guard from Reno, Nev., will provide depth at the point guard position.

Jones said Gamboa provides a different look at the point guard position than current starting point guard Chris Leanza ’03.

“[Gamboa] penetrates to the hole real well,” Jones said. “Leanza is more of a scoring point guard, [Gamboa] more of a point guard in terms of setting up people. He plays the game at a different speed than Chris.”

Jones said he would have wanted to add one or two more players to the incoming class but was unable to do so. One player that he was actively pursuing was Dominic Martin, a 6-foot-10-inch exchange student from Spain, who will attend league rival Princeton. Martin, a senior at Asheville-Reynolds High School in North Carolina, was offered scholarships by Elite Eight entrant Stanford and North Carolina State. Jones said Princeton’s new no-loan financial aid policy was instrumental in Martin’s decision.

Jones said the new financial aid policy is a distinct recruiting advantage for Princeton, which can already boast to its recruits a rich basketball tradition — the Tigers have won 23 Ivy League titles. He believes Yale will respond to Princeton’s new financial aid policy in due time.

Jones also recruited Nathan Loehrke, a 6-foot-10-inch center who had previously committed to Northwestern but was released from his commitment when the school hired former Princeton head coach Bill Carmody in the fall. Jones said Loehrke chose not to attend Yale for financial reasons. He will head to William & Mary next fall.

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