Versatile big man Kaplan commits to basketball Class of 2007

Sep. 26 — Score another victory for the Yale men’s basketball team over major conference opponents.

After beating teams from the Big East and ACC on the court last season, the Bulldogs beat out schools from those same conferences Tuesday when sought-after forward Sam Kaplan made a verbal commitment to attend Yale. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward out of Worcester Academy in Worcester, Mass., turned down scholarship offers from the likes of Boston College and Clemson for the chance to come to New Haven.

“I really love coach [James] Jones and his staff,” Kaplan said. “They did a great job of recruiting me.”

Before making his official visit to campus this past weekend, Kaplan said Yale was the front-runner among his many suitors. After getting a glimpse of the academic opportunities and social life Yale offers, he said he was ready to make his final decision.

Kaplan’s only other official visit was to Holy Cross, but Ivy League rivals Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania were also in pursuit.

“In the Ivy League every year its Princeton and Penn,” Kaplan said. “Now, with the players coach Jones has brought in, we have a good shot at winning the Ivy League every year.”

An athletic big man with the ability to score and rebound inside and hit shots from the perimeter, Kaplan fits the mold of the combo-forward with the potential to average double figures in scoring and rebounding. He described himself as a smart, hardworking player who needs to improve his ball-handling and perimeter defense to succeed at the Division I level.

Worcester Academy head coach Mo Cassara said Kaplan figures to be one of the best players in Class A of the New England Prep School Athletic Conference — no small accomplishment, considering the NEPSAC is one of the highest levels of high school basketball competition in the nation. Last year, Kaplan was the third leading scorer on a Worcester team that alone saw six players go on to play Division I college basketball. Last season, Kaplan scored 12 points and snared eight rebounds on a team that contended for the league title.

“We play against some of the best kids in the country who are going on to big time programs,” Kaplan said. “It is great competition every day.”

NCAA rules prohibit Jones from commenting on a recruit that officially has not been admitted to the University.

Kaplan said he is currently putting the finishing touches on his early decision application to Yale and intends to mail it in next week, well before the Nov. 1 deadline. He said he scored an 1110 on his SAT and carries a 3.5 grade point average.

Unlike at a scholarship school, where recruits sign a letter of intent that obligates them to enroll there, Kaplan’s verbal commitment is not binding.

Kaplan said Jones emphasized his willingness to go deep into his bench — 11 Elis saw regular minutes last year — and he hopes that will translate into the opportunity for quality playing time freshman year. It also will translate into stiff competition for playing time, as Kaplan would join a team that could have as many as 11 returning players, one transfer and the other members of the Yale basketball Class of 2007.

As for the rest of the Class of 2007, Jones said he is looking for a 2-3 person class that will fill in the positions that the Bulldogs lose to graduation this season — a point guard in Chris Leanza ’03, an athletic guard and forward in Ime Archibong ’03 and a center in T.J. McHugh ’03.

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