Workhorse Minoff to captain deep basketball squad



The men’s basketball team crowned its Jack-of-All-Trades at its annual banquet last Wednesday night, electing forward Matt Minoff ’04 captain for the 2002-2003 season.

“I was definitely taken aback by it,” Minoff said. “There are seven guys on the team who are going to be seniors next year, and every one of them would do a good job as captain. It really makes you feel proud when your teammates elect you as the one that’s going to lead them next year.”

In his three seasons with the Bulldogs, Minoff has never been Yale’s top scorer, nor has the Cherry Hilly, N.J., native ever seen himself as a flashy crowd-pleaser. Preferring to fly beneath the radar rather than hog the limelight, Minoff has used his two key assets — versatility on the floor and a hardnosed work ethic — to earn his keep on the Yale bench.

“The captain is usually someone who shows a lot of leadership and dedication to the program,” men’s basketball head coach James Jones said. “Sometimes, that ends up being one of your best players, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Matt has dedicated himself to this team and this program completely for so long that I’m glad that he was elected.”

After two relatively quiet but impressive seasons with the Bulldogs, Minoff burst onto the scene as Yale’s all-purpose weapon last season. He was the only player in the Ivy League to be ranked in the top 10 in four separate categories: rebounding (5th – 6.2 per game), assists (8th – 2.7 per game), steals (5th – 1.56 per game) and blocked shots (2nd – 1.04 per game).

Minoff led the team in rebounds (168), blocks (28), and steals (42). Most impressively, Minoff tied former captain Chris Leanza ’03 for the highest assist-to-turnover ratio on the team. The feat is all the more impressive considering Minoff plays forward while Leanza plays point guard.

“The best part about Matt is that he can probably play any position,” Leanza said. “If the team is lacking in any particular part, he can usually fulfill that role. He’s one of those guys that can hurt other teams in a variety of ways.”

Minoff also put on several breakout performances last winter. He led the Bulldogs in rebounds 16 times and had eight double-digit scoring games. In a classic Minoff performance against Manhattan at Madison Square Garden in early December, the Yale forward put up eight points, seven rebounds, five assists, four blocks, and two steals. During the Harvard game at home Feb. 8, Minoff made a key block on a 3-point attempt by Crimson point guard Elliot Prasse-Freeman with 32 seconds left in the game to protect Yale’s five-point lead.

In addition to his playing ability, Minoff has proven himself to be one of the hardest workers on the team. After his rookie season, Minoff traveled to the 16th World Maccabiah Games in Israel, helping the United States team bring home a Gold Medal. While working as a summer marketing intern at Madison Square Garden in New York City last summer, Minoff worked out four hours a day every day after work. He also joined a club team in which he got to play with basketball greats such as former Knicks star Anthony Mason and celebrity streetballer Skip-to-my-Lou.

“[Minoff] got bit with the basketball bug real strong at the end of last season [2001-2002], and he really worked his butt off to try to become a better player,” Jones said. “You always want the guy you elect captain to be your hardest worker because that makes it easier for them to lead the team.”

Notes: It appears picking captains is an easier task than picking opponents for the Elis. Several surprises have made the task of putting together next season’s schedule especially difficult for Jones.

The University of Alaska–Fairbanks recently canceled their game with the Bulldogs, leaving Jones and company scrambling to find an available opponent. Currently, the Yale coach is looking into the possibility of playing a non-Division I team at home or a strong Division I team on the road.

The latter possibility would put a third marquee matchup on Yale’s schedule for 2003-2004. Currently, Yale is slated to play Wake Forest at home Nov. 29 and South Carolina on the road Dec. 30.

In additions to the above mentioned games, Yale will play Holy Cross, Niagara, Fairfield, and Sacred Heart at home. Of these, Holy Cross and Fairfield still have not decided on a date for the contest.

Rounding out the non-league portion of Yale’s schedule will be two road games, Bucknell and Rhode Island, and two tournaments, the Pepsi-Marist Classic and the 2003-2004 Preseason NIT.

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