John Stockton put on the same short shorts for 19 straight seasons for the Utah Jazz. In contrast, players only get four years of eligibility in college, so coaches must continually recruit new talent to replace seniors.
The Bulldogs will graduate four seniors this year: captain and forward Reggie Willhite ’12, forward Greg Mangano ’12, forward Rhett Anderson ’12 and guard Brian Katz ’12.
The four roster spots opened up by the graduating class of 2012 combined with the uncertain future of point guard Isaiah Salafia ’14 – who has left the team indefinitely for personal reasons — will open up space for the class of 2016 on a roster that had 17 players at the season’s beginning.
“Seventeen [players] is the most I’ve ever carried,” head coach James Jones said. “Normally I carry 13 or 14 recruited players … But Brian [Katz] had double retina surgery, and Isaiah [Salafia] had to leave with personal issues, and suddenly we’re a little thin in the backcourt.”
Jones will have to make do with the players at hand for the rest of this season until next year, when he will bring in three new Bulldogs. According to ESPN.com and other sources, the class of 2016 will consist of power forward Justin Sears ’16 from Plainfield High School in Plainfield, N.J., point guard Jack Montague ’16 from Brentwood High School in Brentwood, Tenn. and small forward Nick Victor ’16 from the Winchendon School in Winchendon, Mass.
Jones was only able to confirm the addition of Sears, however, because he is the only player to have officially sent in his card to matriculate to Yale.
“We can’t really comment on any of the recruits officially until we get that card,” Assistant Director of Sports Publicity Tim Bennett said. “The recruits themselves may say that they’re coming to Yale, but we won’t officially announce it until we have that card.”
The athletic department at Plainfield High School did not return phone calls made by the News.
According to an Oct. 30 article on newjersey.com, Sears opted for Yale over Princeton University, Stanford University and Boston University.
Brentwood head coach Dennis King confirmed that Montague will bring his talents to New Haven next year. He added that Montague brings more than talent to the court.
“It’s almost like he’s an assistant coach for us,” King said. “He has that kind of maturity for us. When he talks in the huddle, we listen … I’ve coached for 39 years, and he is probably the most committed basketball player I have ever coached.”
King said that Montague is MVP of his league and is averaging around 17 points and seven assists per game. Belmont University and Lipscomb University were among several other schools competing with Yale for Montague.
Victor will come to Yale in the fall after completing a postgraduate year at the Winchendon School. Jones said that taking a postgraduate year helps players to mature.
“[A postgraduate year] is great for a couple of reasons,” Jones said. “Some kids need to sharpen their academics. A lot of high schools around the country don’t really prepare kids for the Ivy League. Athletically it gives them another year.”
Three players on the current roster took postgraduate years between high school and college. Willhite played at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, guard Jesse Pritchard ’14 went to Blair Academy in New Jersey and forward Brandon Sherrod ’15 came to Yale this year from Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut.
Matthew Quinn, Victor’s head coach at Winchendon, did not respond to a request for comment.
The new Elis will join a team next year that will lose a bulk of its production on the court due to graduation. Although Katz has played in just two games after his surgery earlier in the year, the senior class has combined to average 32.8 points per game and 44.4 percent of the points the Elis have scored this season. Jones said that it will be a team effort to make up for the loss.
“I expect it’ll be all hands on deck,” Jones said. “It’s harder for freshmen to contribute. There’s a huge difference [between high school and college].”
Jones added that there might be room for walk-ons on next year’s roster.