MEN’S BASKETBALL: Phi Beta Townsend

Forward Matt Townsend ’15 has found a measure of success recently as a member of the men’s basketball team, vaulting into the starting lineup for the past three games.

But the 6-foot-7-inch forward has shined not only on the hardwood, but also in the lab. When the most recent Phi Beta Kappa inductees were announced, Townsend was one of eight members of the class of 2015 on the list. So it might not be a surprise to catch the starting forward taking MCDB courses on Science Hill or run into him doing his weekly volunteer shift for YHAAP’s BRED service project.

It was hardly set in stone, however, that Townsend would ever suit up for the Bulldogs: His grandfather and two uncles played football and baseball for Harvard. Townsend started playing basketball in the third grade and when the time came, he found himself with the opportunity to take his talents to the Ivy League. Yet Townsend decided to forge his own path, choosing the Elis over the Crimson.

“I fell in love with Yale,” Townsend said. “I loved the coaching staff and I got along with all the guys. Part of me just wanted to find myself in my own direction.”

For the season, he averages a modest 4.9 points and 3.1 rebounds on a 52 percent shooting average, but since being inserted in the starting five, his stats are up across the board to 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds on a stellar 71.4 percent clip. In his last two games, Townsend has hit double figures, including a very efficient 10 points on 4–5 shooting in just 15 minutes against Baruch last Saturday.

Townsend plays an important, if underpublicized, role on the team. A self-described “blue-collar worker” on the court, it is Townsend’s job to do the little things that may go under the radar of the casual fan, but are nonetheless appreciated by his teammates and coaches.

“Matt is our enforcer,” center Will Childs-Klein ’15 said. “He brings an immutable toughness to the court. Whoever we’re playing against, we know we can depend on Matt to rebound and defend.”

Childs-Klein has known Townsend since they both attended Yale’s basketball camp in 2010, and he asserts that his friend has not changed much, other than maybe in stature.

But Townsend said he has learned a lot about what it means to be part of the team.

“I’ve really gained an appreciation for the hard work everyone puts in,” Townsend said. “The team needs everyone, from the guy leading them in scoring to the last guy on the bench. The whole team camaraderie and the game means so much to all the guys.”

With the Ivy League season starting this coming Saturday against Brown, Townsend will be on the court.

The Elis (6–8, 0–0 Ivy) have struggled through a daunting out-of-conference schedule. After losing to Providence late in a one-possession game on Dec. 17, the Bulldogs dropped their next three games, including a 20-point blowout at No. 24 St. Louis. Despite the team’s record, Townsend said the schedule will only improve the Elis in the long run.

“I think [the schedule] will make us battle tested and ready against tough Ivy League teams that maybe won’t be as athletic,” he said. “If it were up to me, I’d rather lose to a great team than beat a very average team.”

The Elis take on Brown Saturday at 2 p.m. in John J. Lee Amphitheater.

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