In their combined eight years playing basketball at Yale, Chris Leanza ’03 and T.J. McHugh ’03 have always tried to put the team before themselves. Now, as they prepare to take off their blue-and-white jerseys for the last time, the two Eli seniors will finally walk away with something they can call their own.
On March 12, Leanza and McHugh became All-Ivy League Second Team and Honorable Mentioned selections, respectively.
“Our team is geared toward team goals and not so much focused on individuals,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “So at this point, I don’t know how much [winning the All-Ivy selections] means to them. Years down the road, it may be something for them to look back on. But as far as I’m concerned, it is great that a couple of guys on the team have been picked as some of the best players in the league.”
After offseason shoulder surgery limited his play last year, Leanza put together a convincing comeback story this season. Leanza played in all 27 games this season and was second in the Ivy League in 3-point percentage and sixth in 3-pointers made. He also tied for 11th in assists.
“Last year, it was really frustrating for me, and to be able to rebound the way I did was great,” Leanza said. “I struggled last season, and I had a lot of motivation this summer to get back into the condition I was before my surgery last year.”
Leanza’s performance this season seems the appropriate end to a successful career. Leanza became only the 18th player in Yale history to break 1,000 career points. In addition, the Yale captain has 178 career 3-pointers, the second best total in Yale history.
But despite the great personal achievements, Leanza regrets not being able to help the Bulldogs to their second consecutive Ivy League crown.
“It’s obviously a great feeling, but I’d trade in every point for an Ivy League Championship,” Leanza said. “If I wound up with 999 points, and we won the league, I couldn’t tell you how much happier I would’ve been.”
Teammate McHugh was one of Leanza favorite targets for his 2.41 assists per game. After winning All-Ivy Honorable Mentioned last season, McHugh continued his success down low this season. McHugh was second in the league in field goal percentage and fifth in free-throw percentage. His 54.8 percent career field-goal percentage places him third in school history.
“It’s definitely an honor to be named an All-Ivy,” McHugh said. “There’s 15 or so people out of about 80 players in the league, and to be named one of those is quite an honor.”
Despite sharing the All-Ivy title, Leanza and McHugh have different expectations about their future. Leanza is currently looking to work in the financial sector after graduation; McHugh is interested in a professional basketball career.
“Playing [professionally] next year is definitely something I would like to do,” McHugh said. “I’m going to talk to the coaching staff, the trainers and the doctors, and see what my options are. It really comes down to whether or not the opportunity presents itself.”