Within the past five games, Yale point guard Javier Duren ’15 knocked down a game-clinching fadeaway jump shot against Brown, posted a double-double against Cornell and eclipsed the 1,000-point career scoring mark against Harvard. In the team’s upset against the University of Connecticut earlier this season, Duren led all scorers with 15 points and found sharp-shooting guard Jack Montague ’16 in the corner for the winning basket. Memorable moments such as these have made Duren’s senior season one for the record books.
He provides the Bulldogs with senior leadership, creating plays for both himself and his teammates, while also guiding an Ivy-best offense that is currently averaging 69.1 points per game. After starting every game he played last season, and especially this year in his senior campaign, Duren has embraced his leadership role on the team.
“My confidence has really grown on the court and that has enabled me to be a better leader,” Duren said. “When I first began walking into my leadership role last year, I didn’t realize how much my teammates look to me on the court.”
As a senior floor general who has spent four years under head coach James Jones, Duren knows his way around the college game and the team playbook. He has been a key facilitator for the Elis this season, averaging a team-high 4.2 assists per game.
Duren has even begun to mentor and transfer some of his hard-earned knowledge to younger point guard Makai Mason ’18, who will be expected to replace Duren next year at the position.
“I think he’s definitely helped the transition from high school to college for me,” Mason said. “I think when you first get to the college level, it’s just a lot faster. And you panic when you have to see all the looks at one time. He calmed me down a little bit. [He helped me] see [each play] as a progression and see all the looks for each play as it progresses.”
Mason noted that he has had the opportunity to guard Duren at practice, which has helped him learn what he can and cannot get away with on the defensive end.
Although Duren is easily recognized on the court by his 6–4 stature and smooth ball-handling skills, the first thing most people notice about him when he does not have a basketball in his hand, according to former teammate Brandon Sherrod ’16, is his exuberant personality. Sherrod, Duren’s close friend, described the St. Louis native as a goofball who is always cracking jokes.
“People are attracted to him because of how strong of a personality he has, and also because of the fact that he’s him,” Sherrod said. “There is never a dull moment when you are with Javier.”
Sherrod also noted that Duren has a strong community and a strong group of friends around him. Duren is heavily involved with the Beta Upsilon Chi fraternity and TeamSober, a organization founded by Duren, along with Sherrod, as an attempt to change the college drinking culture.
Duren himself credits much of his leadership experience and comfort with the role to his involvement in those groups.
“Being a leader in YFA [Yale Faith and Action] and TeamSober has developed my leadership skills in other areas in my life outside of basketball,” Duren said. “Because of that, my relationships with my teammates have grown deeper and that has definitely been translated on the court.”
Although Duren suffered an ankle injury that hindered him during the back end of Yale’s Ivy League schedule last year, he has bounced back with tenacity and is looking forward to the final games in this year’s rendition of the 14-game tournament.
Even Sherrod was quick to acknowledge the increased level of performance in his close friend.
“As a senior, you are seeing him making the right plays on the court, making sure guys are in the right position, and also just being a huge vocal leader,” Sherrod said. “He leads by example on the court, whether in practice or in games.”
Duren’s leadership may well propel the Bulldogs into March Madness this season. Yale is currently tied with Harvard for first in the Ivy League at 5–1 in conference play; this season is the first time that Yale has started Ivy play with five consecutive wins since the start of conference play in 1957.
Duren has been a key factor in the team’s success all year, and his decision-making and production will continue to be crucial for the Elis down the stretch.