Awards have poured in for the Yale men’s basketball team, which finished its regular season with a share of Ivy League championship for the first time since the 2001–02 campaign. Head coach James Jones was named Ivy Coach of the Year and forward Justin Sears ’16 was announced as the Ivy League Player of the Year.
The Bulldogs (22–9, 11–3 Ivy) finished one of their most successful seasons in recent memory with 11 conference wins. Jones’s 16th season on the sideline resulted in 22 wins for the Elis, who topped the 20-win mark for just the sixth time in school history. For the team’s on-court successes this season, Jones was awarded the inaugural Ivy League Coach of the Year honor.
Two players in particular were key to the Bulldogs’ successes on the hardwood this year: Sears and guard Javier Duren ’15.
Sears, a First Team All-Ivy selection last season as a sophomore, improved upon last season’s honor by being named Ivy League Player of the Year, the first for Yale since Paul Maley ’88 won it in 1987–88.
“It’s huge,” Sears said. “It’s a big award. It’s the best player in the league. But it comes back to my teammates, my coaches, my parents, everyone who supported me over the years, and especially this year.”
The Plainfield, New Jersey native contributed heavily on the court, finishing fourth in the league in scoring (14.4 points per game), third in rebounding (7.6 rebounds), second in blocked shots (2.4 blocks) and fifth in field goal percentage with a healthy 50.7 percent clip from the floor.
This season, the 6’8″ forward, who won the Player of the Week award five times, was even more impressive during conference play, when he averaged 16.1 points per game, third in the Ivy League, and grabbed 8.1 boards per game, fourth in the Ancient Eight. He was also the most efficient player on the floor during the 14-game tournament, shooting 56.0 percent from the floor for the best rate during league action.
“This year, the main focus was doing what the team needed,” Sears said. “At the end of the day, all that matters is whether we’re number one in the league or not.”
Sears was selected unanimously to the First Team All-Ivy along with Duren, who has directed the Bulldogs’ offense all season long.
Duren, an Honorable Mention All Ivy last season, led the Elis with 4.0 assists per game, good for third-best in the conference. He also finished fifth in the league in scoring, notching 14.0 points per game, and seventh in steals at 1.3 per contest.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Duren said. “The biggest thing was being confident in my abilities … I just wanted to be better for my team. We came in with such high expectations. I wanted to make sure that I was playing at a high level, so we could reach our expectations.”
In pressure-filled situations this season, Duren has stepped up. He assisted on the three by guard Jack Montague ’16 that downed UConn on Dec. 5, scored a game-winner against Brown on Jan. 24 with 3.6 seconds left in the game, and notched 22 points against Harvard on March 6.
Both Sears and Duren have led the Elis on the court this season, and they hope to carry the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1962.
Yale plays in a one-game playoff against Harvard on March 14 to decide which school earns the conference’s automatic bid to March Madness.