The Yale men’s basketball team has won four straight games since Jan. 20 to improve to a 13–6 overall record and second place in the Ivy League. During this stretch, the Bulldogs completed their sweep over Brown in back-to-back games, including a 75–74 victory at Pizzitola Sports Center on Jan. 20.
A large part of the team’s success over the last month can be attributed to the improved playmaking skills of captain and guard Anthony Dallier ’17. With guard Makai Mason ’18, the Bulldogs’ primary ball handler, sidelined for the year due to injury, Dallier has been an instrumental player for the Elis throughout the season with his leadership and composure on and off the court.
“He makes sure our team functions properly and runs our offense,” head coach James Jones said. “He leads by example, [and] is in the right place at the right time. He’s even-keeled, he never gets too high or too low.”
After recording just 19.9 minutes per game primarily as a sixth man in Yale’s 2015–16 campaign, Dallier has averaged 32.7 minutes per game as a regular starter in his senior season. With an increase in usage has come an increase in productivity: the point guard has markedly improved his field goal percentage, three-point percentage and per-game stats in nearly every major category. The biggest jump in terms of Dallier’s performance has been at the free-throw line, where he is shooting nearly 80 percent compared to a subpar 60 percent last season.
The captain showed off his improvements in Yale’s second 2017 contest against Brown, tallying a career-high 30 points in the 85–75 home win, including a 15–18 mark from the free-throw line.
“He’s definitely played this year with a lot more confidence and aggressiveness,” forward Sam Downey ’17 said. “He knows he has to make plays for us to win ballgames and he’s done a great job making key plays down the stretch for us so far this year. He’s a great captain; he’s very skilled at making sure everyone is on the same page and how to deal with all the guys on our team.”
Not only has Dallier bolstered his own stats in increased minutes this season, but he has also facilitated for his teammates in his conversion from shooting guard to point guard. The position change means that he has handled the ball more and served as an extension of the coach on the floor.
Despite averaging just 1.3 assists per game as a junior, the captain has embraced his role as a facilitator in his senior season. Dallier leads all Ivy League players with 5.2 assists per game against Ancient Eight opponents this year, and has captained a Yale team that ranks second only to Brown in points per contest.
“Moving over to point guard definitely provided some new challenges and opportunities for myself that have allowed me to expand my game and grow,” Dallier said. “Coach Jones has shown a tremendous amount of confidence in me by moving me to a position I didn’t have a ton of experience playing, and I think that’s played a huge role in allowing me to be successful.”
With Mason’s injury concluding a complete overhaul in the Bulldogs’ starting lineup from last season, Dallier has captained an unusually young group of players in Yale’s 2016–17 campaign. Downey has been the only other upperclassman to see significant minutes this season alongside Dallier, while several Eli underclassmen have posted career numbers and asserted themselves as young standouts. Forward Blake Reynolds ’19 and guards Trey Phills’19 and Alex Copeland ’19 have all translated their increased playing time into valuable team contributions, while guard Miye Oni ’20 has established himself as one of the leading candidates for Ivy League Rookie of the Year.
“Tony has done a great job of leading us both on and off the court and he is someone that I have learned a lot from,” Oni said. “I admire the way he carries himself and the intelligence and poise he plays with and have tried to replicate this in my own game.”
And under Dallier’s leadership, the Bulldogs have made an emphatic statement in the Ivy League with a 5–1 conference record to start their quest for a third consecutive conference title. But while hoisting a regular-season title would serve as a testament to the team’s resilience and talent, the captain has set his sights on much bigger goals.
“The real goal is to win the Ivy Tournament and make it back to the NCAA tournament,” Dallier said. “This is my last opportunity to make it, and there’s not a whole lot else that I am really focusing on right now.”
Dallier and the Bulldogs continue their Ivy League season as they host Dartmouth and Harvard at John J. Lee Amphitheater this weekend.