Two best friends — and Ivy League men’s basketball guards — are not on speaking terms this week.
Guard Miye Oni ’20 and Harvard junior Christian Juzang, who both played together at the Viewpoint School in Los Angeles, will compete Saturday night in the season’s second meeting between Harvard (13–8, 6–2) and Yale (17–4, 7–1 Ivy). Their relationship, on hold for the time being, parallels the connection two actual brothers on both sides of the rivalry — guards Michael Feinberg ’22 and Crimson senior Robbie Feinberg — already share.
Yet even as the Feinbergs prepare to cherish what could be their last game as conference foes in the 200th all-time meeting between each men’s basketball program, for Juzang and Oni, Saturday is all about the standings. Yale and Harvard enter the weekend at first and second in the Ancient Eight, respectively.
“[Oni’s] a brother to me,” Juzang said. “I think the only time we don’t talk is the week leading up to any Harvard-Yale matchup, so that’s when we have to put our friendship aside and get ready for our battle … we keep our distance; maybe we’re both just so zoomed in on the game. We’ll dap before the game, say a couple words, but when the ball tips up, it’s just competitor versus competitor.”
Juzang, who has started all but two games this season for the Crimson and currently averages 9.2 points and 2.8 assists a game, said the pair talk almost every day. Now talented guards on two of the Ivy League’s strongest teams, Oni and Juzang met playing local AAU basketball before high school but did not grow close until sporting the same jersey at Viewpoint, an independent K-12 school in Calabasas, Calif.
Though they are both college juniors now, Oni — who played a post-graduate year at Suffield Academy before entering Yale — was a grade older than Juzang when the high school freshman enrolled at Viewpoint. While the Crimson guard started immediately for the Patriots, progressing on to become team captain as a sophomore, Oni did not see much of the court until late in his high school career.
Juzang saw firsthand how the 6-foot-6 Yale star, who lives about fifteen minutes from his Crimson companion, “exploded late,” awaiting a growth spurt that would not arrive until the summer before his senior year. Many did not envision a future in which Oni would be playing against Juzang in the Ivy League for the seventh time on Saturday night.
“We work out together [over the summer], so it’s kind of funny when we see each other on the court,” Juzang said. “We’re so accustomed to each other’s game, and we know what we do well, what we don’t … I’ve been practicing against him for four years, and then this is year three now. It’s cool to see how far we’ve both come since we were underclassmen in high school with lofty goals and a work ethic.”
The Feinbergs, meanwhile, are approaching Saturday’s contest differently. At Yale, Michael has yet to enter the rotation on a Bulldog squad saturated with veteran talent, while Robbie — who joined head coach Tommy Amaker’s team as a preferred walk-on his freshman year — has only played two minutes this season.
When Harvard defeated Yale 65–49 in Boston on Feb. 1 — the Elis’ only loss in their past 14 games — the Feinberg family caught the attention of ESPN’s camera crew throughout its broadcast. Wearing custom jerseys that displayed Robbie’s crimson 32 on the right half and Michael’s navy 11 on the left, their parents and about ten other family members and friends convened at Lavietes Pavilion to soak in the special moment.
“[Robbie and I] would hang out a lot; whenever we’d hang out or work out we’d always bring competition into it,” Michael Feinberg said. “There’s definitely some friendly banter back and forth, but at the end of the day, we realize it’s all love. We’re just super proud of each other to have gotten to this point now. More than anything, since we only have one or two more opportunities at this, I don’t think we’re going to spend too much time talking trash. We’re just going to try to enjoy the moment.”
With higher stakes and a tipoff in the Bulldogs’ own John J. Lee Amphitheater, Michael said he thinks this weekend’s matchup will be much better for the Elis than the last time the two rivals met. Unless Yale and Harvard compete in next month’s Ivy Madness tournament, this will be the last collegiate game in which he faces off with his older brother.
Like Oni and Juzang, the Feinbergs also hail from Los Angeles. Robbie attended basketball powerhouse Sierra Canyon, where he set the school record with 120 consecutive games played. Michael attended the school until transferring to Viewpoint, of all places, for his senior year.
“It is a big thrill to see Viewpoint alums achieve like this,” Viewpoint Athletics Director Patrick Moyal told the News. “We knew them as young men of character, never afraid of putting in the work and to see them on the court, opposing each other, in high leverage situations, puts a smile on my face.”
In Yale’s loss at Harvard earlier this month, Oni finished with 11 points, while Juzang contributed nine points, four assists and three rebounds for the Crimson.
William McCormack | firstname.lastname@example.org