By Kim J. Harmon
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts â€“ Could Andrew Gellert become the third Newtown High School basketball player to reach the NCAA Tournament (Karl Fischer with Drexel and Lynn Lattanzio with St. John’s being the first two)?
Well, the Harvard University men’s basketball team â€“ of which Gellert, a senior guard, is a captain â€“ is playing well enough right now (7-4 overall, 1-0 in the Ivy) that it is certainly a possibility. This, despite the fact that the Crimson were picked sixth in a pre-season poll.
Of course, the Ivy League gets just one bid to the NCAA Tournament and that goes to the winner of the conference tournament. Harvard will have to play well when it really counts â€“ in early March.
Gellert has been playing pretty well, himself. Working the backcourt, Gellert â€“ a 1998 graduate of Newtown High School â€“ is averaging 6.7 points, 3.0 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. He scored 13 points in a win over Sacred Heart, 12 points in win over New Hampshire, and 11 points in a loss to Colgate. He dished off a season-high eight assists in a win over Northeastern and made a season-high five steals in that win over Sacred Heart.
Gellert is averaging better than 31 minutes a game (31.6 minutes a game, to be exact). With all of that stuff, it seems as if there was a good reason the Harvard 2001-02 prospectus spoke of Gellert in such glowing terms.
Team USA selection to 2001 Maccabiah Games . . . expected to be one of Crimson’s three starters on the perimeter . . . considered to be one of the top defenders in the Ivy League . . . All-Ivy candidate . . . good offensive rebounder and gives team a solid second ballhandler in the backcourt . . . offensive numbers should continue to improve . . . on his way to setting Ivy League’s all-times assist record . . . has 179 career steals entering 2001-02; school leader Mike Gielen (’89) graduated with 213 . . . 2001-01: Jewish Sports Review First Team All-America . . . Led Ivy League and ranked eighth in country in steals (2.8) . . . 72 steals were second-highest single-season total in Harvard history; behind only the 74 he had as a sophomore . . .
With the graduation of forward Dan Clemente from a team that finished 14-12 overall and 7-7 in the Ivy League, a lot suddenly became expected of Gellert. In a pre-season preview in the Boston Herald published on November 30, it was said that, “Gellert has worked hard to improve his shooting and develop the overall game he needs to lead Harvard in the post-Clemente era.”
Gellert was quoted as saying, “We’ve got most of our top guys back from last year who played a ton of minutes and we’ve done well for ourselves. We need everyone to sep up a bit and make up for what Dan did. I don’t know if we have anyone that can make that many three-pointers or command that much (defensive) attention on offense. But if we all pull together I think we can get this thing done.”
And in the 2001-02 pre-season preview published in The Boston Globe in November, Harvard coach Frank Sullivan â€“ in his 11th season at the helm of the Crimson, said of Gellert, “It all gets back to him being a quality athlete. He’s always been the type of kid with great anticipation, like a sixth sense that a lot of kids don’t seem to have. This leads to his steals.”
While already possessing the Harvard record for consecutive games with a steal (59), Gellert â€“ at the Golden Bear Classic in California last weekend â€“ put himself within two steals of breaking the Crimson record for career steals.
In a 69-54 loss to California in the tournament opener, Gellert pilfered one ball and then pilfered two more in a 55-51 win over Coppin State in the tournament consolation game. Those three steals gave Gellert 32 for the season and 211 for his career â€“ two shy of the Harvard record.
It’s been a pretty good season thus far for Gellert and the Crimson. Maybe it will get even better in March.
NOTE: The Crimson will visit Yale University on Friday, March 1, for a 7 pm contest in New Haven. It looks like members of the Newtown Parks and Recreation Youth Basketball League may be able to play during halftime of that contest.
More Hardwood News
DANBURY â€“ Meanwhile, on another court much closer to home, Jayme Beckham â€“ a 2001 graduate of Newtown High School â€“ is a freshman forward with the Western Connecticut State University women’s basketball team.
Beckham, who was such an important factor in the Nighthawks’ South-West Conference championship of 1999-2000, is so far playing a limited role with the Lady Colonials. WCU currently is 4-6 and Beckham has appeared in four of those games, tossing in two buckets and grabbing a couple of rebounds. She has also made three steals and dropped in a couple of free throws along the way.
Long-time coach Jody Rajcula leads the Lady Colonials.
And In The Pool
LANCASTER, Pennsylvania â€“ And in case anyone needed reminding, winter isn’t all about basketball.
Kane Kunst, another 2001 graduate of Newtown High School, is a freshman member of the Franklin & Marshall men’s swim team and has already made a nice impact with the Diplomats.
In a season-opening split with Carnegie Mellon and Rochester in late October, Kunst was seventh in the 200-yard freestyle (1:55.91), fifth in the 200-yard butterfly (2:09.87), and third in the 100-yard butterfly (57.45).
In a quad meet with Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Kutztown and the College of New Jersey in November, Kunst was sixth in the 100-yard backstroke (58.99), fifth in he 100-yard butterfly (59.37), and helped the 200-yard medley relay team take third (1:44.12).
In a win over Swarthmore College in November, Kunst was third in the 200-yard individual medley (2:09.23) and second in the 500-yard freestyle (5:11.06). In a win over Washington in November, Kunst was third in the 200-yard freestyle (1:55.97) and first in the 200-yard butterfly (2:07.61).
At the 12-team Franklin & Marshall Invitational November 30 through December 2, Kunst was 30th in the 400-yard individual medley (4:40.82), 15th in the 200-yard butterfly (2:09.78), 15th in the 100-yard backstroke (58.38), and 23rd in the 100-yard butterfly (57.64). He also helped the 800-yard freestyle ‘A’ relay team finish 11th (7:33.10), the 400-yard medley ‘B’ relay team finish 16th (3:54.88), the 200-yard medley ‘A’ relay team finish 13th (1:47.88), and the 400-yard freestyle ‘B’ relay team finish 15th (3:32.45).
The Diplomats took a 5-3 record with them on their winter training trip to Indian Shores, Florida (December 29 through January 10) and will return to the Centennial Conference schedule with a meet at Johns Hopkins on January 19.