February 25, 2011

Class of 2011 Made Most Of Yale Experience

Three Seniors Make Their Final Home Appearance This Weekend

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Three Yale seniors – Porter Braswell, Alfonso Costa and Raffi Mantilla – will be making their final appearance in the John J. Lee Amphitheater this weekend. For each, the journey to the final home weekend was different. One thing, though, they each share is wonderful memories of their experiences, both on and off the court.

"My Yale experience has absolutely lived up to my expectations, and in many ways exceeded them," Mantilla says. "I have absolutely loved my time here from start to finish, and I know that I'm going to miss it terribly."

The memories include trips to some of the nation's historic venues, including UCLA, Kansas and Illinois, a victory at Boston College earlier this season and nearly 30 Ivy League wins.

Costa, who also plays lacrosse at Yale, has been a part of the program for just this season. He joined the team in the fall, and his enthusiasm and positive attitude has been a welcome addition. His first career appearance came in a win over Albany. He also saw time against Baruch, and James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball, ran several plays late in the game to try and get Costa a basket. It wasn't successful, but it showed the admiration and respect the team has for him.

"Bringing Fonz on board this year has really been a huge addition," Mantilla said. "He works extremely hard every day and is always very vocal and supportive of his teammates, pushing them to work as hard as he does."

Costa was originally going to play collegiate basketball at NYU but couldn't pass up the chance to attend Yale when he was accepted. He joined the lacrosse team and has appeared in nine games. Still, he felt there was something missing.

"It has always been a dream of mine to play college basketball," he says. "I had heard great things about the coaching staff and guys on the basketball team, so I thought it would be a great idea to train [last] summer and have the opportunity to play the sport that I grew up loving."

It's a decision he hasn't regretted

"Playing basketball has been one of the best experiences of my life, and the only thing I regret is not attempting to join the team earlier," he says. "I have made lifelong friends and learned things from my coaches and teammates that I will remember for the rest of my life."

Costa, a Pittsburgh, Pa., native, has been active in the Yale community in other ways as well. He is the chair of the Thomas W. Ford '42 Student-Athlete Community Outreach Committee and founded Eli's Friends, a program that enables Yale student-athletes to volunteer at the Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital Primary Care Clinic through the "Reach out and Read" program.

"I have always loved working with children, and during my freshman year I knew that I wanted to spend my free time volunteering at local public schools in New Haven," says Costa, who will be attending Oxford University in England to earn a Master's Degree in Comparative Politics.

Braswell has made the most of his time at Yale as well. He has worked as an intern at Goldman Sachs in each of the last three summers and will work full-time there on the foreign exchange desk following graduation.

"I developed amazing friendships, I was able to secure incredible internships, I met incredibly talented and bright people, I had tremendous resources available to me, I learned from some of the best professors in the country, and most important, I have grown as a person," Braswell says of his Yale experience.

On the court, Braswell has played in all but two games over the last four years, including starting the last 55 straight at point guard. In his career, he has 201 assists and 652 points. This year, Braswell is third on the team in scoring (11.0 ppg.) and second in assists. As a junior, he finished 10th in the Ivy League in assists (75, 2.4 per game), tied for second on the team in steals (29) and was third in three-pointers (20). The highlight of his sophomore year came when he scored 13 points and grabbed a team-high five rebounds in a victory at Harvard. In 2007-08 he was the recipient of the John C. Cobb Award as the team's top freshman.

Braswell, a Scotch Plains, N.J., native, isn't sure what will be going through his mind when he walks off the Amphitheater floor for the last time on Saturday.

"Hopefully I will be thinking that we had a great win against Harvard," he says. "But in terms of it being my last home game, I don't think that it will hit me until the next day. I feel very privileged to have had an opportunity to play basketball in college and even more privileged to attend Yale."

Mantilla has had to deal with the frustration of missing much of his senior season with an injury. He hasn't played since the Bulldogs' win over Brown on Jan. 22.

"Missing games this season has been extremely hard for me," he says. "I've put in so much time and effort to make it through to my senior year, and it's heartbreaking to have to sit out and not be able to help the team on the floor.  I just try to keep things in perspective and remind myself of how extremely fortunate I have been to be a part of this university and this basketball program for four years.  During games and practices I've tried, to the best of my ability, to just let my voice be heard, encouraging my teammates and offering advice when I think I can help."

Mantilla, a Mundelein, Ill., native, has made tremendous progress throughout his career. After appearing in only seven games as a freshman, he played in 27 last year and established career highs in points and three-pointers. Before suffering his injury, he played a key role in the Bulldogs' victory over Albany earlier in the season, scoring a career-high 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field.

Mantilla also feels he has grown as a person during his time at Yale.

"I think that the biggest change in me since my freshman year is that I am a much more confident person now," he says. "This isn't to say that I was lacking in confidence when I arrived as a freshman, but all that I've been through in the past four years has made me grow up and provided with the life experiences that you need to confidently move forward.  Basketball has really helped with my development, both because it has been a consistent challenge that does not let you stop working hard at any point, and because it has brought me in contact with some amazing people that have taught me a lot about becoming the man I want to be."

The recipient of the team's Richard Derby Academic Award following his junior season, Mantilla will return to Chicago and work in management consulting for the Boston Consulting Group following graduation.

The emotions will be flowing for each of the three seniors when the final horn sounds on Saturday, but they all know that the long hours on the court and the hard work have been worth it.

"Walking off the floor for the last time on Saturday will definitely be sad," Braswell says, "but I am fortunate to have had this incredible experience."

Story by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity