October 11, 2011

An Offseason Of Memorable Experiences For Bulldogs

Players Engage In Variety Of Extracurricular Activities

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale men's basketball team will hold its first official practice for the 2011-12 season this Friday. Of course, the work to get ready for the new year never really stops for the players, but that doesn't mean there isn't time for extracurricular activities, and several of them had memorable experiences since they last suited up.

Austin Morgan spent two months this summer in Mauritius, an island nation off the southeast coast of Africa, as an Eli-Africa fellow. Morgan and nine other Yale students ran an after school program for local children. Each fellow taught a different subject, and Morgan's was sports and health. He taught basic exercises such as body weight circuits, jumping jacks and differing types of stretches in order to promote a healthier lifestyle. The diabetes rate in Mauritius is nearly 30 percent. Morgan also spent time writing proposals trying to promote Eli-Africa to government officials.

"I learned quite a bit about being a teacher - how to control a class and communicate the points you really want to get across," Morgan said. "I also learned how to work in a team setting that is not associated with sports. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I'm very happy I did it."

Rhett Anderson had the chance to travel internationally as well. He took advantage of Yale's Study Abroad program and spent two months in Siena, Italy.

"I lived with a host family while I was there and had the amazing opportunity to travel all around Italy," Anderson said. "It was an incredible experience."

Sam Martin stayed a little closer to home but still had a memorable experience. He worked for Rhode Island senator Jack Reed in Washington, DC.

"I knew going in that politics was something that I am very passionate about, and the experience was certainly enlightening," Martin said. "I got to meet some influential people like John Kerry, I attended some interesting hearings and listened to some extremely intelligent people voice their opinions on issues."

Among Martin's duties were writing letters to constituents, preparing reports and editing speeches.

Ironically, basketball helped make the experience enlightening. Each night after work, Martin headed to a nearby gym to work on his game with local players.

"It was interesting to interact with those in power and see how the political system works, but it was refreshing every night to return to a culture in which I felt comfortable and where politics didn't matter," he said. "On the Hill, the atmosphere is cut throat, every person trying to push an agenda. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is how things their work. Only a few miles away, though, nobody had an agenda except to help everyone else become a better player."

For both Greg Mangano and Jeremiah Kreisberg basketball led directly to exciting opportunities. Mangano played for a 12-member team that represented the United States at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China. Mangano appeared in six games during the tournament, and averaged 3.2 points and 3.2 rebounds. His five blocks were second on the team, and he also contributed four steals.

Kreisberg played for Israel at the U20 European Championship in Sarajevo, Bosnia. He headed to Tel-Aviv in June, spent three weeks training with the Israel team and took part in the team's preparation tour through Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. At the European Championship, Kreisberg played in six games and averaged 12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds, while averaging nearly 30 minutes per game.

Reggie Willhite also had a unique basketball experience, training with former Duke stars Christian Laettner and Grant Hill. Willhite's father heard an interview with Laettner on the radio. Laettner mentioned he was looking for some Division I players on the East Coast to train. He even gave his contact info on the air.

"My dad seized the opportunity," Willhite said. "After exchanging a few emails and talking on the phone, my dad was able to describe what type of player I am."

Laettner did some research on Willhite and agreed to train him. Willhite spent three days in Florida in July and then returned in September.

"I learned a tremendous amount from both Grant and Christian. Each session was packed with tons of tips and knowledge about the game that only experience can bring," Willhite said. "Christian worked pretty intensively with me on my shot, and I left Florida with a notepad full of homework. The sessions ranged from one-on-one situations drills, to transition drills, to shot breakdown and even some back-to-the-basket work. It was an invaluable experience."

Greg Kelley, a Boston native, spent quite a bit of time working on his game as well, but he also got to enjoy plenty of baseball. Kelley sold hats and souvenirs at Fenway Park, which got him free admission to every Red Sox home game.

Isaiah Salafia didn't venture too far from home either. Salafia, a Cromwell, Conn., native, worked in Payne Whitney Gym and was a counselor at numerous basketball camps, including one that was started by freshman Armani Cotton.

Cotton founded DOSA (Division One Student Athlete) Basketball Clinic. After gaining approval from the NCAA and the Ivy League, Cotton ran two week-long clinics in New York City and three in Lake Naomi, Pa. Cotton created the program in an attempt to deflate the idea that being valedictorian and a star athlete are mutually exclusive. DOSA focuses on the values of hard work and discipline as well as basketball IQ and Division I skills in order to challenge campers intellectually and physically.

"It was an amazing experience where the staff learned just as much as the kids," Cotton said. "Leadership was one of the greatest qualities I learned to develop. It was essential to the success with regards to developing the philosophy and mission statement of the camp, to create the exercises for the players and to maintain order throughout the camp activities."

Freshman Will Childs-Klein also was involved in a project that will impact lives. He worked in the biochemistry and molecular biophysics department at Washington University in St. Louis. The lab focused on improving DNA sequencing technology through the use of Total Internal Reflection Microscopy (TIRF), a method of capturing video of individual macro-molecules in real time. It is used to detect discrepancies in wavelength or pulse frequency of ultra-violet light fluoresced by a modified enzyme during the process of DNA polymerization.

The project's goal is to reduce the time required to sequence a human genome from a matter of days to a matter of hours and to reduce the current cost of genome sequencing ($10,000+) by a factor of 10.This will allow for testing for predispositions to certain genetic and hereditary diseases and allow physicians to take preventative measures.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity