Bulldogs Kick Off Season Against Central Connecticut At Connecticut 6 Classic

Greg Mangano (David Silverman/dspics.com)

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. -  In five of the last six years, the Yale men's basketball team has finished higher than they were projected in the Ivy League preseason media poll. Yale was picked second this year, so if that trend continues it will be a memorable season for the Bulldogs, who kick off the 2011-12 campaign on Friday against Central Connecticut in the third game of the Connecticut 6 Classic at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville.

Hartford and Sacred Heart play the first game at 3 p.m. followed by Quinnipiac facing Fairfield. Yale has good reason to be optimistic. The Bulldogs return four starters and 10 players who averaged at least seven minutes a year ago. Ten of the players on the roster, though, are freshmen or sophomores so it could take time to find the right rotation. Senior Greg Mangano is coming off a breakthrough season. Mangano finished ninth in the nation in blocked shots (3.0 per game) and 24th in rebounding (10.0 rpg.). He was a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection after becoming the first Ivy League player since Harvard's Kyle Snowden in 1995-96 to average a double-double for the season. He was the first Yale player to average a double-double since Chris Dudley in 1986-87. The other returning starters are Jeremiah Kreisberg, Reggie Willhite and Austin Morgan.

SCOUTING CENTRAL CONNECTICUT

The Blue Devils, who finished 19-12 overall last year, feature reigning Northeast Conference Player of the Year Ken Horton. Horton, a 6-6 forward, led the NEC in scoring (19.5 ppg.), blocked shots (1.6 per game) and double-doubles (12). In addition, he was third in rebounding (8.9 rpg.) and free throw percentage (.869). Central was picked third in the NEC preseason coaches poll.

HISTORY LESSONS

 Yale and Central Connecticut are playing for only fourth time, and the Bulldogs lead the series 2-1. The last meeting was a 71-59 Yale victory in the championship game of the 2002 Phoenix Classic at what is now known as the XL Center in Hartford. All three games between the teams were in the Phoenix Classic.

The Bulldogs are opening the season in the Connecticut 6 for the third straight year. Yale fell to Sacred Heart 92-86 in 2009 and lost to Quinnipiac 84-75 last year.

MANGANO PLAYS FOR TEAM USA AT WORLD UNIVERSITY GAMES

Greg Mangano was a part of the 12-player roster that represented the United States in the 2011 World University Games in August in Shenzhen, China. In six games during the tournament, Mangano averaged 3.2 points and 3.2 rebounds. His five blocks were second on the team, and he also contributed four steals. His top performance came against Mexico when he scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds. He added seven points, three rebounds and two blocks in the win over Finland. The team was coached by Purdue's Matt Painter. Joining Mangano on the Team USA roster were: Tim Abromaitis (Notre Dame); Marcus Denmon (Missouri); Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh); Draymond Green (Michigan State); JaMychal Green (Alabama); Scoop Jardine (Syracuse); John Jenkins (Vanderbilt); Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara); Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota); Ray McCallum (Detroit Mercy); and Darius Miller (Kentucky).

KREISBERG COMPETES AT U20 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS

Jeremiah Kreisberg played for Israel at the Under-20 European Championships in July in in Sarajevo, Bosnia. He appeared in six games (he missed the last two games with a minor injury) and averaged 12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds, while averaging nearly 30 minutes per game. He led the team in rebounding and was second in scoring. Kreisberg 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.

CHINA TRIP

Yale got a bit of a head start on the 2011-12 season. The Bulldogs spent 10 days in China last May and played four games, winning three, including a victory over a Chinese professional team. The trip allowed the Bulldogs to bond as a team and work on some things for the upcoming season.

HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION

Mangano and Kreisberg weren't the only players to have interesting off seasons. Austin Morgan spent two months in Mauritius, an island nation off southeast coast of Africa, as an Eli-Africa fellow. He helped run an after school program for local children, teaching a class on health and fitness. Sam Martin was in Washington, D.C., interning for Senator Jack Reed of his home state of Rhode Island. Freshman Armani 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.

WILLHITE TRAINS WITH LAETTNER, HILL

Reggie Willhite trained with former Duke stars Christian Laettner and Grant Hill earlier this fall. 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. Willhite's father reached out to Laettner, who agreed to train Willhite. Reggie spent two weekends working out with Laettner and Hill. Hill's father is legendary Yale football player Calvin Hill.

YALE PICKED SECOND IVY LEAGUE PRESEASON POLL

Yale was picked second, along with Princeton, by the select panel of 17 Ivy media representatives who voted in the official Ivy League preseason media poll. The Bulldogs received one first-place vote and 103 points. Harvard is the league favorite with 16 first-place votes and 135 points. Princeton also had 103 points followed by Penn (90), Brown (62), Cornell (52), Columbia (50) and Dartmouth (17).

PRESEASON HONORS

Lindy's selected Greg Mangano as its preseason Ivy League Player of the Year. The publication also named Mangano the league's Best Rebounder, Best Defender and Best NBA Prospect. Mangano also was named preseason All-Ivy by Athlon Sports, Rivals.com and Rush The Court.

LEE AMPHITHEATER FEATURED IN ESPN THE MAGAZINE

The John J. Lee Amphitheater, the home of Yale Basketball, was featured in ESPN The Magazine's College Basketball preview issue. The title of the feature is Grand Stands, the game marches on, but a dwindling number of college basketball cathedrals can still take us back to when it all began.

The Palestra in Philadelphia, Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse and Fordham's Rose Hill Gymnasium were the only other venues selected.

"To walk through these gates and settle into these seats is to remember the game's roots," wrote LaRue Cook. "Because sometimes sports aren't about results – they're about beauty and style and being connected to something bigger than the game."

Lee Amphitheater sits inside historic Payne Whitney Gym, which was constructed in 1931 under the direction of John Russell Pope. Yale's first basketball game was played there on Dec. 18, 1932, and it has been the home of the Bulldogs ever since.

HEAD COACH JAMES JONES

James Jones, now in his 13th season, is the dean of Ivy League coaches. His 157 overall wins are the 11th most in Ivy history and his 91 Ivy wins are the sixth most. Jones has guided Yale to success not seen in New Haven in 40 years. In 2001-02, Jones led the Bulldogs to their first Ivy League title since 1962-63 and the first postseason tournament victory in the 107-year history of Yale basketball. Five assistant coaches who worked under Jones have gone on to become head coaches - Isaiah Cavaco (Oberlin), Mark Sembrowich (Academy of Arts University), Mark Gilbride (Clarkson), Ted Hotaling (New Haven) and Rob Senderoff (Kent State).Jones served as an assistant coach to Villanova's Jay Wright for the 2007 USA Basketball Men's Pan American Games Team.

VANCISIN ELECTED TO HALL OF FAME

Joe Vancisin, Yale's all-time winningest men's basketball coach, will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on Nov. 20. Vancisin guided the Bulldogs for 19 seasons and won three Ivy League titles.

Vancisin, who will enter as a contributor, joins players Ralph Sampson, James Worthy, Cazzie Russell and Chris Mullin, coaches Bob Knight and Eddie Sutton and fellow contributor Eddie Einhorn in the induction class of 2011.

Vancisin took over at Yale in 1956-57 and promptly led the Bulldogs to the first official Ivy League title. Yale then lost to North Carolina 90-74 in the NCAA Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Bulldogs returned to the NCAA Tournament in 1961-62, dropping a heartbreaking 92-82 decision to a Wake Forest team that went on to advance to the Final Four. Yale shared the Ivy title in 1962-63 but fell to Princeton in a playoff game.

Vancisin, who had a 206-242 record as the Bulldogs' head coach, left Yale in 1975 to become the NABC's executive director for 17 years before his retirement in 1992.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity