On a November night in the underbelly of Boston’s TD Garden, seated in rows of folding chairs facing an elevated table at the front of the makeshift pressroom, a group of reporters listened to Tommy Amaker. The Harvard head coach, credited with transforming an Ivy League also-ran into a national competitor, delivered his post-game statement. His Harvard team had just played its season opener on the home court of the Boston Celtics in the Coaches v. Cancer Tipoff, beating Holy Cross.
“First off,” Amaker began, “it’s such a wonderful opportunity for us to participate in this Tipoff Classic.”
The reporters didn’t care; instead they wanted to know why Kenyatta Smith was on the bench in a foot brace rather than starting at center.
“Kenyatta will be out indefinitely,” Amaker said. “It’s probably going to be a bit longer than we’d like.”
Amaker exited, and the reporters turned off their tape recorders, satisfied.
No one from the media corps asked about Tom Hamel. No one queried why the 6’9” senior wasn’t in uniform. No one wondered when he would be healthy again.
A Snowy Saturday
When I meet Tom Hamel in Harvard Square five weeks later it’s 14 degrees. The winter’s first snow is falling, and Hamel is bundled in a puffy overcoat bearing a Harvard basketball logo—the same logo appearing on his sweatpants. (His Nikes, though bright Crimson, are logo free).
Hamel pulls on his hat, and we head south toward the Charles River. It’s exam period, and for a Saturday afternoon Harvard Square is unusually empty.
We reach the river and cross the Anderson foot bridge, our destination Harvard’s training room. It’s a destination with which Hamel has become all too familiar.
Most days, he spends 90 minutes in that room— which is exactly 79 more minutes than he has accrued in playing time in four years on the Harvard basketball team.
Hamel opens the backdoor into an empty hallway. The door to the training room is closed.
“Maybe we can sneak in,” he says. Continue reading “Tom Hamel has dibs on the last seat on the bench”