It’s no secret that Harvard men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker asks a lot out of his point guard, Siyani Chambers. Amaker wants the junior, a three-time nominee to the Bob Cousy Award watch list, to be the pacesetter for the offense and a strong voice of reason both on and off the court for a team that now is in his hands.
Most importantly, Amaker wants Chambers to wear his leadership role.
Not figuratively or with a “C” on his jersey. Amaker literally wants to see Chambers wear the look of a leader, and that’s why the floor general always is staring straight ahead like he knows what he wants to do 10 moves down the road, no matter where he is.
“He’s not allowed to have a look that’s not of positive energy,” Amaker said. “He may feel [negativity], and I tell him all the time that it’s natural to feel some of those things. But the phrase we’ve used is that the most important thing you are going to wear, for him, each day is his expression. That’s the look he has. That’s the look of confidence. It’s the look of being in control.”
That look obviously has served the Crimson well the past two seasons.
Harvard has collected its only two NCAA tournament victories in school history with Chambers at the lead, and again the Crimson come in as the unanimous preseason pick to win the Ivy League and reach the postseason.
Chambers doesn’t go home and practice his steely-eyed look in the mirror. He’s not sure if he’s even heard Amaker give a direct order to convey the look of somebody who’s always in control. It’s just the way he’s been wired since he went virtually unwatched on the national scene as a Minnesota high schooler.
“On the court and off the court is different,” Chambers said. “On the court, I’m definitely focused on the task at hand, trying to win the game with my teammates. The way I look, the way I present myself, other players around me do the same thing. They feed off my energy, so I just try to go out there every day and play with a lot of energy.
People in Chambers’ life notice, especially his younger brother, Kamali Chambers, a point guard playing a post-graduate year at Brewster Academy.
“I always see his eyes,” Kamali Chambers said. “If you look in his eyes, he always looks mad. He’s not really mad, it’s just him just determined and focused. That’s what really stands out to me.”
Before Siyani Chambers was at Harvard winning Ivy League titles and being mentioned among the nation’s elite point guards, he was winning multiple state championships for coach Ken Novak at Hopkins High in Minnesota.
“I think he developed it over time, but he always had that tendency,” Novak said of Chambers’ ability to remain focused on the court. “He’s an intense kid. He’s one of those kids that you can just see it coming off him. He spreads it to other people. That’s why he’s just so valuable, because his energy just spreads to other people.”
Hard to imagine from a kid who said he was nervous the first day he stepped on campus. Or even one who would consider his humor off the court as “immature” at times. Like an annoying younger brother.
Chambers admitted that his college career has seemingly flown by, and that he is relishing the moments in the middle of what might go down as one of the most successful runs by an Ivy school in modern league history. His goals align, as he puts it, with what the team is always trying to do.
For the Crimson to continue the run they’ve been on, Chambers will need to continue to wear the leadership role. All you have to do is his look in his eyes.
“That’s what the team needs,” Chambers said. “I just try to be focused at all times, because you need focus to win.”