Yanni Hufnagel’s Amazing Time At Harvard

One of the unsung heroes of the college basketball team is the recruiter. In the modern game, the assistant coaches are often the recruiters. Apparently, the NCAA enforces restrictions on the participation of the head coach, leaving the burden on the shoulders of the assistance.


Recruiters have to comb through thousands of players across the country to find young men will fit in to their squads. Then they have to go approach these young men, pitch them the school and scholarship, and convince them to join their teams. In the end, the head coach can’t win any basketball games without a good team.


My favorite college recruiter right now is Yanni Hufnagel. The assistant coach of the University, Reno, is only in his early 30s. He is also kind of a rarity because he is Jewish. But he really burst onto my radar as the assistant coach at Harvard.


He arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, back in 2009. He was recommended by Oklahoma Sooner head coach Jim Capel after serving him as an unpaid graduate assistant. Yanni Hufnagel immediately got to work at Harvard to recruit the first team to win an Ivy League championship for the oldest school of the country. The team went an astounding 79-24 during his four years, collecting a school record 26 wins in 2011 and finally achieving national ranking. A CBS Sports poll recognized his work by awarding him the assistant coach most likely to make it big primarily due to recruiting skills.


Yanni Hufnagel had NBA legend Jeremy Lin on that team, but he recruited the rest of the players. And just think of the obstacles in his way. Harvard is incredibly difficult to pitch because the school doesn’t give athletic scholarships. He put together an entire roster of incredibly smart basketball players capable of winning. Now that’s skill.