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May 23, 2013Vanderbilt men's head basketball coach Kevin Stallings officially announced the hiring of Harvard assistant coach Yanni Hufnagel on Thursday after weeks of speculation. The 30-year old rising star joins the staff upon the departure of 14-year assistant Brad Frederick, who will likely join another major college basketball staff within the next few weeks.
Hufnagel was a integral factor in the rise of the Harvard program over the last several years. Serving as the team's recruiting coordinator and perimeter player development, the Crimson won 90 games during his four years at the school, capturing three straight Ivy League titles and two straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson faced Vanderbilt in the second round of the 2012 tournament, falling 79-70. Harvard posted its first-ever tournament victory this past spring with a 68-62 upset win over 10th ranked New Mexico.
Hufnagel helped in the development of several key Crimson standouts including future NBA guard Jeremy Lin as well as Laurent Rivard, Brandyn Curry and Oliver McNally. Harvard produced other standouts such as Keith Wright, Kyle Casey and Wesley Saunders during this time. In addition to development, Hufnagel also served as an opponent scout for the Crimson.
Harvard's recruiting success was also largely tied to Hufnagel. Receiving national attention for the success of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 classes, Hufnagel was instrumental in the Crimson signing a Rivals150 standout in each of the last three years. Rivals recognized the 2011 class as one of the Top 10 classes among non-high major conferences. CBS Sports did the same with the 2012 class, recognizing Hufnagel as "one of the most relentless and energetic recruiters in the game."
"We're excited to have Yanni join our staff here at Vanderbilt," said Stallings in the school's official press release. "He is a superb young coach with a tireless work ethic, and is also an outstanding recruiter and evaluator of talent. We look forward to him working with our student-athletes and the entire Commodore basketball family."
Prior to Harvard, Hufnagel served as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma for two years where he organized the Sooners recruiting database and worked as a assistant during OU practices. Oklahoma won 53 games during his tenure, reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament in 2009. He's noted for assisting in the development of eventual No. 1 NBA pick and all-star Blake Griffin during his time in Norman.
He joined Oklahoma after a summer internship with the NBA's New Jersey Nets. While there he helped organize the Nets draft preparations and other basic basketball operations. He was also a special assistant to head coach Lawrence Frank.
"Good hire for Kevin Stallings. Relentless recruiter," CBS Sports basketball analyst Jeff Goodman tweeted on Thursday.
"GREAT hire for Kevin Stallings," tweeted Sports Illustrated analyst Andy Glockner.
"Huge congrats to my good friend Yanni Hufnagel on his new job at Vandy. He will be an UNBELIEVABLE addition to our program," said recent Vanderbilt graduate and basketball manager Daniel Marks.
A graduate of Cornell University in 2006, Hufnagel served as a team manager for the Big Red and then head coach Steve Donahue. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Labor Relations while at Cornell and achieved his masters from Oklahoma in 2010.
"I couldn't be more excited to join Coach Stallings and the rest of his outstanding staff here at Vanderbilt," said Hufnagel in the school's official press release. "Coach Stallings is not only recognized as one of the best coaches in college basketball, but also as one of the most family-driven. Vanderbilt's brand is a powerful one and I am truly humbled to have the opportunity to represent such an elite institution. I look forward to becoming a part of the Vanderbilt community, getting going on the court with our current players, and hitting the recruiting trail."
While Frederick's future destination is not official, the 14-year Commodore assistant is expected join a power conference team under a similar role to the one he enjoyed while at Vanderbilt.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Frederick joined Stallings first staff in 1999-2000 after a serving as an assistant to the Tar Heels junior varsity program for a year. Frederick saw his role grow at VU over the years from basketball operations personnel to trusted floor assistant and opponent scouting, to recruiting coordinator.
Frederick played a key role in the recruitment of several players from first an administrative stand point to later as a road recruiter. The Kansas native also helped in the development of several Commodore stars including John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor. Vanderbilt appeared in a school record five NCAA tournaments during the last seven years, and captured a SEC Tournament championship in 2012.
He leaves VU as the SEC's most active tenured assistant coach.
"While we are excited for Yanni's arrival, we will surely miss Brad, both personally and professionally," said Stallings. "He joined me as a young man right out of college when I arrived here at Vanderbilt in 1999, and he has grown into a tremendous, well-rounded coach. He has done a tremendous job for me and for the entire program for the last 14 years, and we wish him, his wife Jocelyn, and their two children, Ben and Carson, all of the best in their new endeavors."
Vanderbilt is coming off of a 16-17 season in 2012-2013 that saw the Commodores show improvement as the season went on. VU did take a hit with the recent transfer of freshman Sheldon Jeter, but the rest of the team will return in the fall, led by All-SEC candidate Kedren Johnson. The Commodores will also have the services of talented Tulsa transfer Eric McClellan and welcome in Rivals150 power forward Damian Jones.
Hufnagel's arrival could be very important for the future of the program as he joins the staff while VU has a projected four to five scholarship spots to work with towards the 2014 and 2015 classes.