Basketball has to be the toughest professional sport in the United States. Just do the numbers. Major league baseball teams have 25-man rosters while more than 53 guys make up the rosters of NFL teams. Only 12 to 15 men sit on an NBA bench which means there are roughly 400 professional basketball players in the country. And the entire world is trying to become the next NBA star. That’s why I like to focus my attention on the unsung heroes in the game. Yanni Hufnagel is just one of those heroes.
Yanni Hufnagel grew up in New York and fell in love with basketball. He’s also Jewish. Which, if you didn’t know, is extremely rare in high-level basketball. He realized he couldn’t play at a very high level so he turned his attention to coaching.
He got his first big break at Harvard University. He recruited some big names and was also responsible for coaching the perimeter players. And he did a killer job of opponent scouting which led the Crimson to an Ivy League title. The Harvard basketball team was also able to crack the NCAA tournament in 2012 and 2013.
He then went south to Vanderbilt in 2014 where he was able to put together a top-30 recruiting class. And all of this incredible work came from some pretty humble beginnings.
He was a graduate assistant at the University of Oklahoma. He put in a lot of hard work to create a recruiting database and he was phenomenal at reaching out to the best basketball players in the country. The Sooners got all the way to the Elite Eight in 2009 with Yanni Hufnagel on board the coaching staff.
In Oklahoma, Yanni Hufnagel developed a deep relationship with NBA star Blake Griffin. You’d often be seen out on the court tossing Griffin basketballs for jump shot practice before he was drafted first overall in 2009. The to maintain a close relationship which is a testament to Yanni Hufnagel’s coaching.