Yanni Hufnagel’s meteoric rise through the college basketball coaching ranks is rather impressive. Yanni grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in New York where he would fall in love with basketball. He decided to pursue his basketball dreams despite not being able to play the game at a very high level. He also fought against a lot of pressure for him to pursue an academically-based path.
He would graduate from an Ivy League school with a bachelor of science. After graduating Cornell in 2006, he headed on down to the University of Oklahoma where he served as a student assistant to the basketball team. He helped the team put together a player recruitment database while he earned a Masters of Education. And he did all this while befriending Blake Griffin who would later become the first overall NBA draft pick in 2009 by the Los Angeles Clippers.
It’s no wonder that Blake Griffin would go on to achieve NBA Rookie of the Year. Griffin is a perennial All-Star and his skills were sharpened with the help of Yanni Hufnagel at the University of Oklahoma. Yanni would often stay late to rebound for Griffin while he practiced his jump shot.
The coaches at the University of Oklahoma were so impressed with Yanni’s work ethic that they recommended him to Harvard. He would move to Cambridge-Massachusetts-and become a recruiter for the Crimson. He did not have a lot of resources to work with as the Ivy League school focused the majority of its money on academics rather than athletics. But he was able to put together a team that achieved four 20-win seasons, an Ivy League championship and two NCAA tournament berths.
He has now taken his skills to Vanderbilt. He arrived in 2014 and immediately helped the Commodores achieve a top-30 recruiting class. He recruits players for the Commodores and also serves as a coach for the team’s perimeter players. He was recently recognized by Nike as being an elite-level assistant coach.