During winter break, the men’s basketball team got a behind-the-scenes look at both the Supreme Court and the “Highest Court in the Land,” as the fifth-floor basketball court is affectionately called.

Associate Justice Elena Kagan, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1986, played tour guide for the team. She shared stories about her career; clerking for Justice Thurgood Marshall; playing hoops in the highest court’s gym (the concrete floor, which has since been replaced with hard wood, was hard on her knees); and the “cloistered” nature of her work.

“It’s an amazing thing our coach does for us in putting people like Justice Kagan in front of us,” said team captain Henry Welsh ’20. “He’s always been interested in developing us as citizens, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn off the court.”

The team’s friendship with Kagan was born when she attended the 2019 Martin Luther King Day game, at which Harvard played Howard University in Washington, D.C. Back in the capital last month for another match with Howard, the team met Chief Justice John Roberts and acting inspector general for the Department of Defense Glen Fine ’79, a former point guard for the Crimson.

“Justice Kagan seemed to be very down to earth. Her day-in-the-life is very reading- and writing-extensive, a lot of it, by nature, secretive. The word she used is ‘cloistered,’” said Welsh, a forward. “A lot of the questions were about who influenced her, and she talked a lot about what a profound impact Thurgood Marshall had on her, the way he was able to think four, five, even six steps ahead.”


For Harvard hoops, an off-court education

On a Southern swing, men’s basketball team meets former President Carter and visits Martin Luther King Jr.’s church and gravesite

If at first you don’t succeed…

Elena Kagan offers new law students advice — and a shot of confidence