Yanni Hufnagel comes from humble beginnings. He grew up in New York in a predominantly Jewish area and felt a lot of pressure from his community to achieve great things academically. But he had his sites set on the game of basketball. People in his neighborhood thought he was crazy because he was clearly incapable of playing at a high level.
But his love for the game drove him to the University of Oklahoma after graduating from Cornell in 2006. There he would earn a Masters degree while helping the basketball team recruit players. He thought outside the box and created Oklahoma’s comprehensive player database. There he would help Blake Griffin become the number one overall draft pick in 2009 by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Blake Griffin and Yanni Hufnagel still have a good relationship today. Yanni would always be out on the court tossing Blake some passes in order for him to practice his shot.
Yanni Hufnagel was recommended by the coaching staff of Oklahoma to become the head of player recruitment for Harvard University. Ivy League schools focus on academics with athletics being secondary, but Yanni Hufnagel was able to lead the Crimson to an Ivy League championship and two NCAA tournament berths. Harvard University would have four straight 20-win seasons with a team full of the players that Yanni Hufnagel was able to recruit.
Yanni Hufnagel is incredibly personable and relentless in his player recruitment. Players and their families often remark that they enjoy his humble nature while noting that he is always incredibly well-prepared. And that’s why Vanderbilt is so excited to have him now.
He joined Vanderbilt in 2014 and immediately had an impact. His player recruitment skills were yet again on display as Vanderbilt was able to put together a top-30 recruiting class. He serves as a coach for the perimeter players when he is not out recruiting for the Commodores. It’ll be interesting to see what his player recruitment skills can do for a big-name sports school.