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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

N.Y. Times, Page B11: “MIT Guard Shows Brains and Hoops Can Mix” by Matt McGann '00

Jimmy Bartolotta '09 leads the 16-5 MIT Men's Varsity Basketball team.

I subscribe to the New York Times (paper edition!) and reading it on my daily commute is one of the joys of waking up each morning. So I was quite surprised when I got to page B11 (national edition) of the sports section and saw a giant article on the MIT men’s basketball team, and guard Jimmy Bartolotta ’09.

One of the great things about sports at MIT is that the academic bar isn’t lowered for athletes. Earlier this year, we had a speaker series in the Admissions Office. We asked a number of faculty members to come and speak about their academic departments, and to bring along one of their top students to provide the undergraduate perspective. One faculty member brought Jimmy, who was clearly a pretty good student. Imagine the staff’s surprise when he told us that his future wasn’t a PhD or a high-paying Wall Street job, but rather professional basketball (!). He plans to play in Europe next year (maybe with Kobe Bryant?).



M.I.T. Guard Shows Brains and Hoops Can Mix


At first, Jimmy Bartolotta laughed at the thought of bringing his considerable basketball skills to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, envisioning a comical scene of ball-playing nerds, the rocket scientists of tomorrow, being stomped game after game by teams filled with dumb jocks. But he wound up there anyway, leading his team and his conference in scoring. Now he wants to destroy the myth that eggheads cannot play.

Bartolotta is a double major in physics and management sciences and expects to graduate in the spring with a grade-point average of 4.6 out of a maximum 5.0. He would be a sure thing to land a lucrative job in business or science, but instead plans on playing professional basketball, probably in Europe. If so, he would become the first player from M.I.T., a Division III program, to play professionally.

“Other coaches will come over to me, shake their heads and say, ‘Where did you get him from?'” M.I.T Coach Larry Anderson said in a telephone interview. “Others have told me he’s good enough to be a first-team all-league selection in the Ivy League. It’s simple: Jimmy is just a player.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Bartolotta is averaging 27.8 points a game, best in the New England Men’s and Women’s Athletics Conference and third best in Division III. He has led the Engineers to a 16-5 record and their best conference start at 7-1.

Anderson found Bartolotta as an all-State player at Heritage High School in Littleton, Colo., where he drew recruiting attention from Division II universities and a handful of Ivy League colleges. But it was M.I.T. that pursued him the hardest. Anderson tried to sell him on the university’s academic excellence, but Bartolotta could not get over the stereotype of an M.I.T. student.

“There was no way I was going to go there,” Bartolotta said. “I thought only nerds went to M.I.T. I didn’t think they could possibly play basketball.”

But when the Ivy League universities hesitated to make an offer, Bartolotta’s parents told him to keep an open mind about M.I.T. Bartolotta did some research on the program, and saw some familiar names on the roster, top players he had played against in high school. Bartolotta also realized he would play right away as a freshman, so he decided to bring his skills to Cambridge, Mass.

An instant success, he was named the conference’s rookie of the year in 2006 and has improved every season. He is the leading scorer in M.I.T. history with more than 2,000 career points. He scored 32 points against Yale in the Engineers’ only meeting this season against a Division I opponent.

He has done it while juggling the academic demands facing all M.I.T. students. Bartolotta said he was far from the smartest student at M.I.T., particularly in his physics courses.

“Some of these kids are off-the-charts smart,” he said.

But he compensates by putting in as many hours as it takes to succeed in the classroom.

“Jimmy goes after his passions in the classroom with the same dedication and drive that he has on the basketball court,” Anderson said. “Anything he puts his mind to, he works his tail off. If Jimmy is a genius, he’s the hardest-working genius I have ever seen.”

Bartolotta said M.I.T. students with good grades often commanded six-figure jobs after graduating. But Bartolotta wants to keep playing basketball, even if it means making less than many of his friends. The N.B.A. is not a realistic goal, he said, but playing in Italy, Spain or Germany is.

“Getting a six-figure contract overseas is not going to be easy, especially for a Division III, M.I.T. player,” he said. “Financially, I could start my career in the real world and be in a better financial situation. If I wanted to play the percentages, I’d be going into the real world. I love playing basketball and the camaraderie of being on a team, and I don’t want that to stop. Money is real. I understand that. But, if I have to, I think there will always be other jobs out there for me.”

In the meantime, Bartolotta hopes to carry M.I.T. to a postseason tournament and then find out where the market for basketball geniuses takes him.


Good luck to Jimmy and the team as they take on the Coast Guard Academy tomorrow night, on their way to the NEWMAC Championship Tournament in three weeks!

68 responses to “N.Y. Times, Page B11: “MIT Guard Shows Brains and Hoops Can Mix””

  1. akhila says:

    Hye Matt,

    That was a lovely and an inspiring post Matt.

  2. lulu says:

    that’s a fierce picture

  3. Anonymous says:


  4. Anonymous says:

    Well that’s something I was definitely not expecting to see.
    But a lot better than Caltech’s basketball team.

  5. Derek says:

    The Caltech basketball team is so much better than MIT! There’s no comparision.

  6. deng says:

    Hey Matt,
    Do you think it would help my application if I send in my AMC score from this year if it comes out in time? I never knew about it before, so didn’t have it on my application. I’d just like to give the admissions officers a better perspective on how I compare academically through a standardized score.

    Btw, how many applicants were there this year for RA (including deferred from EA)?


  7. Anonymous says:

    hey how’s M.I.T in track and field? i’m on the track team in high school and i hope to go to M.I.T and i was wondering if i could get M.I.T with that and my good grades and scores

  8. Liz says:

    That’s awesome! (Kudos to Mr. Barlotta).
    I noticed that he’s a dual major.
    Is this common at MIT?
    I’d like to do that. It sounds pretty fun. smile

  9. Liz (again) says:

    Also, Mr. McGann, The New York Times rocks!
    It must be nice having the paper version to physically manipulate and rumple, but I like the online version because of its brilliant vocabulary-improving possibilities.
    I wonder what you think of Professor Fish’s column and his views on the role colleges should play in education. I vehemently disagree with most of that man’s viewpoints.

  10. rohan says:

    i am indian with a mexican email id…lol….
    anyways, my interview was not up to the mark means it was not that healthier as it should had been…

    i fear that can spoil my chances of making it to MIT
    kindly respond to this fear of mine..
    please reply
    please reply
    please reply
    please reply
    matt please reply……..

  11. rohan says:

    i am indian with a mexican email id…lol….
    anyways, my interview was not up to the mark means it was not that healthier as it should had been…

    i fear that can spoil my chances of making it to MIT
    kindly respond to this fear of mine..
    please reply
    please reply
    please reply
    please reply
    matt please reply……..

  12. not matt says:

    it’s already out, so don’t worry about it.
    besides, somewhere around, there’s something that says that interviews can only help you, not hurt you :D

  13. Wow, awesome! A MIT student and basketball player? This is even cooler than I thought about MIT! :D

    I’ll def take up some kind of sports at MIT :D

  14. Anonymous says:

    @ piper:

    pirates license?

  15. Piper '12 says:

    @Sheila and others interested –

    Sports are great here! Even if you don’t join a varsity sport, you can join a club sport or an intramural team. In any case, you’ll have to take four PE classes (or equivalent) at MIT. PE’s here are a lot of fun, though – I’ve taken archery, pistol, and fencing so far. I plan on taking sailing (among other things – many people take more than 4 classes because PE’s are just fun).

    Anyway, you can find out what’s offered here.

  16. Colton says:

    Congratulations, Jimmy Bartolotta, on being mentioned in the New York Times! Now if only I didn’t quit basketball…

    …Wait a second, the New York Times still has a paper version?

  17. I’ve got a question.. I wrote a project a few months back titled “Feasibility and Guide to Building a Wafer Bridge to the ISS” in which I detailed in about a hundred pages whether it was feasible to build a bridge from the Earth to the International Space Station using wafers (the kind which have cream in the middle), and how it could be done. It’s a detailed and technical paper and it took me a long time and a lot of research to write. I’m wondering whether I should submit this? Would I be considered strange? Is it a good idea? Thanks.
    Btw, I’m applying next year.

  18. Hazem says:

    @’14 Applicant
    I really like your idea. I’m applying this year. If I were an admissions officer I would be interested to read something like this. You’re special. grin

  19. deng says:

    @’14 applicant
    there was an optional part in this year’s application that allowed an applicant to write about a project or idea of his. that offer will probably be opened next year, too. but I’m thinking you shouldn’t send them the entire 100 pages xD

  20. Anonymous says:

    What’s a guard? And isn’t posting an article like that a copyright violation?

  21. I just noticed a typo in my previous comment. I meant Earth. Not the Earth. Sorry about that.

    Anyway. If I don’t send the full project, then how do I choose what to send?

    Hazem and deng (if you’re applying this year): Good luck!

  22. Pranav says:

    Hats off to Jimmy…..Oh yes, eggheads can definitely play and when they do, they kick the non-eggheads pretty well. I dearly hope this example annihilates the ‘myth’. Thanks Matt for blogging this.

  23. deng says:

    @ ’14 applicant
    send an abstract/summary maybe? or w/e you think represents your proj best. anyway, it’s cool that you’re thinking of colleges this early, but you really have plenty of time to work out the details. things can change too.

    and thanks ^_^

  24. Torffick says:

    What a guy!
    A 4.7 and one of the best bball players in MIT history???? now that’s “tough”
    Good luck Jimmy!!! and MIT at the games ahead!
    I’m here in NY rooting for you.

    I am going to play soccer in college–hopefully for MIT–and this is a guy I can definitely learn time management and work ethic from.

    Great post Matt!
    Keep it up Jimmy!!
    Kudos to the NYTimes!!!

  25. Anonymous says:

    i have been an athlete my entire life, and i would be willing to do research to prove that being smart makes you a better athlete, and being an athlete makes you smarter.

  26. Utkarsh says:

    That’s so cool !!
    I could never imagine students at MIT were so good at sports too. Well, now I have another strong reason to just love MIT.

  27. Abdel-karim says:

    @’14 applicant

    Thats a great idea! This year, I submitted an idea I had, as a kid, about how to look into the past (it is physically impossible, but it shows the adcom that I was willing to take risk, as a kid and, now). your paper will show the adcom the same thing (even more than my 8-year-old-one-page idea). I think you should send a summary of your research paper. . .maybe even send in the 100 page paper just to show that its real (they definitely won’t read it though). Good luck!!

  28. deng says:

    technically, we’re always looking at the past because we’re always looking at light that reflected off of w/e you’re seeing a certain amount of time ago :-D

  29. Thanks! I think I’ll do that. I’ll send a summary, and the project by mail. Rather, a copy of the project. I doubt it shows that I’m a risk taker though. That question was really bothering me so I decided to solve it once and for all. My dad thought I’d gone crazy, but I couldn’t sleep properly till I’d answered it.

  30. And yes, deng is right. It is technically possible to look both at the past and future. It’s the present that’s the hard part.

  31. deng says:

    the future?? O_o

  32. mikey says:

    @ ’14 Applicant

    Not really, you can just go into a room and turn off all the lights.

  33. Mikey: Yea, but then you don’t see anything and that sort of defeats the point.

    Deng: Yea. The future. Something to do with travelling extremely fast. Stephen Hawking’s book talks about it. A Brief History of Time. Or A Briefer History of Time. Whichever suits you.

  34. deng says:

    but you’d have to travel faster than light

  35. Aditya says:

    Yea. Which requires an infinite amount energy. That’s why we haven’t done it yet… Pathetic, isn’t it? We can only look into the past.

  36. Abdel-karim says:

    @’14 Applicant: I think what you’re referring to is called the twin paradox. If you go fast you need energy. So, if you’re going really fast you’ll have a lot of energy. Thus, you would bend space and time. The bending of time would make the journey seem shorter, while in fact it was longer for a person not affected by the bend in the space-time continuum (someone who is stationary). So, if it takes shorter time for a person traveling, then in essence he would be looking into the future (that’s because a person who is stationary would age faster), thus, your technically in the future, relative to you, and the guy who on earth is in the past relative to him.

    @deng: You do not have to travel at light speed. You can be just below it though.

    @mikey: your neither, in the past, or the present, or the future if you do what you say, because we base our “position in time” on the light around us. If there is no light, we cannot give a definite position.

    Hope this helps!

  37. ak says:

    I got a score of 108 out of 120 in Toefl(ibt).Is it good enough for getting admitted as a transfer student in MIT?

  38. Anonymous says:

    @ ’14

    do u play a sport at a highly competitive level? if not, it’s nothing against you, but it’s experience that you’re lacking in the matter. when the level of the sport is very competitive, take AAA hockey for example, one must be able to “think on their feet.” this causes a hockey player be very good at reading and reacting to situations in a calm and contstructive manner. this in turn benefits this athlete in a learning environment. that is just one of many examples.

    and imo, being smart helps someone in just about any circumstance, and i could pick one of a million examples, but you get the point.

  39. Omg. Abdel-karim if you don’t get into MIT then I’m not gonna bother applying.

    Anonymous above me- Thinking fast is one thing, but athletics includes stuff like running or javelin throwing and stuff. How does intelligence play a role there?

  40. Abdel-karim says:

    I’m probably not ganna get in. My grades are not good. It’s just that I have a passion for something. Make sure you show the people that read your application, that you are passionate about something, no matter how insignificant or stupid you may think it is! Good Luck next year!

  41. I don’t know what an abstract is, but a summary won’t do it justice. =(
    I was hoping for a reply from Matt, but he’s probably too busy to reply to comments.
    Oh well. I’ll figure something out.

    @Anonymous who posted after me: I’m willing to do research proving there’s no link between the two..

  42. My grades are terrible too. -__- I spend way too much time following my passion. Sob.

  43. Hazem says:

    @’14 Applicant
    As a sprinter I can definitely say that practicing sports has to do with intelligence. To be a good sprinter you need to master the technique and need to control your body and feel how it is like to sprint, and believe me this requires intelligence…maybe another sort of intelligence(I mean not the traditional intelligence in maths etc.), but after all intelligence is relative and there is no specific definition for it.
    Nice post about the twin paradox. You’re absolutely right. I’m also interested in Physics and the relativety theory. I actually bought a book about it in 8th grade. I think if u travel at the speed of light there will be no time at all. Good luck with ur application!!

  44. I’d call that understanding. You need to understand your body. I don’t understand where intelligence figures into this.

  45. hey matt…i know that this entry is not about it, but can you tell me a little bit about how apllying to M.I.T.?
    because i’m from brazil, and i’d like to apply there, but i dont know where to start doing…so if you could tell me what to do i would be really thankfull…and what about scholarships, how can a person get one?…what does this person must havve to be accepted on a scholarship or even a normal student.I mean, what skills, what this person must do, this kind of stuff…
    and also, i’m from brazil and as far as i know here we don’t have tests like S.A.T and other tests that you guys accept, so what should i do?..i am at our brazillian high school, is there a test that i can do that can be recorded on your admissions office, so when i aplly you can evaluate this tests and a recent one?…

    if you could help me i would be really thankfull…


  46. Abdel-karim says:

    @ Hazem: Hey! Really, which one did you read. The best ones are those by Stephen Hawking and Richard Feynman. Albert Einstein and many other Physicist make the work more incomprehensible. Stephen Hawking tries to simplify everything (which is good). If you want to read another one you should read Universe in a Nutshell.

  47. Anonymous says:

    @brazilian guy: Hey, I’m not matt but I think I could answer you questions. . .

    1) If you are a senior (meaning you’re in your last year of school), you cannot apply; the deadline was the 3rd of January. If you are a junior, you should wait until next september, then, go on the site “” When you’re there, you start a new account. It’s very user friendly.

    2) I can’t speak for the admissions office, but, what you want are great scores (above 2000 in the SAT, above 1400 in the SAT II, and a good GPA, which is about 3.7-4), you also need to be involved in activities like community service, sports, clubs, etc..

    3) I am quite sure that there is the SAT in Brazil. I think the only countries that don’t have the SAT are North Korea, and Iran. So, you should go to this site ( ) and try to find test centers in Brazil.

    Good Luck

  48. Abdel-karim says:

    @brazilian guy: Hey, I’m not matt but I think I could answer you questions. . .

    1) If you are a senior (meaning you’re in your last year of school), you cannot apply; the deadline was the 3rd of January. If you are a junior, you should wait until next september, then, go on the site “” When you’re there, you start a new account. It’s very user friendly.

    2) I can’t speak for the admissions office, but, what you want are great scores (above 2000 in the SAT, above 1400 in the SAT II, and a good GPA, which is about 3.7-4), you also need to be involved in activities like community service, sports, clubs, etc..

    3) I am quite sure that there is the SAT in Brazil. I think the only countries that don’t have the SAT are North Korea, and Iran. So, you should go to this site ( ) and try to find test centers in Brazil.

    Good Luck

  49. Aaraventin says:

    Great post…quite inspirational.

    For those of us trying to beat the admission anxiety, there are a bunch of puzzles at to check out.

    My favourite is called Burning Rope:
    There are two lengths of rope.
    Each one can burn in exactly one hour.
    They are not necessarily of the same length or width as each other.
    They also are not of uniform width (may be wider in middle than on the end), thus burning half of the rope is not necessarily 1/2 hour.
    By burning the ropes, how do you measure exactly 45 minutes worth of time?

    Enjoy and good luck!

  50. Aaraventin says:

    My apologies!
    The website can be found at:

  51. Isra says:

    Jimmy’s plans for his future is a clear indication that all of us should do things that we are passionate about…that way, life seems so much more colorful smile. Great post Matt!

  52. Anonymous says:

    Many athletes are highly intelligent. Strategy is an important part of sport. I’ve noticed this particularly in distance running, where the most mature and experienced athletes often defeat younger opponents. It’s also evident in team sports such as soccer and basketball, where it’s important to think a few plays ahead (similar to chess). Sports also teach skills (teamwork, etc) that are valuable to success in other endeavors. Exercise of all kinds is proven to benefit the brain.

  53. Hiral Patel says:

    Forty-Fifth !!! now please don’t count to prove me wrong… smile

  54. hoolio says:

    G12SN1 hi! hooli?

  55. EA'13 says:

    ’14 Anonymous…Why would you say this:

    Google “Twin Paradox” and come up with the same answer.

  56. Anonymous says:

    need new blog post. am dying.

  57. EA ’13: I don’t understand your question.

  58. Indian says:

    hey matt!!

    I am an international candidate applying for this year. I was just wondering what the admission officers will look for in a candidate. I have a good rank, score report. Also I have sent my music portfolio. Will these help me to get in? Thanks a lot for the help

  59. Hazem says:

    sorry for posting late but i’m ver busy these days.
    The book I read was translated to Arabic (and another scripts in German about the relativety theory my maths teacher gave me in 8th grade)
    Thanks! I’ll definitely read Universe in a Nutshell. Do u know any good books about the string theory?

  60. Hazem says:

    The Arabic book was about many scientists. It wasn’t about a specific theory but it included a chapter about Einstein.
    correction: realativity theory!!

  61. Hazem says:

    Thanks a lot!!

  62. Abdel-karim says:

    Well, basically, the best author, in my opinion, is Stephen Hawking. The most famous is A Brief History of Time. He authored other books, like A BriefER History of Time, The Universe in a Nutshell, The Theory of Everything. I haven’t read that many books about String Theory but, there are a few that would interest you: The Elegant Universe. Basically anything by Brian Greene is good!

  63. how says:

    b3b1252054<a>diazepam prescription</a>

  64. thanks a lot abdel-karin and anonymous…that helped me a lot!

    what else do you guys know about scholarships for international students?

  65. Ginkgo says:

    I actually have one more question. ( :

    Will it be possible for me to apply as a freshman?

    I am not sure how MIT’s admissions policies mesh with my community college’s policies. According to my counselor I am able to apply as a transfer student if I have earned 69 transferable credits in specific courses of study, if not I must apply to schools as a freshman.

    Of the 44 credits I earned at the community college, about half were earned while I was a high school student. During my CC year,I chose classes that were interesting, but also had to take care to consider my work schedule. I never declared a major.

    The reason I ask is beeause on it states this on the MIT transfer admissions page:

    If you have completed two or more terms at an accredited college, university, technical institute, military academy or community college, you may apply for transfer admission to MIT.

    After graduating from high school I attended my CC for three semesters, full-time enrollment during the fall and summer semesters, and part-time during the spring semester. I am not sure what that makes of my studies.