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The Associated Press | May 13, 2014

Trading hoops for harmonies

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Yale junior Brandon Sherrod would rather sing than play basketball, at least for a year.

Sherrod, a 6-foot-6 forward, is one of the 14 students selected to make up the next version of the Whiffenpoofs, the school's famous male a cappella singing group.

The group, formed in 1909, is comprised of rising seniors who take a year off school to travel the world and perform. Their alumni include composer Cole Porter, former Senator Prescott Bush and many other Yale luminaries.

Sherrod, who grew up playing basketball in Bridgeport and singing in his church choir, said Monday that he spent weeks making what was an extremely tough choice after being tapped to be a "Whiff," a commitment that begins in August.

He said he wanted to stay with the Bulldogs, a team that finished this past season 19-14 and is expect to challenge Harvard for the Ivy League basketball title next season. Yale hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1962.

"This is supposed to be THE year, and you want to play with your guys," he said. "But the Wiffenpoofs is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Sherrod is a political science major, whose ultimate goal is to be mayor of Bridgeport. But he said he also hopes to pursue basketball professionally, and then perhaps form a band. He's has never had any formal voice training, but plays the drums and saxophone and a little keyboard by ear.

He's never traveled anywhere outside the United States, and said he's especially excited because the Whiffenpoofs plan performances in every continent but Antarctica next year, he said.

Yale coach James Jones acknowledges being a little disappointed with the decision. Sherrod started 14 games last season and averaged almost seven points and more than four rebounds per game as a junior.

But Yale is not like other schools. While it is a Division I program, it does not offer sports scholarships, and Jones' said playing ball is not the sole focus of its student-athletes.

"That's one of the things we talk about when we recruit kids is what is available at Yale and the different opportunities their going to have," he said. "Brandon's going to take advantage of one of them, and I understand."

Jones said he's never heard Sherrod sing, but plans to attend a concert or two next year. When they are not touring, the group traditionally performs weekly at Mory's, a famous private club adjacent to the Yale campus.

Sherrod still will have a year of eligibility remaining when he re-enters school in the fall of 2015, and Jones said he'll be welcomed back to the team with open arms.

"[Forward] Justin Sears, our best player, told me if I didn't go, he'd be upset," Sherrod said. "Hearing things like that makes it easier. I'm fortunate to be at Yale and be able to utilize all the gifts that God has given me."

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