March 6, 2008

10 Questions with Jeff Foote

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Before the basketball team attempts to close out its first-ever undefeated Ivy League season this weekend at Penn and Princeton, junior 7-0 center and Cornell basketball cult hero Jeff Foote played a little one-on-one at Newman Arena with Sun senior writer Lance Williams. Foote could not stop and only hope to contain Williams’ shots from behind the arc.

1. I have a very easy first question for you, what does it feel like to be the Ivy League champions for the first time in 20 years?
It feels really good, when we were down on the court and people stormed it, it was just an awesome feeling. I didn’t really expect to get picked up on the court either, but I did, even though I only rose about five inches …
[Laughing] You just plowed through two of my follow up questions with that response, about storming the court and being lifted up by the fans, but I’m a professional so I’ll improvise. How exactly did the lift-up happen, was one guy just the legend who grabbed one leg and other people took the cue?
Yeah exactly, this one guy just came up to me and asked, “Do you want to go up?”
Do you want to go up? That’s kind of an uncomfortable question for another dude to ask you at that moment.
Yeah I was kind of caught off guard by the question, I was still celebrating and then this guy just asked me out of nowhere if I wanted to go up.
And you’re like, what does that mean exactly?
I kind of realized that maybe he meant picking me up, but I was thinking, I don’t know if you’re going to be able to do it by yourself. Then all of the sudden he just grabs a leg and this other kid comes up from behind me.
So two guys got you up there?
Yeah and then a third guy stabilized from behind.
[Laughing] That guy was key though, don’t diminish his contribution.
No I definitely appreciate that guy.
The stabilization was huge, you could have gone down, broken your neck and then the celebration would have been over, just like that.
Yeah that’s a short celebration right there.
So whoever those anonymous guys are, take solace in the fact that Foote appreciates you.
Especially the guy from behind.
You walked onto St. Bonaventure as a freshman, you then red-shirted and transferred here for this season. First of all, quickly tell everyone the story of how you transferred here, because I know it is a pretty interesting series of events.
Well, my mom met [assistant] coach [Zach] Spiker through [senior] Khaliq Gant’s whole accident, which as you know is pretty sad.
What was your mom doing at the time, why did she meet him?
She was the head nurse at the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital which Khaliq went after the neck injury.
So she told Spiker, listen my son balls, could you help him out?
She said, “I have a son who plays basketball, he’s seven feet tall,” and coach Spiker was like, “Really?” And then one thing led to another …
And the rest is history. When you walked onto St. Bonaventure as a freshman, did you ever in your wildest dreams think that you’d be playing, first of all, for Cornell and, second of all, as a key contributor for the Ivy League champions?
No, not at all. Bonaventure was a whole different place. I went from being the really, really smart kid on the team, to one of the not so smart kids at Cornell.
[Laughing]
At Bonaventure, kids would ask me questions because they thought that I knew everything. We also weren’t very good, so I never pictured playing for a championship there.
So a little tradeoff, you become a champion but also become one of the dumbest players on the team?
[Laughing] I wouldn’t say that.
Your words, not mine.
I wouldn’t say one of the dumbest, I would just say that there are some other guys on the team who might be a little smarter than myself.
OK, fair enough.

2. Before I get into any predictions, tell me what your night was like on Saturday?
You know, I was very tired after the celebration on the court.
I bet.
It took a lot out of me, so I just kind of went home, had a soda …
Had a soda?
Yeah, I watched a movie and then went to bed. It was a very low-key night for me.
I am sensing some sarcasm.
No not at all. You know, 21 means 21, and I am a law-abiding citizen.
Oh you’re killing me over here. So you were not in Johnny O’s, by any chance?
Oh no, I’ve never been to the establishment.
And you certainly were not intoxicated?
No no, I’ve never had a sip of alcohol. You know, at church my mom gave me a glass of wine one Christmas, but that’s about it.
Of course, that’s all you’ve ever done.
That’s it.
[Laughing] Now I don’t even know where to take this, I had quite a series of questions lined up. How do I put this? OK, I understand that you adamantly deny attending Johnny O’s as a law-abiding underage man, but at one point during the night, and once again certainly not at Johnny O’s, did you ever go on top of a table and do your thing?
Well I had to get a soda before I went to bed, and on the way I saw a kitten in the middle of College Avenue that was about to get run over by a car.
Is that right?
So I jumped out and saved it. And then this old lady was like, “Wow, you’re awesome! Come on in.”
[Laughing]
So there were a bunch of fellow college students around, there was a big TV in her place, and we were on SportsCenter, so somebody said to me, “Hey we can’t see you. Why don’t you stand up there.” So I thought, that’s a great idea and hopped on the table and started dancing.
Wow, I’m speechless. Where was this exactly?
It was outside in Collegetown somewhere.
Outside? There was a table outside?
No, not outside, I saved the kitten outside, but then we went into some building. It was dark in there and I couldn’t really see, so it’s hard for me to say exactly where it was.
I’ve got you. It makes perfect sense to me. Did you happen to go to 407 College Avenue later that night?
You know some friends were there and I accompanied them to an apartment there, yes.
Do you think you might have had too many sodas, and possibly got sick there?
No, I didn’t.
Is it possible you threw up on their floor?
No, definitely not, that never happened.
If it did happen, would you apologize to them?
Certainly, I know the lovely ladies that live there and I know they wouldn’t appreciate it if I did something like that. But luckily for me, that never happened so I don’t need to worry about it.
And if that were to have happened, your teammates would have been nice enough to clean it up for you, right?
Sure, they’re outstanding enough gentlemen to do that.
I’ve never had a question quite like that before, nicely done man.

3. Usually I ask for predictions in the first question but this one is just too important to do that. So first things first, will you guys take care of business this weekend and finish out the Ivy League undefeated?
Yes, I believe so.
You believe so?
Definitely.
There you go. Now you guys haven’t beaten Penn at their house in 18 years, you already predicted the victory but give me a score. And tell me about your role in the game.
Penn’s a pretty decent Ivy League team, they gave us a tough run here last time we played them.
Yeah, they’re a decent team who has won the Ivy League the past three years and 11 out of the last 15 times.
Yeah they’re not bad, that’s not too shabby. I am going to say Cornell by 12.
OK, I like that. Now will it be a late surge by you guys, as you always seem to do, or will it be wire-to-wire type thing?
I think it is going to be pretty steady throughout the game.
And Jeffrey Foote has what and what?
I’m going to say a double-double maybe. 10 and 10 sounds good.
A couple of blocks for good measure and at least one dunk.
Of course.
Princeton, same question.
They’re another solid team, you can’t take them too lightly. But I think we’re going to be real fired up to go undefeated so I’ll say Cornell by 16 or 18.
Do me a favor, there is a kid on Princeton who went to high school with me, his name is Noah Savage, he’s a big shooter.
Yeah, I know Savage.
Good, do me a favor and give him a little shot to the ribs for me, maybe incorporate some trash talk. Last year I was heckling him and he lit us up in a double OT game for over 30, so make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Well you know I don’t need to really give him any inspiration; we don’t need him going off for 30 again.
Gotcha, just do your thing man. Just to publicize how good you guys are this year, I wanted to throw some more stats at you. If you win either of the games this weekend, you will set both a school record for overall wins (which is currently 20) and Ivy League wins (12).
I didn’t even know that.
Exactly, I mean Cornell has been here a long time. How does that feel?
That’s exciting, I guess.
[Laughing] I can really sense the excitement in your voice. Let’s move to the big question, right now on ESPN Bracketology, you guys are predicted to be a No. 13 seed playing No. 4 UConn in Charlotte. Let’s assume that this hypothetical scenario becomes reality, will the team win?
Oh yeah.
There was not even hesitation there.
I think a lot of people look at us as some bum Ivy school. But [sophomores Ryan] Wittman and Louis [Dale] are going to go off on these guys. When we played Syracuse, we weren’t really ready, but we played Duke pretty tough, so I think it will be a shocker. It is an upset in the making.
That’s what I’m talking about Foote. You want to guarantee it here first, upset in the first round of The Dance?
I’m not going to guarantee anything.
What do you mean? You just said the Red will win.
I’m confident that we’re going to win but I don’t want to guarantee it because then our opponent might get a hold of it and people would get mad at me.
Do you think that many people read 10 Questions outside of Cornell? I don’t think so.
Well all it takes is a couple people to say, hey look what this guy said and then I’m the jackass that’s guaranteeing games.
We wouldn’t want that. The other predicted No. 4 seeds are Purdue, Notre Dame and Indiana, which one would you rather play?
I think we match up well with Purdue, so I will say them.
My feeling is that if Cornell wins out, you’ll get at least a No. 13 seed if not a No. 12 and then that opens up the possibility of playing teams like Drake or Butler, and they’re just honestly not that much better than you guys.
Right and people are going to take us lightly, so I think that’s really going to help us.
What is the farthest you think the team could go in the tournament?
I don’t want to sell us short.
George Mason?
Yeah, I think we could pull a George Mason, I don’t want to sell us short we have a solid team.
You’re not a short guy.
I’m not a short guy, that’s truth. I believe we could go to the Final Four.
There it is; I love it.

4. Let’s get to some funny stuff that I’ve heard about you. This one cracked me up, do you hate squirrels?
With a passion. With a passion.
[Laughing] Please tell me how that came about.
This summer I had an apartment on Stewart street and I’ll set the scene up for you a little bit. I lived on the third floor and, for whatever reason, there were no screens on my window and it got ridiculously hot during the summer so I usually opened the windows to get a breeze.
Sure, sure.
One morning I left for work, my computer was laying on my desk and there was some food next to it. I left the window open maybe one half of an inch, maybe that much.
And the squirrel weaseled his way in there?
He must have been Houdini or something because I have no idea how this squirrel did it. So I come back in, I see my laptop on the ground, and I see the squirrel with popcorn or something in his mouth staring back at me. And then he just takes off out the window, I look back down to my laptop and the screen is shattered.
Oh wow. A squirrel screwed you over?
He got me good, and now I hate the little bastards.
[Laughing] Do you think he had it out for you or just that he way trying to get the food?
I really don’t know, but he could have easily just grabbed the food and gotten out of there.
How could he move the computer?
Exactly.
Was he the world’s strongest squirrel?
He could have been, I think he was on ‘roids or something. I’m still baffled to this day.
I mean where are Senator Mitchell and the House Oversight Committee when you need them? Let’s get to work on cleaning up the squirrel population boys. Is it possible, though, that someone set it up to make it look like a squirrel did it?
No, it was definitely that squirrel.
Are there any other traumatic experiences you’ve had with squirrels?
Not a squirrel incident, but there was a raccoon incident in the same house.
Oh Jesus.
Keep in mind I’m on the third story, a raccoon went up three flights, broke into my kitchen and ate my food. I was in the other room taking a nap, I heard a loud thud and I’m like, “Not again.”
He’s back!
I open the door and see this raccoon and I’m like, “Wow, this is awesome. I live in a tree house infested by squirrels, raccoons and God knows what else.”
[Laughing] This is unbelievable, I assume you don’t live there anymore.
I moved out, thank God.
If you faced 50 angry squirrels in a cage match, who would win?
Definitely me, I would just be punting squirrels, stomping on them, it would be ugly. You know that Geico commercial where the squirrels run out in front of the car and it swerves off the road and then they high-five. I always wanted that car to just run those bastards over. That’s my dream.
Not a bad dream Foote. Keep working to make that a reality.

5. Even though you’re a varsity basketball player, I hear you have quite a bit of free time, what do you do with it?
Well, I tend to play some poker.
I’m a poker player as well, do you play online?
I do, I play on UltimateBet.com, and that takes up some of my free time.
Well I’m kind of surprised by that answer because I was going for some other stuff.
I think I know what you’re going for.
[Laughing] I’m just going to bring the fury on you right now. [Junior Brian] Kreefer told me when he did 10 Questions that he loves junk TV, would you also say that you partake in this phenomenon?
Yeah, I’m a big junk TV guy.
For instance?
[Laughing] I think I know what you want, I’m a big-time pro wrestling guy.
No we’re talking about the same pro wrestling that everyone watched when they were in about sixth grade, right?
Yeah the WWE.
That is fairly embarrassing.
Well I don’t know about that, that’s your opinion.
I have heard that you watch Monday Night Raw every week, is this true?
Yeah, religiously, every week.
Tell me what the deal is with that?
Well it’s a great show, it provides quality entertainment, some excitement. It just boosts my Mondays a little bit.
Do you think it’s real?
Well I’ve had this debate before and I will say that some of it has to hurt.
Absolutely, I’ll give you that.
Granted some of the stuff is fake and ridiculously bad but some of it has to hurt, and that is the stuff that I enjoy.
I agree and they are incredible athletes, but it’s so cheesy.
I don’t know about that, they’re fun to watch.
OK no more hating on you for that, any other junk TV shows?
I was a big “I Love New York” fan. That was a great show.
Kreefer likes that one as well. Is it over now?
Yes, unfortunately.
Do you and Kreefer ever snuggle up together and watch a nice little episode of “My Super Sweet 16” or something like that?
You must be mistaking me for [junior] Conor Mullen.
[Laughing] Yeah I’ve heard that but I was also thinking that, since you guys both love junk TV, maybe sometimes he substitutes you for Conor and you guys snuggle instead.
No, those two have a special bond that, you know, they like to do whatever.
They like to do whatever?
I’m just saying I’ve come home on more than one occasion and those two have been alone in the room, lying in the same bed.
Shirts, off or on?
Both.
Interesting. Pants, off or on?
Usually on. But sometimes Kreef will be in his boxers.
OK, this is getting out of control. Moving right along, I hear you can’t get enough of the WWE on TV so you play it on XBOX or something?
Yeah, GameCube. I have a big championship match coming up this Sunday.
[Laughing] You’re waiting out for Sunday?
Yeah, I got to the match last night but I was too tired to play it, and I didn’t want to do it tonight because I’ll probably be tired after practice too …
[Interrupts] Right, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game.
Yeah, Sunday it’s on.
Who do you play as in the game, yourself?
I made a guy but not myself, because I couldn’t figure it out. So I just made some generic guy. But he’s cool, he’s a good guy.
I’m sure he is.

6. Let’s talk about food for a second, you’re a large guy and must eat a lot, what’s your favorite food?
Chicken wings, without question.
Once again no hesitation. How often would you say you eat wings?
I try to eat them every night.
Every night of the week? That’s impressive, where do you get them from, Wings over Ithaca?
You know I was just recently turned onto Wings Over Ithaca when we got the free food there this past weekend. But usually I go to Collegetown Pizza, Bethe House and Becker also have incredible wing nights and RPU used to be up there, but now they only give you like four.
Yeah they dropped off, you know your wings man. Do you go with bones or boneless?
With bones.
I would encourage you to go honey barbecue boneless at Wings Over Ithaca, try it out and see what happens. It’s a whole new world.
Yeah I agree I’ve actually had them, they’re amazing.
Every night, huh? That can’t be healthy. Does your personal trainer tell you that’s OK.
He gave me the green light.
Nice. What about any type of sauce?
Hot sauce is my favorite.
You’re a hot sauce man. Conor told me that you once got two cases of Frank’s hot sauce for free and he said that he’s never seen you happier in your life. Would you agree with that assessment?
I would agree. One day in food merchandising this lady brought in lots of samples and no one wanted the hot sauce. There were two cases of big bottles and I offered to take them off her hands for her, she said “Go for it.”
And it worked out for you? How many bottles have you gotten through so far?
I’m on bottle number three.
Out of?
25 probably.
Wow, she basically gave you like a lifetime supply.
Yeah, it’s good, I’m going to use them as Christmas gifts.

7. So the team has clearly stepped up its game on the court, have you stepped up your game off the court as well?
No I don’t think I have.
You haven’t stepped it up?
No I’ve kind of dropped the ball in that area.
Well you’re young.
Exactly and I’m sort of new to the whole experience, I recently broke up with my girlfriend.
Oh, I’m sorry about that. When did you guys break up?
A month and a half ago. So I’m new to the whole experience.
The bachelor experience.
Yeah, plus some of my teammates tend to go in that direction, I’m not going to mention any names.
In what direction?
The one night stand direction, but I am more someone who likes to get to know a person first.
That’s very nice of you.
I get picked on for it sometimes, but that’s just my style.
Ryan Wittman sent me an article on serioussportsnewsnetwork.com that claims differently. It says that you “totally nailed” a girl after the game, any comment on that?
Well I’m going to get my lawyer for that one because obviously I was misquoted.
[Laughing]
No, but it was a funny article.
To continue with the quote you apparently said, “It was pretty easy. She just sort of came up to me and said, ‘I want to go home with you.’ It was awesome, actually. I felt like a really tall, smart, white version of Tracy McGrady.” What do you think about that?
That’s just a funny quote man.
You certainly did not say that.
Yeah but one of my ultimate goals in life is to appear on Family Guy, and I guess if these guys are writing parodies about me, I’m well on my way.
There you go. The article is a spoof, but do you think that it also has a point when it claims that when the team won, all the good karma allowed some students to get laid who normally wouldn’t that night?
As much as it’s a stereotype, I don’t think the basketball guys are that sleezy, if you will.
I’m not even talking about basketball, just the school in general.
Well, like I said, I don’t really know what happened that night. I kind of went to bed early.
Right, you were tired.
I was very tired and sick too, which didn’t help.
You did get sick.
Well, I had the flu.
Yeah, something like that.
No I actually had the flu.
OK, take it easy, I believe you.

8. You’re very tall …
Thank you.
You’re welcome. [Laughing] Seven feet tall to be exact, when did you become this big?
I think it was freshman year of college when I hit 7-0. I was 6-4 in 10th grade and 6-9 in 11th and then between 6-10 and 6-11 my senior year of high school. So it was a really quick spurt there.
Did you like or dislike growing that much?
When it first happened, I didn’t like it because I was very awkward. Easy things were very hard.
For instance?
Running was not my forte.
[Laughing] Just in general, running.
Yeah and my hand-eye coordination went way down. You know, jumping rope was never a big plus in my book.
When did you first think, “Wow, I’m really freaking tall?”
When I was taller than my dad who is 6-11. Then I was like, “Wow, I’m the tallest guy in my family now.”

9. The guys tell me that they call you and coach Spiker “Rob and Big.”
Well, coach Spiker brought me in, so we’ve always had a little bond. And we show similarities to the MTV show “Rob and Big” because I’m really big and he’s kind of a short guy.
This is true.
They also make fun of us about being best friends, like after we won some big games this year coach Spiker gave me a hug.
That’s cute.
So now they keep saying that the two of us are like Rob and Big.
From your tone, I infer that you obviously don’t appreciate it that much.
It’s kind of funny in a way, because I do notice that we are closer than many of the other player/coach relationships.
Have you seen the show?
I have, it’s a good show.

10. Who is the hottest women’s team at Cornell?
I’m going to go with the cheerleaders. … They’re always at our games and they don’t get a lot of attention or love.
What do you think about their acrobatic skills?
I haven’t really gotten much of a chance to watch them.
You’re too focused?
Yeah, I’m into the game. I’ve heard that they have some good moves though.
Do you think they are a varsity team?
They do, so I’ll be a supporter.

10 Questions with Lance Williams will appear every Thursday unless a group of rabies-crazed squirrels attacks him in his room. Lance can be contacted at lwilliams@cornellsun.com.