With the hiring of head coach Steven Donahue, the men’s basketball team has undergone a major facelift. One constant throughout this transitional period, however, has been the leadership and dedication of senior tri-captain Kevin Cuttica.
Cuttica has been a leader on and off the court for the last three years. And this year his leadership role has been made official by Donahue with the symbolic ‘C’ being sewn onto his jersey.
The ‘C’ coincidentally represents the first letter of his last name. However, his complete last name has come to exemplify so much more — specifically the commitment, charisma and character that he has provided to the Big Red program.
Cuttica has been committed to the Red for four years now. As a freshman, he stepped into the starting point guard position, starting all 26 games. He logged the most minutes on the team, averaging 8.1 points and 3.2 assists per game. Nevertheless, his strong performance was not indicative of the team’s play.
“We were at the bottom of the league my freshman year,” Cuttica said. “Losing made me even hungrier. I developed a burning desire to turn this program around.”
With the emergence of Wallace Prather in his sophomore year, Cuttica had to adjust his role. Prather took over the starting point guard position, while Cuttica shifted to the shooting guard spot.
“I had mixed emotions that year,” Cuttica said. “As point guard, I was the floor general. Then I had to give up that responsibility.”
Last year, however, was the toughest of Cuttica’s career. Not only was the team suffering in the win column, the Red’s then head coach, Scott Thompson, was battling colon cancer. The two emotionally difficult situations combined to make last season one to forget for Cuttica.
“I loved coach Thompson,” Cuttica said. “We developed a great relationship on and off the court.”
Though Thompson will not be beside Cuttica this year, the Red has anointed an excellent replacement in Donahue. The new head man is optimistic of Cuttica’s play and figures that he will be an integral part of the team’s success.
“Kevin has an excellent feel for the game,” Donahue said. “I want Kevin to feel comfortable shooting it. He needs to be the guy knocking down big shots for us.”
Cuttica believes that the new offense instilled by Donahue will benefit the team. He believes that the motion offense will give him better looks at the basket.
“We are just playing basketball, that is what I thrive off of,” Cuttica said.
Just playing basketball was a large part of his upbringing. Cuttica is the middle child in a family of five, with both of his two younger brothers looking to play college ball. A reason for the large basketball interest in the Cuttica family could be attributed to his father’s love for the game. When he was in college, he played ball at Catholic University.
Cuttica grew up in Hinsdale, Illinois, which is about 20 minutes west of Chicago. During his junior and senior years at Hinsdale Central, he led his team to the Chicago Elite Eight two straight years.
Now, Cuttica is in the college version of the Elite Eight — the Ivy league, in which the field is wide open. All eight teams have strong programs and the two mammoths of the league are not as strong as they have been in the past. Both the Penn Quakers and the Princeton Tigers have lost key starters. This makes Cornell a legitimate contender for the title.
Cuttica and fellow senior tri-captain Ray Mercedes are the only two remaining players from their recruiting class back in 1997. It has been a rollercoaster ride that both want to see end in an Ivy league championship.
Asked if the Red had a shot at the title, Cuttica responded, “Why else are we playing? You gotta believe.”
This confident and supportive attitude have rubbed off on his teammates and have made them believers as well. It is also indicative of his commitment to winning.
The other two C’s representing the ‘C’ on his jersey can be understood by simply engaging in one conversation with Cuttica. He is a down-to-earth, well-spoken business major with high professional aspirations in either sales and trading or investment banking.
Cuttica is a leader who epitomizes the phrase, “to lead by example.” His teammates see him as a player who strongly values academics and understands the importance of a degree from Cornell University. “I would never trade anything for my Cornell experience,” Cuttica said.
And Cornell would never trade anything for Kevin Cuttica.
Archived article by Jason Skolnik