A veteran set of guards returns to the Cornell men’s basketball team to anchor the Red this season while freshman Ka’Ron Barnes also enters the mix.
With a newcomer and five guards all returning after productive off-seasons, the Cornell backcourt gives new head coach Steve Donahue a formidable arsenal of weapons at his disposal.
“All those guys are fighting for playing time in the guard position. The competition within the team is really improving,” senior captain Kevin Cuttica said.
Heading the list at point guard for the third straight year is junior Wallace Prather. At the beginning of last season, he was touted as the quarterback of the team. He racked up impressive numbers for the Red: he was second on the team in scoring with an average of 12.7 points per game, and first on the Red in assists (3.4) and steals (2). Prather is on track to surpass Cornell’s all-time assist record.
Poor shot selection and decision making caused his low .365 field goal percentage. Under Donahue, though, Prather will have to redefine his role in the backcourt. He’s become a more typical point guard and will not be asked to carry the team’s scoring burden. He will instead concentrate on increasing his team leading assist total (89) from last year
“I think that I’m still the ‘quaterback’ this year,” Prather. “But I’m trying to get my teammates involved more. Last year, I was asked to shoot a lot. This year I’m trying to pass to the [open man].”
Prather will definitely be one of the key ingredients in Donahue’s inaugural year.
“I have a lot of expectations for Wallace,” the new coach said. “He’s one of the more talented guards in our league. Like a lot of guys, I think that he lost the vision of what he wanted to do when he came in here. His decision making last year on the court wasn’t what [it could have been].”
When Prather needs a rest, Barnes will likely fill his shoes. At 6’0″, 188 pounds, Barnes is a little taller and lankier than the 5’9″, 185 Prather.
“Ka’Ron will definitely be in the mix. He’s mature for a freshman, he works extremely hard and is learning the game. He takes challenges very well. He’ll be an excellent defender,” he said.
Cuttica will be seeing more minutes this year after averaging 21.2 per game last year. He was a role player under former coach Scott Thompson, ready to come off the bench to provide a much needed three-pointer. Donahue wants to exploit Cuttica’s scoring prowess and versatility at the shooting guard position.
“My whole career here has been interesting,” Cuttica divulged. “Freshman year, I lead the team in minutes. They declined last year. I’m really excited to have more of an opportunity to play and score.”
“Kevin’s is a guy who’s made big shots for us,” Donahue said. “He has the ability to do that and I am going to push him to do that. If he’s hitting, we’re a pretty good team.”
Heading into his sophomore year, David Muller is the tallest and most imposing guard for Cornell. At 6’6″, he has proven himself as a defensive force.
“He’s a physical player, probably our best on-the-ball defender,” Donahue claimed.
Muller may be asked to switch from the guard to small forward, depending on whether Donahue wants to use a tall line-up or add speed on the court.
Adding to the depth in the backcourt are sophomore Jacques Vigneault and juniors Pete Carroll and A.J. McGuire. All three will see playing time and provide much-needed relief. Although last year the three combined for an average 20 minutes per game, Donahue has no qualms about inserting any of them into the game, as he intends to use a ten- or eleven-man rotation in the first half of contests.
Despite having to compete with each other for time, the players are united behind a common goal: winning.
Archived article by Amanda Angel