Potential. That one word sums up the men’s basketball team at the start of this 2001-2002 hoops season. With three returning starters, three other savvy veterans, and seven rambunctious freshmen, the Red has great upside. Whether it can fulfill some of that potential remains to be seen.
Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, for one, believes his team can fulfill its potential if his players give it their all this coming year.
“I think we’re prepared and we did everything we can and we feel good about it. I think that if we give 100-percent mentally and physically, we’re going to have a good season.”
The squad will have an opportunity to start the year on the right foot in tonight’s game at Canisius College. The Golden Griffins should pose a stern test for Cornell’s young unit. The hosts play a run and gun brand of basketball, as evidenced by its 77.3 points per game and 45 field-goal percentage last season. The team was even more impressive from behind the arc, shooting a healthy 37.8%. This area will be of special concern to a Cornell club that allowed a 46% FG and 35%- 3PT during the 2000-2001 campaign.
The Griffins’ offensive prowess did not go unnoticed by the Cornell coaching staff.
“We discussed it at length this week,” Donahue said. “They spread the floor and all of the guys they recruit can pass, dribble, and shoot. They may be the best team we play in terms of shooting and passing this year.”
Leading the Canisius long-range assault will be junior Toby Foster. The 6-6 sharpshooter led the Griffins in 3-point shooting last season (44.3%) and was third on the team in scoring (10.2 PPG). As seen in its exhibition game last Saturday, he is by no means the Griffins? lone long-range threat. In its 108-67 thrashing of Brock University, Canisius shot an unconscious 11-24 from beyond the arc.
“They do take advantage of the 3-point line,” Donahue added. “We’ve got to be up on their four guys that can really shoot the ball.”
Canisius may be without its interior presence Andrew Bush, however. The 6-8 forward was a preseason third team all MAAC selection. If he is able to play, he will add another dimension to the already strong Griffins attack.
Even if Bush plays, Cornell will enjoy a size advantage. At 6-10, freshman Chris Vandenberg with have a height and length advantage that he can use on both the offensive and defensive ends. Junior Randy Gabler and freshman Eric Taylor also have the necessary size, at 6-9 and 6-7 respectively, to control the interior.
Donahue noted though, that the Red would not go out of its way to pound the ball down low.
“I’m more inclined to stay with our system and let it play out. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a strength for us even though we have a size advantage. We’ll have to see how that develops,” he said.
With a challenging schedule ahead, and a month and half of practicing under its belt, the squad is just thrilled to play an opponent with a different uniform.
“We’ve been banging each other for six weeks and we’d like to see someone besides the red and white shirts,” Donahue noted. “This is what you live for in college basketball. You don’t get too many opportunities as players, and they’re excited.”
Senior co-captain point guard Wallace Prather echoed those sentiments.
“We’re excited to get our first game. We’re sick of beating up on each other, fouling, and scratching. We’re ready for some other competition.”
Archived article by Alex Ip