March 26, 2003

Collins, Barnes Earn Honors

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After being named Ivy League Rookie of the Week a school-record seven times this season, freshman forward Lenny Collins of the men’s basketball team claimed the league’s highest rookie honor when he was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year on March 12.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be the Ivy League Rookie of the Year,” Collins said yesterday. “It felt good to be rewarded for all the hard work I put in through the summer and through the season.”

Collins wasted no time in announcing his presence as an important component in head coach Steve Donahue’s system. After breaking into the Red’s starting lineup Dec. 28 at La Salle, Collins was a mainstay for the rest of the season, averaging 8.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.6 steals, all of which were tops among Ancient Eight freshmen.

Donahue attributes much of Collins’s success this season to his experience as a high school player at Santa Margarita Catholic.

“Lenny had a huge advantage coming in because of the high school team he played on,” he said. “He was prepared and he had a good sense of how to play already.”

Named the team’s most valuable player three times, the San Juan Capistrano, Calif. native concluded his prep career averaging 16.3 points per game in his senior season.

Collins brought a tremendous work ethic to the East Hill this season, which aided the transition from high school to college basketball. This transition is often complicated by various outside factors that are wholly new to rookies.

“He was very far from home,” said Donahue. “Like every freshman, it’s such a huge transition. It’s even bigger in our league because of the academics. That’s a tough thing to ask of a kid to go out and perform on such a high level every night, which he did. There’s just a lot that can overwhelm a freshman, and he did a great job understanding that.”

Collins also reaped tremendous benefits from playing on a high school team that was ranked in the nation’s top 40 programs for his entire senior year.

“We always played great competition throughout the season in high school,” Collins said. “I came in knowing how to compete. I think that really helped.”

He is the fourth Cornell player to be named Ivy League Rookie of the Year, the first since Pax Whitehead ’96 in 1993.

Junior Ka’Ron Barnes also gained league recognition, as he was named to the All-Ivy second team. Barnes, who had a breakout season as the Red’s point guard, is the first Cornellian to earn All-Ivy honors since Ray Mercedes ’01 was named All-Ivy honorable mention in 2000.

Barnes ranked fourth in the Ivy League with 14.0 ppg, and third with 4.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He set a Cornell record with 13 assists Jan. 5 against Lafayette.

Barnes was Cornell’s only All-Ivy selection.

Penn dominated the post-season honors with six All-Ivy selections, including Player of the Year Ugonna Onyekwe. In addition, Brown which was the only Ivy team besides Penn to participate in postseason play this year, placed Jason Forte, Earl Hunt, and Alai Nuualiitia on the All-Ivy first team. It was only the sixth time in league history that one school has had three first-teamers.

Archived article by Owen Bochner