February 12, 2004

M. Cager Duo Cracks into Statistical Ranks

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Junior Cody Toppert will be the first to tell you he’s not surprised by the men’s basketball team’s explosive conference start. What does surprise him, however, is his own national ranking.

Toppert and senior captain Ka’Ron Barnes have been burning up the Ivy League stat sheets, and just recently cracked the NCAA Division I national rankings. Toppert is ranked ninth in 3-point field goals per game, while Barnes is currently 19th in the country for points per game (ppg).

“It’s a great honor,” said Toppert, who leads the Ivies with 64 treys. “It really kind of caught me off guard.”

Barnes was also unaware of his national standings, but feels as if it’s evidence of something he’s always known: that he can play with the best of them.

“It’s always good to get recognition. It lets you know you’re doing something right,” he said. “I always thought that I could play with anybody … all I needed was an opportunity.”

Barnes’s opportunity has come this season, as he has led Cornell to a 5-1 Ivy start — good for first place in the league. He’s also the league’s top scorer, and is believed to be a frontrunner for the Ivy League Player of the Year award.

“Ka’ron finds himself open, and Cody does a good job of knowing where Ka’Ron is going to want him to be,” said Cornell head coach Steve Donahue of the duo’s scoring stats. “They’re a really good match, and they play very well together.”

Still, while the two make it look easy on the court, there have been hours — even years — of hard work. For Barnes, his game was perfected in Buffalo, specifically at Turner Carroll High School. Toppert also started young, and has been knocking down field goals since his grade school days. Offseason preparation has also played a key part.

“Overall, a lot of our work is put in over the summer,” said Toppert. “Repetition — that’s what shooting is all about.”

Donahue spoke of the pair’s dedication on the hardwood and in the weight room.

“They’ve worked hard to put themselves in this situation,” he said.

“A lot of times, you take so many shots in practice, that when you get to the game it’s like you’ve already made the basket,” Toppert added.

Besides cracking into the national statistics, Cornell has also grabbed the national media spotlight lately. The Red was mentioned by Sports Illustrated as a pre-season longshot for the Ivy title, and has recently been highlighted on ESPN.com’s Cinderella Watch.

“It’s just really nice to know all of our hard work is paying off,” commented Toppert.

Toppert, Barnes, and the rest of the Red will put their hard work to the test this weekend, when perennial Ivy powerhouses Penn and Princeton visit the East Hill.

Archived article by Matt Janiga