With 13,000-plus students spread among seven schools and acres of campus, it’s not uncommon to see a new face — or a few dozen — every day at Cornell. Hard to forget, however, are four people who stand head-and-shoulders (literally) above the crowd: the center’s on Cornell’s men’s basketball team.
Between seniors Eric Taylor and Chris Vandenberg, sophomore Andrew Naeve, and freshman Shawn Oliverson, the Red has a large and talented group of middlemen who can feed outside shooters, post-up for baskets, snag rebounds, and hold their own in the paint.
“I want our trademark to be defending and rebounding. I want to be a great defending team and rebounding team because I want to be a great transition team,” head coach Steve Donahue said.
Implementing that philosophy on the court should not pose too much of a problem for Donahue, whose centers have experience in both areas, not to mention offensive production. Most notable among them is Taylor, who made history this year by becoming the first player in the 107-year history of the program to be elected captain of the team three times. Last year, the 6-8 Taylor led the Ivy League with 7.5 rebounds per game and was second in field goal percentage (.585), scoring double-figures in 13 games.
“I think he made a huge statement this year by coming back in the best shape he’s ever been. He’s our most fit guy,” Donahue said. “He’s got a nose for the ball, he’s got good toughness.”
Known for his soft touch around the basket and agility in the lane, Taylor will also look to improve his scoring contribution for the Red.
“His foul shooting will improve as this year comes,” Taylor added. “I also think his outside shooting will improve, so I think we’ll see more of that from him.”
Vandenberg, one of only three seniors on the team and the only other upperclassmen in the position, will look to make his mark on the floor as well, after missing much of his collegiate career due to knee injuries.
“Since the first year I got here and we got him in recruiting, he was the one kid we were probably going to make our centerpiece, and he had potential, but, unfortunately, the injuries have caused him great heartache,” Donahue said.
Also vying for time while honing his skills as a future starter and leaders of the team is Naeve. Naeve — who recorded 74 rebounds, 21 blocks, 12 steals, and 49 points as a freshman — has worked hard in the offseason to improve his game and become a more physically developed player.
“He’s another player who’s made a huge improvement over last year,” Donahue said. “I think he adds something different that Eric [Taylor] doesn’t have. He really runs the floor.”
Moreover, when the Red’s go-to guy, Taylor, needs a rest, Naeve will be able to replace him without missing a beat.
Archived article by Everett Hullverson
Sun Assistant Sports Editor