After carrying the Red to within a last gasp of beating Syracuse, senior Ryan Rourke made the mistake of talking to Sun Senior Writer Per Ostman. Again.
1. What’s the best part about being 6-8?
In crowded situations, you can kind of see everybody. Like if people are looking for you.
When you go out is it “everyone meet at Ryan at 9:30”?
Yeah. I guess I don’t look at it like I’m that tall.
But most people on this campus are about 5-2.
Yeah, I know that sometimes I’ll go into a place and it’ll be “Oh, jeez. I’m the tallest guy here.” Everybody else is shorter than me.
Do you have to duck to get through doors?
Sometimes. Like in our house down on campus, I have to duck in a couple places. You kind of get a sixth sense once you hit your head once or twice.
One tends to remember blows to the head. Do you have to special-order your pants or anything?
No, normally the only thing is if I’m getting a suit or something. I’ll have to go get it tailored.
They don’t sell those 38 Extra Extra Long jackets off the rack, do they?
Yeah, other than that, I’m able to find shoes and pants just fine.
2. How did it feel to take Syracuse to the brink last week?
It was good. I think it was a good test for us. We know that we’re going to be good this year.
There’s no such thing as a “good loss,” but there’s still some positives to take away from it.
Yeah, we’re excited about the future. One of the things we talked about after the game was that there are no moral victories. There’s no moral victory in losing by five to Syracuse. I mean, we were in that game to win and we had the opportunity to win. But it came down to a couple of turnovers at the end, and they were able to capitalize on some free throws. But it was definitely a good feeling; a reassurance to know that we can compete this year.
Do you guys win that game if it’s in Newman Arena?
Yes, because if our home crowd was into it as much as theirs was – were you at the game?
No, I’m not important enough around here to get a press pass.
Okay, their crowd was really loud, especially at the end. That sometimes makes it hard to run things that you want to run. You can’t hear anything.
3. So, does coach Donahue let you guys rock your bling? Or has Cornell adopted the new NBA dress code?
What? As far as just walking around?
Before games, on the bench, around campus on game days, on the bus on the road – things like that.
Well, we have travel sweats that we usually wear when we travel. Other than that, I mean, you gotta dress well to represent the team.
Does this mean you don’t own a huge platinum medallion in the shape of your name?
No. Nobody has that. We don’t need that. We know everyone’s name.
Do you agree with the premise behind the new rules – since the NBA is a business, the players should dress like businessmen?
Yes and no. It’s a fine line that you have to find. A lot of people don’t think that what the guys in the NBA do is a “real” job. They don’t think of it as a 9 to 5. But yet they do put a lot of time into it, and they are getting paid all that money because they are concentrating on what they’re doing. But I do feel that in order to represent the NBA in the best light, there should be some regulations. If you want to represent your team or your organization, you should dress well. It has nothing to do with culture or things like that.
So, this isn’t a racial thing? Because that’s been the argument.
No, I think they should look at it as representing a corporation or a company. Like any job.
4. What’s the hardest part about transitioning from junior college to the Ivy League?
I think it’s a little bit of everything. It’s not just one thing. It’s new coaches and new players, basketball-wise. A new style of play. And then, as well, when you get off the court you have to deal with a new social life, new people –
Is there a better social scene in Arizona, or here in Ithaca?
[Laughs] It’s different. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. It’s a different style, you know, the east coast is different from the west coast. There’s a different way people interact with each other. But I wouldn’t call one better than the other. I’ve had good times in both. No matter where you’re at your first year before you transfer, you have to adjust to something new, whether it’s on the court or off the court or it’s in the classroom.
What made you pick Cornell as your final destination? I mean, there’s sun in Arizona. Right now. Today. Sunshine.
I had two years left to play basketball, and to get a degree. So, weather wasn’t really a factor when it came down to it. I know 40 years from now, I’d rather be retired in Florida or California for 20 years than go to school there for two years and be stuck in the winters of Chicago or something. I thought ahead for my future more than just the two years of school.
5. You’re a tall, goofy, white guy. Shouldn’t you have grown a Bill Walton beard or some Paul Mokeski hair by now?
I wouldn’t call myself a tall, goofy, white guy.
Explain to me how you’re not tall, goofy, and white.
Cause I’m smooth with it.
Smooth with it? We’re talking about the basketball?
No, man. Everything. I’m not tall and trying to embarrass myself.
You don’t trip over your feet –
Yeah, I’m coordinated. I can do stuff.
But don’t you need some kind of gimmick? Even Pau Gasol has a beard these days.
Yeah, but have you seen how he looks?
Oh, it’s terrible.
There you go. See, I don’t do that.
That’s right. You’re smooth.
6. Would you rather earn a 4.0 GPA, or secure a berth in the NCAA tournament?
It’s a memory that I’d never forget and my teammates would never forget. Is this one semester of a 4.0? Or the entire way through college?
Let’s just say this upcoming spring semester.
Yeah, I’d still go NCAA. I mean, it’s something that my teammates and I will remember forever.
Because the 4.0 is just for you, while the tournament is for your whole team.
Yeah, and I’d like to have my teammates as friends when I’m older, and to be able to remember together what we went through. And if we do get into the NCAA tournament, it would just ensure that we’d be friends for life. A 4.0 isn’t something I’m going to remember 20 years from now.
I agree. Success in athletics isn’t any less important than success in the classroom.
Yeah, you definitely learn a lot from athletics. Basketball has gotten me to where I am today. A lot of the lessons I’ve learned have been through basketball.
7. You’re majoring in Applied Economics and Management. What’s so cool about AEM? All the athletes I’ve interviewed have been in AEM. I rowed and majored in history – did I miss a memo somewhere?
Well, there’s only three AEM’s on the basketball team.
Yes, but there’s only 15 of you! Twenty percent of you guys are in AEM, out of all the majors at Cornell.
Well, I think it allows for flexibility in the future, because a lot of athletes are concentrating on being well-rounded, you know, in the class room as well as extra-curricularly.
What’s that hokey NCAA commercial? “Most of us are going pro in something other than sports?”
Yeah. The AEM major allows you some room. Especially if people aren’t quite ready to make that firm decision about what they want to do – if they want to do statistics, or do marketing. We get to take all these classes and see the general business field.
So, are you the next great entrepreneur? Am I going to be asking you for a job someday?
See, that’s what I like about AEM, because I’m not sure yet!
What would you like to do?
I’d like to play basketball after this year.
Is this a possibility? Have you been looking around at options?
ly. The only thing is, I don’t know where I’m playing yet.
Do you have an idea? Are you looking abroad, or is there a chance you’ll be here? Can you speak Greek and/or Russian?
That’s what I don’t know yet. I’m –
Because they’re always looking for 6-8 goofy white guys.
Yeah, or smooth white guys.
I’ll find out after the end of the season. It all depends on how good of a year we have.
8. Who’s more completely and utterly insane – Ron Artest, or Dennis Rodman?
Why? Just because of that little “incident” in Detroit?
Rodman’s done that a little bit. But I think Rodman semi-knows what he’s doing. He’s getting his publicity and doing his stunts.
Like marrying Carmen Electra for five minutes. Things like this?
Yeah, I mean that’s just part of his act. But Ron Artest? There are just certain things that you shouldn’t get involved with.
Should he even be allowed to play this year?
I don’t know. That’s why the NBA is messed up.
Wait. Why is the NBA messed up?
It can be a dirty business. It’s not just about basketball. It’s about money, it’s about politics.
But couldn’t you say that about any professional sports league? Why do you in particular single out the NBA here? Is it because David Stern thinks he’s God?
I don’t know. I mean, it’s not based just on the love of basketball.
So, it’s not pure. Is it too corporate? And this comes back to what we talked about earlier regarding the dress code. The league is basically lashing out at individual expression. You supported the dress code, but doesn’t this go hand-in-hand with the “corporate takeover” mentality you’re now saying makes the league impure?
Yeah, I mean, I think … umm …
Sorry to put you on the spot.
No, it’s a good question. Maybe this is why I wouldn’t want to be NBA commissioner. Those are tough decisions – where do you draw the line? Personally, I think that when it comes to that point where you are getting paid, you know, it does become a job. You should represent yourself and your job by whatever standards the league has. What it comes down to is your job and performing at your job, and not necessarily the politics and connections, and doing certain things or not just because of money. I guess that can be the case in any business, pretty much. Not just sports, but even in the corporate world.
Especially in the corporate world. And you’ll find out about that, since you’re an AEM major.
Yep. I’ll let you know.
9. Okay. Now, back in August, you happened to be around for the Kevin Boothe interview and you helped him answer this next question, because the man was terrified of his girlfriend. And hey, good for him – he knows the score. Initially, you gave the answer as women’s soccer. But, in a stunning reversal, you took them off the board and went with field hockey. So, which is it? What’s the hottest women’s team at Cornell?
I didn’t take them off the board.
No, you totally took them off the board. Shannon Fraser hates you now. Hates.
Oh, I’ve gotten the hate. You wouldn’t believe it.
Really? Personal backlash?
Oh yeah. I had to watch my back for about two weeks.
Worried about a swift kick in the ass from a cleated foot? Getting strangled by a shinguard?
Yeah, I’m just getting out of the hot water now.
It’s taken this long?
I’m almost sorry. So, set the record straight for us. What’s the hottest team? Has your opinion changed because of the backlash? Has your life been threatened? Do we need to get the police involved?
They’re strong girls. They can run very fast.
I don’t know. I hang out with all the women’s teams, so –
Oh, really? You’re a smooth white guy, huh?
Yeah, I get along with all of them.
Don’t give me this. Come on now. I know the truth. Let’s have it.
Look, I’m just getting out of trouble now. I’m not playing that game anymore!
It’s not a game. Don’t think of it as a competition. Everyone’s a winner.
Yeah, but it gets me in trouble! I’m not getting in trouble anymore!
Did they seriously come after you?
Oh, I got threats.
I didn’t know women held grudges. I’m shocked.
It was rough, man.
Hey, I don’t envy you. I’m sorry about the violence.
I look at inner beauty now.
Well, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
10. If you could go one-on-one with any person in history, who would it be?
Oh, you’re going right to the top, eh?
Yeah. Gotta go after the best. I don’t mess around.
He’s going to crush you, right?
No. [shakes head]
Okaaaay. Explain to me how you’re going to beat Michael Jordan.
I’ll outwork him.
You’re gonna outwork Michael Jordan?
I’m gonna outwork Michael Jordan.
He’s the most competitive guy on the planet! Ever! You might score one on him, and then he’ll get that crazy look in his eye. He’ll take you apart piece by piece.
Yeah, but he’s going to have to –
Didn’t you see what happened to Craig Ehlo?
Yeah. But I’d still go after the best.
Hey, that’s fine. Now, he’s more of a shooting guard. You’re much more of a post guy.
I can handle the ball! I can shoot!
I hear Jordan handles the ball pretty well, too.
That’s why it would be a good match up. Why not go after the best.
You might get your ass handed to you.
Hey, as long as I compete with him.
10 Questions With Per Ostman will appear once more before finals. And then, if he doesn’t get fired, next semester. Comments, suggestions, and threats for Ryan can be sent to [email protected].
Archived article by Per Ostman