March 2, 2006

Men's Basketball Seniors Make Their Marks

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The jury is still out on men’s basketball’s senior tri-captains Lenny Collins, David Lisle, and Ryan Rourke. The question, of course, is not whether these three players’ careers will be remembered as a turning point in the program’s history, marking the transformation of Cornell from Ivy doormats to Ancient Eight contenders. That much has already been written in the record books.

The pressing question of the day is who is the real pretty boy of the men’s basketball team.

“I want to set the record straight that [Lisle] is definitely not the pretty boy,” Collins said. “I think you’re looking at him. I think I’m far better looking than David is.”

Rourke refrained from comment on the issue.

But there’s a more important look that these three seniors have brought to the Red – winning. Joining a Cornell team coming off its worst season in over 20 years, the trio propelled Cornell to an increased number of wins in three successive seasons, culminating in last year’s, 13-14, (8-6 Ivy) record – good for a second-place Ivy finish.

“The biggest hurdle we’ve had to overcome [at Cornell] is our lack of a winning tradition,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “[These seniors] committed to helping change that, and they’ll be a huge part if indeed we get over the hump and win an Ivy championship.”

While their final season with the Red (11-15, 6-5) won’t be capped off with an Ivy championship and tourney trip, Collins, Lisle and Rourke have plenty of accomplishments to look back upon. Most importantly the captains have pulled Cornell into competition for the Ivy league.

“Teams have to respect us now when they come to play us,” Lisle said.

Opposing squads have been respecting Collins since his freshman year. Averaging 8.2 points and 5.1 rebounds his freshman year, Collins earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors, and didn’t stop there. Scoring in the double-digits his sophomore, junior, and senior years, he garnered first team All-Ivy honors last season, leading the Red in scoring (13.3 ppg) and assists (2.4 apg).

“He’s had a terrific career, and when you look over his career numbers, I think they speak for themselves,” Donahue said.

But Collins has brought more to the Red than what his stats reveal. He handles the ball on most of Cornell’s inbounds. One of the best defensive players on the team, Collins matches up well against both guards and forwards. Most importantly, Collins brings an attitude of winning with him on the court.

“He’s been a mainstay for the Cornell program every year he’s been here,” said junior Graham Dow. “He’s brought leadership to the team, he’s brought scoring; he’s brought a bit of a swagger coming into a building saying we can hang with these guys