November 3, 2006

Forwards Offer Depth

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The youth that dominates the roster of the men’s basketball team runs especially deep at the forward positions, as a versatile trio of athletes battle it out for the starting spots with a host of teammates right on their heels.

At 6-7, sophomore Brian Kreefer can play either forward position, as he is a force both in the paint and on the perimeter. Over the second half of last season, Kreefer became an integral part of Red rotation, averaging 3.1 points and 1.5 rebounds per game off the bench. He has the size and strength to be an effective rebounder, while possessing a soft shooting touch from the outside, having connected on 11 career 3-pointers. Against Harvard, Kreefer had career highs of 14 points, nine rebounds, two assists, and a block.

Fellow sophomore Jason Battle also provides the Red with limitless versatility. Listed as a guard, Battle plays much bigger than his 6-4 frame would indicate, and will even be considered to start at the power forward spot. As a freshman, Battle showed his potential as a slasher, with the ability to get into the lane and finish. He played in 21 games off the bench as a freshman, averaging 1.8 points and 1.0 rebounds per contest.

“Jason’s a very versatile kid,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “He put on 20 pounds of muscle and he is shooting the ball much better. He is a very effective player because he can do a lot of different things.”

The potential wild card for the upcoming season may be freshman Ryan Wittman, who seems to have the inside track for a starting spot on the wing. Wittman, son of former NBA player and head coach Randy Wittman, has shown incredible poise and maturity for such a young player.

“He’s a very sound basketball player,” Donahue said. “The game comes easy to him. It’s not like I’m coaching a freshman out there — already I can tell you that. He’s a terrific passer. … He’s a very good shooter and he’s got good size, so he has a lot of weapons.”

Kreefer mirrored his head coach’s sentiments on Wittman’s knowledge of the game.

“He’s real smart with the ball and he’s a great shooter,” Kreefer said. “He gets out there and he really knows the game. You can count on him to make solid plays out there.”

Behind the big three, seniors Jason Mitchell and Ugo Ihekweazu should provide plenty of experience coming off the bench. At 6-8, Mitchell will provide Cornell with much-needed size, as he is best suited to play the small forward position.

Due to the Red’s injury problems, both Ihekweazu and freshman Jon Jaques should also see significant minutes off the pine early in the year.

“We have a lot of depth in the frontcourt,” Kreefer said. “We have a lot of inside players who can mix it up and score on the perimeter. We also have a few good freshmen who can hopefully help us out this year.”