The Andrew Naeve that will step on the court Nov. 11 against Northwestern for the men’s basketball team’s first game of the season will bear little resemblance to the scrawny kid from Iowa who took his recruiting visit four years ago having barely heard of Cornell basketball, or Cornell University for that matter.
However, the new Naeve, a senior who has spent four years getting to know Corell, didn’t form overnight. He has come a long way from Bryant, Iowa.
“I don’t think he was recruited by anyone but us,” head coach Steve Donahue said of his first exposure to Naeve. “He had great energy and I loved his enthusiasm.”
The energy and enthusiasm are still there for Naeve — but so too is a fully developed, polished basketball player that looks to make his mark on the Ivy League after a busy offseason of strength training, footwork drills, and lots and lots of basketball.
“I sat down with [Donahue] after last season and we talked about what he expected from me in my senior season,” Naeve said. “I worked really hard on the things we talked about, especially putting on weight and getting stronger.”
Now at 6-10 and 245 pounds Naeve has the ability to bang down low and assert himself in the post — a presence he began to establish last season when he ranked third in the league in both rebounds and blocked shots during his first full season as a starter. His production on the court has increased in each season at Cornell, and his point and rebound averages from last year were nearly double the numbers he posted as a sophomore.
In addition to his physical development and improved post play, Naeve has also strengthened the mental aspect of his game, a transformation that has not gone unnoticed by his coach.
“[Naeve] is an emotional kid,” Donahue said. “Early on in his career, he was probably too emotional. I think he has matured over time and learned to put his energies in correct place.”
His teammates, too, have noticed his maturity and elected him tri-captain for the upcoming season.
With Naeve’s competitiveness, improved game and focused passion for the sport, Donahue sees the potential for big things from his center this season.
“I don’t know if there is a better all-around center in the league at this point in his career,” Donahue said. “Some may be better offensively, but with his ability to do a lot of different things in this league, he is a pretty special player for us.”
As far as self-expectations, Naeve is only concerned with the team finally making it to the Big Dance.
“I want to win an Ivy League title so we can go to the tournament,” he said. “As time goes by, it burns that we haven’t gotten there yet. If I could help my team out with an All-Ivy recognition, that would be fine, but my first objective is to play in the tournament.”