November 14, 2008

Injury Concerns Hamper Guards

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As last season came along, the trio of senior co-captain Adam Gore and juniors Louis Dale and Ryan Wittman were feared by the Red’s opponents. The ability of Gore and Wittman to spread the floor with their long distance touch complemented by aggressive play from Dale led the Red to one of the most memorable seasons in Cornell basketball history. Fans of the Red will have to wait to see the combination again as Gore will be sitting out until at least the beginning of the Ivy League season after tearing his ACL in practice. While the team waits for Gore’s return, players such as junior Geoff Reeves and freshman Chris Wroblewski will be asked to help replace the senior’s production.
“Other people are going to have to step up and fill in bigger roles than they have in the past,” Wittman said. “We hope things work out quickly, but they might take some time.”
Time is exactly what Wroblewski is looking for as he tries to get accustomed to the rigors of college basketball. The Highland Park, Ill., native has been getting a lot of reps in an unexpected way. Junior Louis Dale has been nursing a hamstring injury for the majority of the preseason, handing the point guard duties over to the freshman.
“It has been up and down,” Wroblewski said. “The experience is good.
I just need the reps to get it in. The transition from high school to college is hard. It’s been going well, but definitely up and down. … The older guys have been doing a great job of helping me with defense and everything like that.”
“I would say that Chris has done a good job,” said senior guard Conor Mullen, another captain on the squad. “I think that even when Louis gets back, he will be getting time at point guard and at shooting guard. He has been shooting real well, so I am sure we will be finding time for him.”
Another person who will most likely see his minutes increase is Reeves. Reeves, who started to pick up his play at the end of last season, has been impressive all preseason, including the Red-White scrimmage where he scored 18 points. After losing Collin Robinson last year, Reeves became more aggressive and with Gore out, the junior will have that opportunity.
“I see myself as a bigger leader out there,” Reeves said. “I don’t see my role changing a lot from what it used to be.”
“As far as Geoff, you can just see his growth this year,” Dale said. “In the last scrimmage he played phenomenal. In terms of scoring, he is just doing it all.”
While Red fans will have to get used to more exposure from the two, Wittman will still figure prominently into the equation. Wittman, a first team All-Ivy pick last year, put more muscle on his frame and has been working on his post-up and mid-range shooting game. In the team’s scrimmage, Wittman led all scorers with 30 points and scored in a variety of ways. One thing he was still able to do was hit 3-pointers, even though the line has been pushed back this year in collegiate men’s basketball. When asked about it, Wittman and Dale both laughed at the notion it would affect their shots.
Due to their success, this offseason both Wittman and Dale have received of national recognition. named Wittman to its midmajor All-American team. Dale has received notice from ESPN’s Jay Bilas and was nominated for the Bob Cousy Award, an honor that goes to college basketball’s top point guard.
“I was actually pretty excited,” Dale said. “Now it is time to show and prove what people say. Just got to go out and play hard.”
Senior co-captain Jason Battle will again provide valuable minutes, spelling players at every position but center. Mulle will provide his value mostly as a leader of the “White team” in practice, the squad that imitates Cornell’s upcoming opponent.