The past two years in Cornell athletics have been highlighted by unprecedented success for the Red, beginning with the inspirational story of the 2009-10 men’s basketball team and its legendary NCAA tournament run. The squad earned a spot in the Sweet 16 after taking the country by storm with two upset victories in the first weekend of March Madness.
Led by a senior class including center Jeff Foote ’10, guard Ryan Wittman ’10, forward Jon Jaques ’10 and guard Louis Dale ’10, the Red won the Ivy League championship for the third consecutive season. Dale, a three-time All-Ivy first-team honoree and 2008 Ivy League Player of the Year, proved that he was a force to be reckoned with throughout his Cornell career.
Leading the conference in assists (4.8) and setting a career-high in steals (40), Dale had an explosive senior season that concluded with an impressive run in the NCAA tournament. The point guard averaged 23.5 points, 5.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game, and notched a career-high 26 points against Wisconsin in the second round. Leaving the next generation of players with some big shoes to fill, Dale graduated and turned his collegiate basketball experiences into global ones, signing a contract to play his rookie season for BG Goettingen — a professional team in Germany.
So what convinced this Alabama boy to ditch his Southern digs and board a trans-Atlantic plane?
“After I graduated I got an agent and he shopped around to teams in Europe,” Dale recalled. “[BG Goettingen was] interested in me, so I pretty much chose them over a few teams in Belgium and Australia. The German league is better than the Belgium and Australian leagues. Also, they play in the Euro Cup, which gives you exposure to other teams — you play at a high level of competition.”
BG Goettingen is known for its aggressive style of play, often called “40 Minutes of Hell.”
“Our style of play is to press teams and play at a really fast pace with an aggressive full court defense,” Dale explained.
The German league teams play a tougher game than Dale was used to, he noted; however, Dale explained that the pressure to succeed is distinctly different when compared to his playing days on East Hill.
“There’s more pressure when you get to that level. It’s more of a business, so when you lose or win it makes a huge impact financially,” Dale said. “The coach or president of the team might get angry if you lose, so there’s more pressure than in college. In college you won’t get kicked off the team if you lose. In college you win and lose as a team, but overseas they tend to point the finger at one person or a group of people.”
Being uprooted from his teammates was a bit of a change for Dale, but he is handling the transition very well. He credits talking to and spending time with the other Americans on his new team as an important part of adjusting to the new environment overseas.
“It was tough because I was in a new place, in a new country with a new coach and new teammates,” he explained. “In Germany there is no limit as to how many Americans on the team … I was the only rookie, so I had people to talk to about new situations. The transition was easy in that sense.”
Dale seems to be enjoying his new home off the court as well. While he isn’t quite accustomed to hearing German spoken so frequently, Dale finds that he is picking up bits and pieces every day. In addition to the change in language, Dale has been adjusting to a new diet.
“They eat a lot of pork and potatoes,” he explained. “The food is good — Schnitzel is my favorite.”
Though he is embracing this culinary change, Dale admits he misses some of the simpler items that most people take for granted in America, like Skittles or Gatorade. Dale has found ways to keep in touch with his American roots, like watching the Super Bowl last February.
“We were watching the Super Bowl in this bar and it was crazy,” he recalled. “The bar owner was American, so he tried to make it an American scene with Pepsi products and things you miss from home like mac and cheese.”
While he was at the bar with some of his fellow teammates, Dale ran into a few students who were studying abroad including Dennis Hui ’12, who recognized the star point guard and came over to introduce himself.
After the season ended, Dale left Goettingen for the summer and returned stateside where he spent time with some of his former teammates in New York City.
“Over the summer I was with Jaques, Foote and Wittman and we lived together and played basketball,” he said. “Foote and I played in a summer league, and then all of us went to Boston College and played with [former Cornell head coach Steve] Donahue and saw his new atmosphere and the players he recruited.”
Dale has been offered a contract extension by BG Goettingen and will return to play for the German squad this fall.
Original Author: Lauren Ritter