November 10, 2011

M. BASKETBALL | Search for Title Resumes After Rebuilding Year

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Fresh off a rebuilding year that saw the Cornell men’s basketball team struggle to replace three first-team All-Ivy players — guards Louis Dale ’10 and Ryan Wittman ’10 and center Jeff Foote ’10  — and the introduction of new head coach Bill Courtney, the Red looks to challenge for its fourth Ivy League title in five years starting Friday at 7 p.m. on the road against St. Bonaventure.Cornell was projected to finish sixth in the Ivy League in the preseason poll, but the Red has not let the pundits affect its play, according to Courtney, who believes his squad has a legitimate shot at another championship.“We don’t mind where we were picked, we’re just going to go out, play hard every game and go into every single game thinking we have a chance to win,” Courtney said. “We’re playing in a great league right now and have a challenge every night, but I think we will be up for it.”“Going into any season, our goal is obviously to win the Ivy League championship and I definitely think we have the pieces on this team to do it,” added senior co-captain and point guard Chris Wroblewski. “[We just have to] come in every day and work our tails off to improve and get better each and every day.”St. Bonaventure is anchored by senior power forward Andrew Nicholson — an NBA prospect who averaged 20.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season. The Red looks to avenge last year’s loss to St. Bonaventure, 56-54, when the Bonnies recorded a close victory by earning the advantage on the glass and securing more second-chance points than the Red. Cornell will need to do a better job rebounding in order to win, according to Wroblewski.“It’s going to be a team effort,” he said. “All five guys are going to need to help on the glass and help rebounding. We cannot depend on just our big guys; it has to be the guards as well.”St. Bonaventure may be even stronger this year, as the Bonnies return four starters, including its entire frontcourt.“They return a lot of guys from their team last year, including four starters [led by] Andrew Nicholson, one of the top returning scoring, rebounding and shot blocking players in the country,” Courtney said of St. Bonaventure. “[Judging] from his film, it appears he has gotten even better.”Last year, the Red had the benefit of two solid big men — Aaron Osgood ’11 and Mark Coury ’11 — to help defend against St. Bonaventure’s formidable frontcourt; however, the Red will need others to step up and fill the void in their absence.“Our juniors right now did a great job over the summer — particularly Eitan Chemerinski and Josh Figini — putting on a little bit of bulk which is going to help them throw their weight around,” Wroblewski said.While the frontcourt will have a new look, the Red is returning one of the most experienced backcourts in the Ivy League with Wroblewski and senior co-captain and shooting guard Drew Ferry. Due to its strong guard play, according to Courtney, the Red developed an identity as a fast-paced team that pressed the issue on defense last season — a style of play that the head coach plans to stick with in his second year at the helm.“At the end of last year we played a lot of guys, picked up the pressure defensively and ran the floor…That’s our most effective way to play,” Courtney explained. “We’ll be very exciting if you’re a fan. We’ll take a lot of shots, the game is going to be up-tempo … [and the team will] really get after it.”Additionally, the Red will rely on its depth as well as the 3-point shooting of Wroblewski and Ferry, who averaged a combined 4.9 3s per game last season.“Defensively, we’re going to get after it,” Wroblewski said. “We have a lot of depth — it is one of our biggest strengths, and I think coach Courtney isn’t afraid to use 12, 13 or even 14 guys in the rotation. We’re going to play to exhaustion every single play. We’re still going to get a lot of 3s up since we don’t have a lot of size. We’ll also try to get as many buckets as we can in transition.”However, the biggest factor for the Red’s offense this year is not its lack of size or impressive guard play. Experience will be crucial to the team’s ability to outscore its opponents, according to Wroblewski.“I think you’re just going to see a little more polished offense,” he said. “We have another year under coach Courtney and a year more experience. Any time you have a veteran squad out there, you’ll see a much more finished product.”Although the incoming freshmen cannot claim to have any experience, Wroblewski says the rookie class stands to make an impact on the team.“The freshman class is very talented,” he said. “They offer a lot of things the team didn’t really have as far as athleticism and size. Galal Cancer, the guard from Albany, has played great in the first couple scrimmages and the Red-White game, and is an unselfish guard who fits in really well with the team. I also think you will see a lot of Shonn Miller, who is a 6-7 … athletic freak that Cornell is not accustomed to having.”The freshmen will be thrown right into the fire in their first game, as Friday’s matchup at St. Bonaventure represents the Bonnies’ home opener.“I have no doubt in my mind it’ll be a packed house, and it’s always a tough place to play,” Courtney said. “It’s one of the best home court advantages in the Atlantic-10 and around the country, so I think it will be a great [challenge] for our guys.” ­­

Original Author: Albert Liao