November 17, 2011

MEN’S BASKETBALL | Co-Captains Lead Way in Talented Backcourt

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Guard play will again be the Red’s strength this year, as Cornell returns arguably the best starting backcourt in the Ivy League in senior co-captains Chris Wroblewski and Drew Ferry, while adding two very talented freshmen to the mix.

“[The backcourt] will definitely be our strength … with a lot of experience coming back in Chris Wroblewski, [junior Johnathan Gray], [junior Miles Asafo-Adjei] and myself,” Ferry said. “We have a lot of talented freshman guards as well. I think starting off the year, especially, we’ll have to rely on the backcourt.”

When discussing this team, the conversation should start and end with Wroblewski, who was a second-team All-Ivy selection in 2010-11, leading the Red in minutes (32.7), points (14.2), assists (5.7) and steals (1.5) per game.

However, Cornell’s backcourt is certainly not a one-trick pony. Ferry averaged 11.9 points per game last year, and led the team with 80 3-pointers. Dialing up from long distance will again be a key offensive option for the Red, according to Ferry.

“Our 3-point shooting is definitely a key attribute of our team,” he said. “It’s one of our strengths, and we rely on running out and getting some transition 3’s. I really don’t see that changing this year.”

The Red also possesses many strong defensive players in the backcourt, according to the co-captains, who pointed to Asafo-Adjei as the squad’s top asset in its own end of the court.

“Defensively, Miles is easily our best defender,” Ferry said. “He’s strong and quick and really gets after it defensively. We’re going to rely on him a lot defending the other team’s best guards.”

“I think Miles is the best defensive guard on the team, He’s just so quick — it’s impossible for people to get by him in practice,” Wroblewski added. “[Junior guard Johnathan Gray] is also very versatile [on defense]. He can guard some bigger guys because he’s athletic and longer. [Freshman guard Galal Cancer] is another guy who’s very physical with you, but he’s also quick enough that he can stay with the smaller, quicker guards.”

Gray is currently starting alongside Wroblewski and Ferry with junior forward Errick Peck injured, but even after Peck’s return, he will figure prominently into the Red’s plans; however, few would have expected this two years ago, when Gray was only a team manager.

“[Gray is a] great story. All of the guys on the team love Johnny,” Wroblewski said. “He’s one of those guys who really put in the hard work and never complained about anything … Now it’s finally paying off for him and I couldn’t be happier — nobody deserves it more than Johnny for the amount of work he has put in. He adds a different element to our game. He can shoot the ball really well, is 6-3 and athletic … so he’s a great asset for us.”

The two freshman guards, Cancer and Devin Cherry, will also see some time on the floor this season, according to the co-captains.

“They have an impact every day in practice,” he said. “Galal does everything for us … He’s a guard that can attack the rim more so than Drew or myself. He’s very unselfish so he fits in well with us and makes the extra pass, but he can shoot it too.”

“Devin is a very gifted offensive player. In practice, he’s tough to stop and when he gets going, he can really shoot the ball well,” Ferry added. “This year, they’ll both have opportunities to play. [Head coach Bill Courtney] likes to go deep into the bench, and I’m sure that they’ll be ready for whatever minutes come their way.”

If Cornell plans to make any noise this year in the Ivy League, the team will need all of its guards — both returners and rookies — to step up their games and perform at a high level.

Original Author: Albert Liao