Cornell men’s basketball junior forward Eitan Chemerinski is a go-to example of everyone having his or her day — and not just a day to impress teammates by solving a Rubik’s Cube. Hidden deep on the bench of the 2009-10 Sweet 16 squad during his freshman year, Chemerinski built a foundation last season and has started all six games so far in 2011-12.
The son of Argentinian immigrants, Chemerinski was born and raised in Potomac, Md. Like most unusually tall athletes, the 6-8, 218-pound forward drifted towards basketball at an early age, and he has not looked back.
“I’ve been playing basketball probably since I was about 10 and it’s always been my favorite sport,” Chemerinski said. “I’ve just been playing a lot ever since then. I was always relatively one of the tallest kids in my grade.”
Chemerinski turned his raw talent into elite production at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Md. After averaging 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists per game as a junior, he posted nearly identical numbers as a senior along with six blocked shots per contest. The Maryland Gazette named Chemerinski an all-state honorable mention in each of his final two seasons, and as a senior, the forward was a McDonald’s High School All-America nominee.
Chemerinski earned the accolades while honoring his religious duties — something No. 55 continues to do in Ithaca.
“[Religion] is a big part of my life — it’s always something that’s going to be very important to me. I’m just trying to do the best I can in finding the right balance between playing a sport that’s pretty demanding for time and also … fulfilling as many religious obligations as I can.”
Chemerinski discovered Cornell through his older sister Anat, who graduated from the University in the spring. After getting in touch with former head coach Steve Donahue, Chemerinski attended a summer camp for top-tier high school players and decided Cornell was the school for him.
In his freshman year, Chemerinski first took the floor in the Red’s fourth outing of the 2009-10 season at Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. The Orange pulled away in the second half to win, 88-73, allowing Donahue to insert Chemerinski into the game with the outcome already decided. The forward recorded a rebound in one minute of action.
“At the time, just grabbing a rebound or just being out there for a split second was an amazing moment,” he said. “It was pretty exciting to be in my first real game in college.”
Chemerinki played in nine more games his freshman season, finishing with three points and eight rebounds in only 27 minutes of court time. Aside from his on-court action, fans caught the most memorable glimpses of the reserve forward in videos of Chemerinski humoring teammates by rapidly completing Rubik’s Cubes. Chemerinski enjoyed the year on the star-studded club from a basketball perspective, too, largely because 7-0 forward Jeff Foote ’10 helped him develop.
“Just being able to practice with all those guys and trying to help in any way I could was a great time for me,” he said. “Just being around and learning was a great experience … Jeff is a really great guy and he was always really nice. I was just trying to learn as much as I could from him in practice, and that helped me quite a bit.”
Chemerinski increased his production slightly last year as a sophomore, but was stuck behind forwards Mark Coury ’11, Adam Wire ’11 and Aaron Osgood ’11 on the Red depth chart. As a sophomore, Chemerinski totaled 33 points and 23 boards in 106 minutes, highlighted by an 11-point, six-rebound performance in a loss at Yale on Feb. 4. Over the off-season, the Red coaches continued to push Chemerinski and the rest of the front-court to replace the trio.
“The whole coaching staff has been so helpful,” he said. “During all the practices and all the workouts, they really try to get the best out of all the players. They make me really want to be the best player that I can be.”
The hard work has paid off at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, as Chemerinski accomplished a difficult task under second-year head coach Bill Courtney — maintaining a spot in the starting lineup. Chemerinski has played more total minutes in the six contests this year than in all 28 games of his sophomore season.
The junior ranks second on the team with 10.2 points per game, while shooting 64.1 percent from the field and 78.6 percent from the free-throw line. He has also tallied 17 rebounds, eight steals and six assists.
For Chemerinski, everything and nothing has changed since his first year in Ithaca. Despite an exponentially larger role, it is still all about hustle and scrappiness for the Applied Economics and Management major.
“All I can say is that I’ve been trying to work as hard as I can,” he said. “Every opportunity that I have to be out there, I’m going to try as hard as I can to make the most of it. I’m really just trying to play hard — playing good defense, getting rebounds, and the usual stuff. I’m going to keep working hard and keep getting better.”
Original Author: Quintin Schwab