November 15, 2012

2012 B-BALL | Dale, Foote and Wittman: Three Years After Sweet 16 Run

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Unprecedented. While the magnitude of such a word carries strong implications, it is hard to not apply it to the 2009-10 men’s basketball team. After finishing the regular season with a near-perfect 27-4 record and clinching the Ivy League title, the Red earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Under the leadership of former head coach Steve Donahue and then-seniors Louis Dale ’10,  Jeff Foote ’10 and Ryan Wittman ’10, Cornell advanced through to the second round of the national tournament — marking the first time since 1979 that an Ivy League team made it that far into the post-season and the first time in program history that Cornell played in the Sweet 16. After beating Temple, 78-65, in Round 1 and Wisconsin, 87-69, in Round 2, Cornell eventually fell to top-seeded Kentucky, 45-62, in the third.

Watching the men’s basketball team write its history throughout the 2009-10 season with each new win and then play in the national spotlight was a source of great pride for Cornell sports fans.

“Witnessing how much school pride everyone had from alumni to current students [was one of the best expereinces of making the Sweet 16,]” Dale said. “We received so much support and it felt great to know that everyone was proud of our team and university.”

The current senior class witnessed the historic Sweet 16 season; however, for many current Cornellians, players like Dale, Foote and Wittman are just legends.

Three years after the historic Sweet 16 run the Cornell bench has seen faces come and go. Donahue traded his coaching position at Cornell for one at Boston College, while the Red welcomed current head coach Bill Courtney into the locker room. Dale, Foote and Wittman have long since traded their lockers in Bartels for ones across the country and across the globe, but where are they now?

Louis Dale, Guard

During his time on the Hill, Dale was a razor-sharp point guard, known for his big offensive presence on the court. Despite standing just 5-11, the guard was one of the Red’s top rebounders during his Cornell career.

Dale’s list of accomplisments and awards is formidable, boasting multiple All-Ivy and Ivy League honors. The 2007-08 Ivy League Player of the Year was a large contributing force to the Red’s NCAA Tournament run, as he notched 21 points and seven assists against No. 5-seeded Temple and a career-high 26 points against Wisconsin.

After wrapping up his Cornell career, Dale packed his bags and set off on a whirlwind trip around the world – playing in Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia, France, Italy, Greece, Belgium and Turkey.

Dale also had a unique opportunity to play against a basketball great, who many NBA fans would recognize.

“I got to play against Allen Iverson that probably was the highlight [of the past three years,]” Dale said.

Currently playing in Greece for KAO Drama, Dale said that he hopes to continue to compete as long as his body can stand the pressure of the professional level of play.

“I plan on playing ball professionally until the wheels fall off,” he said.

Jeff Foote, Center

Standing at 7-0, Foote left quite the impression on Newman Arena during his three years with the Red. A transfer from St. Bonaventure, the skilled center and tri-captain immediately began contributing a great passion and energy on the court.

The 2008-09 and 2009-10 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year had a strong footwork base that aided him on both ends of the court. A unanimous first-team All-Ivy League pick during his senior year, Foote led the conference in field goal percentage (.633) and rebounds (8.1).

A force to be reckoned with on the court, Foote anchored the Red’s defense which held opponents to shooting 42 percent from the floor. He contributed 16 points and seven rebounds against Temple and 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists against Wisconsin.

Like Dale, Foote has played professionally around the world, moving from Israel to Spain, Poland and the D-League of the NBA before settling in Lithuania, where he currently plays for Zalgiris Kaunus – the No. 2 team in Europe.

Despite a worldly professional career, Foote said that his biggest highlight of the past three years has been his stateside adventures with his former teammates.

“My biggest personal highlight has been living with [Wittman, Dale and Jon Jaques ’10] two summers ago and just [Dale] last summer and continually beating his ass in fight night,” Foote explained. “He’s not any good.”

While basketball is still Foote’s main priority, law school or veterinary school are other options on the horizon. However, beating Dale in fight night will always factor in.

Ryan Wittman, Forward

Rounding out the legendary trio, Wittman was arguably one of the all-time greats in 3-point shooting in college basketball history. The 6-7 forward made a name for himself as a defensive rebounder during his career at Cornell.

Joining Dale and Foote as an Ivy League Player of the Year honoree for 2009-10, Wittman set a conference record with 109 3-point field goals during his senior campaign. He shot 47 percent from the field, 43 percent from beyond the arc and 83 percent from the line.

After graduating from Cornell, Wittman played professionally in Italy for a while before moving to the NBA Developmental League for a few months and eventually Poland, where he reunited with Foote. However, after dealing with recurring back problems, Wittman decided to hang up his jersey and pursue other career options.

“I am not playing basketball professionally anymore, the only time I play now is in a recreational league with some old high school teammates,” he said. “That three point line feels farther and farther away every time I go out there now.”

Wittman now has a position as an Asset Management Analyst at a Real Estate company in Minneapolis, Minn., but like Foote is not ruling out the idea of graduate school in the future.

Original Author: Lauren Ritter