Cornell basketball’s opening game of the season isn’t for another three weeks, but the team got its first chance to play in front of a crowd in the Red versus White Exhibition yesterday.
White won the game when junior guard Robert Hatter broke a 73-73 tie with 2 seconds left.
The team graduated six seniors from last year, including starters Shonn Miller, Galal Cancer and Devin Cherry. With just two seniors on the roster, the team is young and, according to head coach Bill Courtney, still learning the Cornell basketball system.
“We’re going to make a lot of mistakes because we’re so young,” Courtney said. “We know we have a couple of strengths in our speed and hopefully our shooting ability. We have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball, but again that’s one of those things that I think we’re going to get better at with experience.”
The team returns two of its starters, Hatter and junior center David Onuorah, and Courtney said he was pleased with what he saw from both of them.
“[Onuorah has] certainly improved [on offense] and that’s been an area of focus for us this offseason,” Courtney said. “He’s worked his tail off to become a guy we can throw the ball to in there, hopefully he’ll be able to deliver. He’s been much better in practice and his game has grown.”
With the departure of Cherry, last year’s starting point guard, Hatter will pick up some of the point guard duties. Hatter, one of the league’s most mercurial players, worked hard to improve his efficiency over the offseason, according to Courtney.
“That’s certainly an area he’s worked on … to shoot a higher percentage and make smart basketball plays,” Courtney said. “He’s been doing that a lot. There are still times when he goes a little bit off the reservation, but he’s a terrific player, high energy player, high volume guy. He’s doing a great job.”
In addition to the juniors, Courtney said he will also look to the sophomores for leadership. Despite not playing much last season, the sophomores will likely see a much larger role this season.
“It’s their time to step up,” Courtney said. “With a group that’s so young, they’re sophomores, but they’re leaders. They’re the older guys in this group and they’ve got to help this big group of freshman learn how to play.”
Cornell basketball welcomes eight new freshmen to the team. While several of the freshmen “had nerves going through them,” according to Courtney, two of the younger guys showed they may be important pieces as the season progresses.
“We know that Matt Morgan is a very good player,” Courtney said. “He’s the kind of guy that was under the radar a little bit, but we knew that he was a player that can help us right away. I think he showed that a little bit today. Donovan Wright is going to be a terrific player, but he’s still learning how to play the game a little bit, but he’s getting better.”
The team gets its first real taste of competition when it travels to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech on November 13.