Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Delaney on Bill Courtney and Recruiting

By Brian Delaney
Ithaca Journal
August 24, 2010

ITHACA -- Several years ago, Steve Donahue reassessed his basketball recruiting philosophy to target prospective Ivy League student athletes in the Midwest.

The thinking was to better utilize Cornell's unique, Big Ten-like campus, and strong agriculture and life sciences school, to attract better players and lose fewer recruiting battles to the likes of Penn, Princeton and Harvard on the eastern seaboard.

The shakeup produced recruits such as Andrew Naeve (Iowa), Brian Kreefer (Ohio), Adam Gore (Indiana), Geoff Reeves (Kansas), Ryan Wittman (Minnesota), each of whom, among others, contributed to the rapid rise of the Big Red over the past four or five seasons, culminating with last season's Sweet 16 appearance.

Donahue has since parlayed that success into a big-time job at Boston College. Successor Bill Courtney said Monday, as players and other students reported back to campus, that he's embraced Donahue's recruiting strategy. He also said Donahue's staff may have done their job too well.

"I think (Donahue's) blueprint was terrific, in what he did the last few years in shifting his recruiting," Courtney said. "I think especially with what they did last year, you get a national recruiting base. You can recruit nationally, so we're recruiting guys all over the place. Midwest, we're hitting it hard.

"What's starting to happen now is a lot of other Ivy League schools are trying to tap into those areas. Now we're trying to find new areas, be it Texas or California."

One of Courtney's first tasks on the job was to reach out to his inherited Class of 2014, a five-man group that committed first to Donahue before renewing their pledge to Courtney.

"Andy Noel (Cornell athletic director) did a tremendous job of keeping those guys committed to Cornell in the transition period," Courtney said. "It allowed me to go in and basically be myself and tell them what we would essentially be doing with the program. It was easy because of the work he did."

The class is comprised of four freshmen and one junior college transfer, and includes no big men: Jake Matthews, a 6-foot-2 combo guard from Greensburg, Pa.; Manny Sahota, a 6-5 combo forward from Brampton, Ontario; Dominick Scelfo, a 6-3 point guard from New Orleans; Dwight Tarwater, a 6-6 combo forward from Knoxville, Tenn.; and junior Andrew Ferry, a 6-4 shooting guard by way of Palm Beach State College and Valparaiso.

Ferry appears to be the most ready to contribute. He shot over 45 percent from beyond the arc at Palm Beach State, making 105 3-pointers in 26 games, and drew comparisons to Gore by Donahue's coaching staff for his toughness and willingness to play defense.

"Ferry's a guy who we want to count on pretty soon here," Courtney said. "We hope he's going to be able to contribute right away."

The smallish size of the class will leave Courtney a little thin in the frontcourt. He hopes his first true recruiting class, the Class of 2015, will be packed with bigger bodies.

This year's team will rely on a trio of 6-9 big men: seniors Mark Coury and Aaron Osgood, and sophomore Josh Figini, to man the middle.

"It's got to be bigs as the focus," he said. "You look at the (center) position, and you have three guys that can really play the spot on this year's team. Two of those guys are seniors. So it becomes a huge priority for us to get some guys with some size."

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