Saturday, October 16, 2010

Report from Practice: Day 1 in the Books

The Cornell squad held its first practice at 7:30pm Friday night and Brian Delaney of the Ithaca Journal was there to check out the action. Delaney writes about the practice below. Above, some photos posted on Twitter from the first practice. All photos courtesy Slope Media.
New basketball coach assesses his Cornell building blocks Courtney wants to sustain 'winning culture'

Bill Courtney stepped on the floor at about 7:30 p.m. Friday at Newman Arena, drew his team into a circle at half court and offered his first words of encouragement on the practice floor as Big Red men's basketball coach.

Over the next 45 minutes, the first portion of the first practice for the 2010-11 season, the plethora of shooting drills that came to define the Steve Donahue era were nowhere to be found. Instead, Courtney ran his group through new offensive sets, defensive slides and demanding suicides as a messy, wind-swept rain whipped the building outside.

A new era of basketball had begun.

The job for Courtney and his new staff of assistants essentially boils down to this: keep Cornell in the conversation as one of the Ivy League's toughest teams, with a roster of 17 players hailing from 15 states -- a group which has spent virtually no time playing meaningful basketball together, which is tasked with learning a new system, but which also has been schooled in a culture of success,

"I love this group of kids," Courtney said in a recent interview. "I love their character, I love their work ethic, I love their versatility and skill level; I love their attitude. Steve and those guys created a winning culture around here. These kids know nothing but winning."

Donahue bolted for Boston College after leading Cornell to a memorable 29-5 season, including a third straight Ivy League title, two NCAA tournament wins, and a berth in the Sweet 16. This year, a certain amount of regression is to be expected.

There's no replacing the program's all-time leading scorer and league player of the year (Ryan Wittman), a highly skilled 7-foot center (Jeff Foote) and a point guard (Louis Dale) who was the best player on the floor for long stretches of Cornell's NCAA tournament stint. There's no replacing the senior leadership -- a graduation class of eight -- savvy and experience that fueled a memorable Sweet 16 run and program-best season record.

Courtney is one of four new first-year coaches in the Ivy League this season. Dartmouth hired Paul Cormier, Penn promoted Jerome Allen, and Columbia replaced Joe Jones with Kyle Smith.

He is not without talent. At point guard is junior Chris Wroblewski, one of the league's best returning decision-makers and shooters. In the front court, seniors Adam Wire and Mark Coury are standout defenders, and 6-6 sophomore Errick Peck has a bright future.

True to Donahue's teams of recent years, Courtney also has several players who can shoot the 3: Wroblewski, and junior guards Max Groebe and Andrew Ferry (transfer from Palm Beach State College by way of Valparaiso), among others.

But unknowns dominate the landscape.

Specifically, where does the rest of the roster fit in? What roles await sophomores Josh Figini, Miles Asafo-Adjei, Peter McMillan or Eitan Chemerinski? What about junior forward Anthony Gatlin, now eligible to play after sitting out one year due to NCAA transfer guidelines? Six-9 senior Aaron Osgood? Four new freshmen?

The rotation possibilities, as Courtney said, are "endless." Friday began the filtering process. The Big Red opens on Nov. 12 at Albany.

"What I think I'm going to start to do, like every two weeks, is put down my rotation and make sure I mark the date," he said in August. "Because I know it's going to change.

"Everybody out there is playing for playing time."

OTHER NOTES OF THE FIRST PRACTICE VIA TWITTER:

-New practice jerseys and shoes for the Big Red this year. -Slope Media (see photos above)

-"Biggest difference between practices with Coach Donaue and practices with Coach Courtney is that Courtney uses a whistle." -Slope Media

-"Miles AA, Peck, Johnny Gray, and Manny Sahota particularly impressive so far in first practice w/ Wrobo and Aro looking like clear leaders." -Slope Media

-"Dom Scelfo only player sitting out practice. He's been riding the bike and doing drills on the side."-Slope Media

"Coach C really worked those guys hard."-Slope Media

"Could only stay at CU practice for 45 minutes, but Courtney looked loose, fresh - drilled them hard but made the rounds and kept it light...Winner of the "he obviously hit the weight room" award from Cornell's first practice: Eitan Chemerinski."-Brian Delaney

"Lots of enthusiasm at our first practice tonight!! Guys gave great effort and competed all night." -Cornell assistant coach, Ricky Yahn.

-Both Errick Peck and Aaron Osgood also shared some reactions to the first practice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pete Carril once said that suicides aren't good for anything except teaching you how to pick stuff off the floor really quickly.