Monday, November 1, 2010

"For Ferry, the carousel stops at Cornell"

By the time they departed Cornell, Steve Donahue's coaching staff had become particularly adept at identifying, evaluating and recruiting transfer talent to Cornell. The staff's final transfer, 6-foot-2 junior guard Andrew Ferry, is expected to help define the success levels of Bill Courtney's first two years as new coach.

Donahue's staff felt that, with Ferry, they added a player similar to immensely popular former guard Adam Gore - a guard that brought not only a dependable three-point stroke, but also a tough competitiveness to both ends of the floor and, perhaps most important, a compatible attitude. Now, Ferry is acclimating himself to his fourth school in four years (including his high school, Milwaukee Lutheran) and ready to finally settle down.

Ferry said he didn't get much attention from Division I programs out of high school, primarily because of his size. ("I was a little small," he said. "I was like 5-10, 120 pounds or something; a little more than that, but I wasn't getting too many looks and Valpo gave me a chance to walk on.")

Ferry spent his freshman year as a walk-on at Valparaiso, and played sparingly in 22 games. (Valparaiso plays in the ultra-competitive mid-major Horizon League). That team went 9-22, and he said coach Homer Drew told him that with four new guard recruits expected to arrive for the 2009-10 season, he would be starting back down at the bottom of the depth chart, again as a walk-on. So Ferry, who badly wanted to play meaningful minutes at a Division I program, opted to transfer to Palm Beach State College in Florida.

"I thought if I wanted to play Division I somewhere else, I had to go to junior college to get some exposure," he said. "I went down to Florida, to Palm Beach, and I was fortunate enough to work hard and have a pretty good year. I had some Division I looks, and with the success Cornell's had, and their academics, it was just a perfect fit."

Ferry said his choices came down to Cornell, La Salle, Toledo (before coach Gene Cross left) and Liberty. Nat Graham did the heavy lifting on Ferry's recruitment, but when Donahue left for Boston College, it was AD Andy Noel that initially eased any nervousness from Ferry's camp with a reassuring phone call. Before Noel even hired Courtney, Ferry re-affirmed his commitment to the Big Red.

"I didn't decommit, but I talked to Andy Noel to make sure I was making the right decision," Ferry said. "Because the coaches, I really liked the coaches and what they were doing. That was a big part of my decision. So I kind of took a big step back to re-evaluate everything, and then even before they hired coach Courtney, I realized Cornell was the school (I wanted)."

Courtney's honesty and charm certainly helped ease Ferry's mind.

"I felt good with him right away," he said. "I was very comfortable with him and couldn't wait to get started."

Still, questions naturally lingered. Donahue's offensive system felt like a perfect fit for Ferry's perimeter skill set. Would Courtney's style feel the same way? After two weeks of practice, Ferry is getting more and more comfortable that the answer is yes.

"I think coach Courtney still has (the 3-pointer) high on his priority list offensively," Ferry said. "We have some great shooters, and I think we're still going to utilize that."

Ferry shot 45.5 percent from the arc at Palm Beach State. Last season, Chris Wroblewski shot 45.4 percent from 3 over 30 minutes per game (and that number will likely dip a bit due to the attention that will be paid to him this year), and Max Groebe shot 56 percent in limited time and has the the purest on the roster. Not saying those are the target numbers for those guys this year, but if each shoots around that 38-40 percent mark? Cornell will remain a tough team to defend. And that's exactly what Donahue and his staff had in mind when they targeted Ferry.

"Right now we have some guys who are banged up, but once everybody's healthy and competitive with each other, I think we have enough talent to compete in pretty much every game," Ferry said.

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