Syracuse Post Standard
November 30, 2010
Cornell coach Bill Courtney could not have imagined a more devastating injury, a more fateful turn of the ankle. It happened to his Big Red in a pre-season scrimmage, before a single meaningful minute was logged this season.
Then, as Cornell played Colgate, Chris Wroblewski drove for a lay-up, landed on a Colgate player’s foot and severely sprained his ankle.
He hobbled around the Ithaca campus for a week on crutches, then graduated to a protective boot. In the meantime, Cornell played two games -- against Albany and Seton Hall -- without its leading returning scorer and its most talented player.
“No question,” said Courtney, “that hurt us.”
Wroblewski will be back in the Big Red lineup today, when Cornell visits Syracuse for a 7 p.m. game inside the Carrier Dome. The 6-foot junior point guard estimates his physical health at “about 85 percent.” The ankle throbs less frequently. He’s beginning to experience a painless return of explosiveness when he applies pressure on the leg to jump or run.
But the injury stole from Wroblewski some valuable conditioning time and some important basketball experience. Last year, he said, on a team that boasted the guard and wing talents of Louis Dale and Ryan Wittman, Wroblewski could park on the perimeter nearly unnoticed and launch a 3-pointer without much pressure.
This season, with Dale and Wittman a distant memory, all defensive attention focuses on Wroblewski, who had prepared for his increased role with a summer of intense workouts.
“It was frustrating because I wanted to be the leader of the team. I had high expectations for myself and my team,” Wroblewski said. “And a lot of that summer work -- I don’t want to say it was erased -- but it’s evident that I’m a little bit rusty and a little out of shape.”
Despite that rust, Wroblewski is shooting a robust 46 percent (11-of-24) from 3-point range. He claims that number can be deceptive, that he has had opportunities “down the stretch” of recent Cornell games when he missed shots that might have made a difference in each of the Big Red’s losses. He is turning the ball over, he said, more frequently than he would prefer. (He has 21 assists and 20 turnovers.)
But Wroblewski is a 45 percent career 3-point shooter at Cornell. In two games against Syracuse, he averaged 14.5 points and sank 47 percent of his 3-point attempts. Courtney said his stroke is so pure because despite Cornell’s demanding class schedule, Wroblewski manages to make time during his busy day to visit the gym outside practice and shoot. (Wroblewski is an Applied Economics and Management major.)
Last year, Cornell essentially played with two point guards in Dale and Wroblewski, though Dale was the Big Red’s primary ballhandler.
This year, that responsibility falls to Wroblewski, a former all-Ivy League rookie of the year who must also shoulder much of the Cornell scoring load.
“I’m being asked to do a little more than what I’m accustomed to,” Wroblewski said. “Be more aggressive. Take on much more of a leadership role. That takes some getting used to, definitely. But I expected it. I wanted that role.”
Courtney praised Wroblewski’s on-ball defense and his ability to create for himself and for his teammates on the offensive end. Because he is Cornell’s best shooter, Big Red coaches likely will install plays for him this season designed to free him for open shots.
During Wroblewski’s ankle sprain convalescence, he was denied an opportunity to shoot or to work out with teammates, many of whom are new to the Big Red’s starting lineup. Wroblewski termed his inability to launch shots “torture,” and admitted the layoff affected his ball-handling and passing skills.
Those days are waning, now. When Wroblewski takes to the Carrier Dome floor tonight, his ankle will be almost fully healed.
“I like the way that I’m coming along,” he said. “The first week I couldn’t put any pressure on it, then I rode the (stationary) bike and did some set shooting. But there’s no substitution for playing a game of basketball.”
NOTE -- Cornell center Aaron Osgood will not play tonight against Syracuse. The 6-9 Osgood, who scored 19 points in the Big Red’s loss to Seton Hall, is sidelined with a knee injury.