Friday, February 4, 2011

Ithaca Journal Scouts Yale/Brown Weekend

By Brian Delaney
Ithaca Journal
February 4, 2011

ITHACA -- Teammates have not been surprised to see Eitan Chemerinski's playing time go from non-existent to a spot substitution or two, to a more meaningful reserve role off the bench last weekend.

Chemerinski, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward on Cornell men's basketball team, is showing himself capable of being more than just one of the most intelligent people his teammates have met along their Ivy League travels. He played nine minutes at Dartmouth last Friday, followed by five productive minutes in Saturday's loss to Harvard.

"In practice, he plays really well," classmate Errick Peck said.

Now, it seems, a mid-week injury has opened Chemerinski's door wider. Senior center Aaron Osgood reinjured his knee Wednesday and has been ruled out for the Big Red's road trip through Yale and Brown this weekend.

"I guess I just want to play tough defense and try to rebound as best I can," said the soft-spoken Chemerinski. "Just hustling, playing tough."

Cornell played three games in late November and early December without Osgood, but Chemerinski had not yet worked his way into the rotation.

Yale (9-9, 2-2 Ivy) starts 6-foot-10, 240-pound junior center Greg Mangano alongside 6-9, 235-pound freshman Jeremiah Kreisberg. Chemerinski, at 205 pounds, will join 6-9, 235-pound senior center Mark Coury and 6-5, 220-pound forward Adam Wire up front.

"He's got to rebound," said Cornell coach Bill Courtney of Chemerinski. "He's got to help us defensively and rebound. He's not the strongest guy in the world, and he has to make that up with effort."

Academically, Chemerinski is a 4.0 student in applied economics who speaks five languages, including Mandarin, and has aspirations of working in the emerging financial markets in China.

Effort is something Chemerinski does well. In practice, he throws his body around down low. He's got a quick burst off two feet, and can turn what looks like an easy defensive rebound for an opponent into a tiring tip drill. He's capable of catching and finishing at the rim, but his back-to-the-basket offense is a work in progress.

As he adds strength in the coming years, Chemerinski's ceiling is high, Courtney believes.

"Strength is going to be a major factor," he said. "(He's got to) concentrate on it in the offseason. He's athletic, he's crafty, he catches it well, he finishes around the rim, which is a very good quality. He has to get stronger and be more confident in his low-post game. He has some moves, but he has to be more confident. He's learning he can be a good player."

With his team 4-14 overall and 0-4 in the league, Courtney will likely find ways to get Chemerinski and 6-9, 205-pound sophomore Josh Figini more playing time. Osgood, Coury and Wire are due to graduate, leaving a sizable void up front for the 2011-12 season. Courtney's first reported recruiting class has some size and potential, but no immediate cure-alls. At this level of Division I basketball, those don't exist.

The development of Chemerinski and Figini will be critical for the future. Figini has been hindered in recent weeks by a thumb injury on his right hand -- his shooting hand. With Osgood out, Courtney said, Figini will be available.

Like Cornell, Brown (7-11, 0-4) is also winless through four league games. The Bears host Columbia Friday. The league's marquee matchup is Friday at Princeton's Jadwin Gymnasium, where Harvard (15-3, 4-0) hopes to win for the first time since Feb. 3, 1989. The Tigers (15-4, 2-0) were the preseason favorite.

Osgood's absence deprives Cornell of its most capable interior scoring option. Ending its four-game skid will now be tougher.

"We have to throw it in there (on offense)," Courtney said. "Whoever's in there, we have to throw it to. We have to get the ball in the paint, especially with the way people are guarding us now. They're guarding us outside-in.

"We can get it in there," he said. "We watched the tape. We got in there with drives and post-ups. We just have to make the play when we get it in there."

Notes: Courtney said Max Groebe (illness) and Manny Sahota (ankle) are available again after missing last weekend's games. ... Cornell guard Chris Wroblewski was named to the 2010-11 Capital One Academic All-District Men's Basketball Team, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Wroblewski is an applied economics/management major with a 3.61 GPA.

Matchup: Cornell (4-14, 0-4 Ivy) at Yale (9-9, 2-2), 7 p.m. Friday

Radio: WVBR (93.5)

Coach: James Jones (12th season, 151-177)

Last time out: Yale lost at Princeton on Saturday, 67-63, one night after losing at Penn, 66-58.

Probable starters: Austin Morgan (5-11, 185, Soph., G), Porter Braswell (6-1, 195, Sr., G), Reggie Willhite (6-4, 195, Jr., F), Jeremiah Kreisberg (6-9, 235, Fr., F), Greg Mangano (6-10, 240, Jr., C).

Key reserves: Rhett Anderson (6-8, 230, Jr., F), Raffi Mantilla (6-3, 190, Sr., G), Sam Martin (6-3, 195, Soph., G).

Statistically: Yale has won seven of its last nine games against Cornell at Lee Amphitheater. ... Mangano is having a player of the year-type season, averaging 14.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He's shooting 46 percent from the field. ... After averaging over 14 points in Yale's first 14 games, Morgan has been held to 6 points per in four Ivy games. ... Mantilla has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury.

Outlook: Yale's been a bit up-and-down this season, but when the Bulldogs are up, they can beat any league opponent. That prospect, coupled with a typically strong home-court advantage at Lee, puts Cornell in a precarious position as the Big Red attempts to end a four-game slide.

Yale's size up front will be an issue, particularly on the glass. Cornell actually outrebounded Harvard last Saturday, but the Crimson were simply too good in other areas. That doesn't have to be the case in this matchup. If Cornell plays hard, shoots well and rebounds, the streak can end. Shooting well might be the toughest challenge -- Yale is No. 1 in the Ivy League in field goal defense (.414 percentage), ahead of even Princeton.

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