Friday, August 26, 2011

News and Notes: Friday Edition

Below, some news and notes for Friday...
Former basketball center Jeff Foote ’10 is taking his game to the next level, signing with a professional team in Poland for the upcoming season.

Foote ’10 on Career Abroad, Summer Spent With Friends

By Lauren Ritter

The tale of the 2009-10 men’s basketball season has been a great source of inspiration for Cornell athletics fans over the past two years. The two upset victories during the first weekend of March Madness against Temple and Wisconsin resulted in a legendary NCAA tournament run for the Red — the first ever in program history.

One of the players at the center of all of the hype was big man and team tri-captain Jeff Foote ’10. As the top field goal percentage shooter (.633) and top rebounder (8.1) in the conference, the 7-0 center was a tremendous force to be reckoned with on the court. Recipient of the Ivy League’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010, Foote showed a strong technical prowess on both ends of the court — averaging 12.4 points and 2.3 assists per game on the offensive end during his senior season. In his three years for the Red after transferring from St. Bona­venture, Foote showed a constant improvement and passion for the sport that was as big as he is.

After graduation, Foote decided to sign with five-time Euroleague champion Maccabi Tel Aviv, which is part of a large collection of sports clubs in Israel and one of the most successful teams in Europe.

“The contract was really good that I got,” Foote said of his decision to head to Israel. “Maccabi is a prestigious team, so it was like being in the NBA without being in the NBA — they are that big a team.”

According to Foote, Tel Aviv was a fairly decent place to live since most people speak English as a second language to Hebrew and the local cuisine is apparently very good.

“When I was in Tel Aviv there were restaurants everywhere,” he explained. “I could get whatever I wanted. There was a restaurant that had amazing chicken wings and French toast, the best I ever had. I would go at three in the morning just to get that.”

Since initially signing with Maccabi, the former Red center spent a brief time with Mellila Baloncesto, a Spanish second division team located on the mainland of Morocco. Maccabi loaned Foote to Mellila so that he could gain more experience playing abroad. Trading bustling Israel for an apartment along the Moroccan coast presented Foote with a new distinctly different landscape. Mellila is a poorer city with most people only speaking Spanish, a stark comparison to prominent use of the English language in Tel Aviv.

“I was a rookie, so [Maccabi] thought I needed another year to get to a higher level so I was sent to Mellila,” Foote said of the cross-continental move.

In recent weeks, Foote signed a contract to play with Zastal Zielona Góra, where he will be joining former teammate Ryan Wittman ’10 who signed with the team last Wednesday.

“It was similar to last year, but this time I got to choose where I went instead,” Foote explained. “There were a few offers, one in Greece and one Germany, but I wanted to play with either [Louis Dale ’10] or Ryan. I thought I was going to play on Lou’s team, but in the end the financial situation didn’t match up, so I got the opportunity to play with Ryan again.”

During his time on East Hill, Foote developed strong friendships with his teammates and over the summer had the opportunity to live with Wittman, Dale and fellow Sweet 16 teammate Jon Jaques ’10 in New York City. The four friends played basketball together, explored the city and even had a New York Times article written about their summer escapades.

The time the four Cornellians spent living together in the city seemed to be filled with inside jokes, which Foote live-tweeted (read: #livingwithidiots), and a few memorable adventures — including a fun night on the town with his best friend, Dale, and a trip to Long Island to watch Wrestlemania.

“It was just us two in the house, so we decided to go out and went a bunch of different places,” Foote explained, describing one night when Dale treated him to dinner.

Foote joked about his close relationship with Dale, describing their city adventures as all part of their whirlwind “bromance.” However, this summer the duo joined Wittman and Jaques and became the Fab Four.

“Overseas you are by yourself and then you get the summer to live with your friends — Louis, Ryan and Jon,” Foote said. “NYC is a nice place to live, but then you add in that dynamic, and you end up on adventures.”

Foote, Dale, Wittman and Jaques have proven that friendship knows no distance since heading off to their respective corners of the world. Whenever Cornell broadcasted basketball games last season, the four friends would all make a point to come together.

“The foreign guys — me, Louis, Ryan and Jon — are really tight knit,” he explained regarding their alleged group bromance. “So, whenever a game would come on at 7 p.m., we would all sign on to watch the game and we would start a group chat room on Skype. We would watch the Cornell games and comment on what was happening, good or bad, and our opinions on it.”

Now that it’s time to start packing for his next trans-Atlantic flight, Foote is looking forward to his upcoming time in Poland.

“My grandmother is 100 percent Polish, so I have family ties there,” he said.

However, Foote is most excited about the opportunity to reunite with Wittman on the court.

Above, some Cornell basketball themed tweets from the twittersphere over the last 24 hours.

Cornell Athletics posted on the official team website the above head-shots of Cornell's new freshman class. Below, a few of the Big Red freshmen huddle up during the annual Cornell Rebounders Club team picnic which was held Wednesday night.


Anonymous said...

Jeff Foote's interviews are always the best.

Happy Birthday to Shonn Miller.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain the benefits of a +20 person roster?

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Cornell's roster includes 2 walk-ons and a bunch of transfers. Can't say the same about the other massive rosters in the Ivy.

Anonymous said...

From a player’s perspective, a roster of 21 still equals a roster of 21, whether or not it includes transfers and walk-ons.

However, large roster sizes do seem to be the new norm in the Ivy League.

I suppose its because there is obviously no scholarship cap in the Ivy League like in scholarship programs. And, with recruiting at the low D-1level being so unpredictable, Ivy League coaches probably figure they have a better chance of putting together a solid rotation of 8-10 guys when working from a roster pool of 20, as compared to working from the normal roster pool for scholarship programs of 13 or 14.

Now, to address the question of "what are the benefits of a +20 roster?", the benefits are that you always have plenty of guys for off-season workouts and practices, and its an insurance policy against a rash of injuries to some extent.

On the other hand, there may also be some negative effects, both with recruiting and with kids transferring.

Kids who are talented enough to play at any D-1 level want to play big minutes every game - period. They have egos, they were stars in high school, and you just can't change that personality. That's why they are good, and also why they are bound to get frustrated if they don’t play enough.

However, with 20+ players, it is very likely that as many as 12 or 13 guys will not play big minutes. So, there very well may be transfers, and no coach wants to explain that on the recruiting trail.

Also, if I am a recruited senior in high school and I see that there will be 15 players returning on a total roster of 21 when I am a freshman at the school that is recruiting me, I want some assurances from the coaches up front that I am going to play ahead of those returning upperclassmen at my position, or I am looking elsewhere.

Not playing more than half the guys on your roster surely must be tough for any coach in the Ivy League, considering the quality of these kids and what a joy it must be to coach them.

That’s why I think, in the end, the trend of large roster sizes in the Ivy League is not a good thing for the players or the coaches.

Anonymous said...

Last year on the Cornell squad, 15 guys managed to play in at least 13 games each, and to get an average of at least 4 minutes per game in those games. Essentially, everyone who wasn't injured and wasn't a walk on got into at least a dozen games. This is much more than they might've gotten at a place like Penn, where the star players like Rosen and Cartwright are overused, and touted recruits might end up on the bench getting into only two or three games all year and barely seeing 10 minutes total all season.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:35 said: "On the other hand, there may also be some negative effects, both with recruiting and with kids transferring."

It might hurt recruiting -- in which case the problem sort of solves itself -- but if it was gonna lead to transferring, wouldn't it have done so by now?

Guys who've transferred out of Ivy schools due to concerns over roster bloat and future playing time have usually done so at the end of their freshmen years. Penn, Columbia, and Brown all had freshmen leave this past season. Penn has had at least three freshmen leave in the last two years. People who've transferred INTO Ivies also usually left their previous schools at the end of their freshmen years. Yet despite the fact that Cornell's roster would clearly be bloated this year, everyone came back.

(When non-freshmen have left, it has usually been due to cuts, like Amaker's and Allen's, or due to personal problems, like Kenyi and Sands.)

Also, I think the fact that our main overload is in the guards, but we are graduating 3 guards this year, helps a lot.

Anonymous said...

the best coaches always play a fairly tight rotation of 7-9 guys. Playing 12 every night is a recipe for disaster. Constant subbing ruins any sort of on court chemistry and rythmn that develops as the game progresses.

Anonymous said...

ANON 8:26AM-
Very perceptive. I agree 100% with this assessment of how successful coaches run their programs. When one looks at season-cumulative data from essentially every program in D-1, it is true. Old timers will tell you that 30-40 years ago, a D-1 team could get by with a Core 5 and a sixth man. Not so, today.

There may be games early in the season in which Coach goes deeper as players get trial time or in lost-cause games, but as the team finds success, 8-9 players getting significant rotation minutes is how it works out. All the smart coach can ever tell a recruit is that he will be given the chance to compete fairly in this environment.

The players know this. The ones who stay accept their roles. All members of the 20+-man roster bring value in practices. Those outside the rotation as underclassmen, who are thinking about replacing a graduating player, accept that new recruits may outshine them. Even previous rotation players are occasionally pushed aside by new recruits. Those still outside the rotation as upperclassmen know that a Jason Miller or Jon Jaques story pops up in the Ivy League nearly every year, and keep up the hope.

D-1 college basketball is an excellent team experience for small groups of young men.

Anonymous said...

"The best coaches play a fairly tight rotation of 7-9 guys." I think it's more like most coaches play 10-12. Seven or eight just sounds way too small.

In 2009-10, which was of course a team well done, Donahue regularly played 11 guys, that is, guys who played in at least 25 games and averaged at least 7 minutes per game:

Witt, Dale, Foote, Ski, and Jaques, who were of course the starters;
Wire and Reeves, who were first off the bench;
Coury, Peck, and Groebe, who regularly spelled the starters and got 7 to 11 min per game and usually scored 3 to 6 points a night;
and AT if he wasn't hurt, who still played in 26 games and averaged 10 minutes per game.

Part of Courtney's generous PT distribution was an inability to decide on a rotation, which I did think hurt chemistry and did not give players ample opportunity to develop.

But part of it was also just due to injuries to Gat, Groebe, and Aro; his high-energy starting lineup; and his high-pressure style. These things naturally expanded the rotation, the latter two in a systematic and intentional way. But whether these things will continue is unknown.

Anonymous said...

I think players know by the end of their freshman year whether they'll ever be a rotation player. I think the reason you don't see players leaving Cornell very often is the bond and chemistry they develop with their teammates/friends.

Anonymous said...

For the most part, what ANON 12:53 says is true. However, there are just enough "outlier" happenings, that Ivy basketball players should never say "never."

Adam Wire played 29 minutes his freshman year, no indication that he would ever be a rotation player. He played 432 minutes as a sophomore and was a regular in the rotation his last three years. With Jason Hartford's departure, Adam noticeably upped the level of his game, moreorless taking JHart's minutes, with his defensive prowess. Opportunity helps.

Jon Jaques played a total of 113 minutes his first three years. We all know that his contributions as a senior to the 2009-10 team were crucial. Given AT's unfortunate injury situation, Jon was there to take those minutes. Again, opportunity helps.

Other schools have had players come from obscurity. When it was his turn, Jason Miller stepped up big time as a senior a couple years ago for Columbia, after Hard Hat graduated.

A totally healthy Aro, who played 76 minutes his first three years, could have had a Miller/Jaques-like year for Cornell as a senior.

To me, it's an integral part of our league's intrigue. As an Ivy League basketball player, you can never quite say "never." Hopefully, you are ready and healthy when opportunity knocks.

I wonder who it will be this year.