Friday, November 11, 2011

Brian Delaney (ESPN 1160 Radio) Previews Cornell at St. Bonaventure

By Brian Delaney
ESPN 1160 Radio

Given the option, Bill Courtney might say St. Bonaventure is the team on Cornell’s non-conference schedule he’d least like to play on opening night. That’s not to say he thinks his team can’t beat NBA prospect Andrew Nicholson and the revitalized Bonnies, but simply because the Bonnies are possibly best constructed to expose Cornell’s considerable shortcomings along the interior.

The Big Red is coming off a 10-18 season in which it stumbled through a draining number of close losses, before winning six of nine games to end the year. Courtney returns all his perimeter scoring, and even adds a few pieces – freshman Galal Cancer, sophomore Dominic Scelfo -- that at the minimum deepens the team’s ball-handling contingent.

Mark Coury and Aaron Osgood, a pair of 6-foot-9 forwards, graduated. So did 6-5, 225-pound Adam Wire, easily the most physical player on last year’s team. Injuries this offseason will sideline bulked-up 6-8 forward Anthony Gatlin (until winter break), and 6-6 returning starter Errick Peck (no timeline), for Friday’s game. Freshman Dave LaMore, a 6-9, 228-pound big, isn’t back to full strength yet after turning an ankle in preseason.

That means Courtney’s frontcourt rotation will look like this against Bonaventure: 6-8, 218-pound junior Eitan Chemerinski at the five and 6-6, 215-pound sophomore Dwight Tarwater at the four; with junior Josh Figini (6-9, 215) and freshmen Shonn Miller (6-7, 202), Ned Tomic (6-7, 248) and Deion Giddens (6-9, 192) coming off the bench.

Chemerinski and Figini are the most experienced players of that group, having averaged 8.5 and 7.1 minutes per game as sophomores. The two combined on one double-figure scoring night, and were inconsistent on the glass. They spent the offseason getting stronger and preparing themselves to play the five.

Still, rebounding will be an oft-talked about topic in 2011-12.

“We overcome it by being a unit,” senior guard Chris Wroblewski said. “Playing hard-nosed as a unit. We might have a single Wire character on the team where he can go out there, push guys around and make those plays.”

Ivy League basketball, in concert with most of the rest of the country, kicks off this weekend. Seven of the eight league members play Friday night, while Princeton opens Saturday against Wagner. The league enjoyed, top to bottom, one of the strongest seasons in history last year, and an incredible 16 of the league’s top 20 scorers return for an encore. Harvard is a heavy favorite to make its first NCAA tournament appearance come March. Ticket packages will be worth every cent.

Cornell’s strengths will be quickness, transition, perimeter scoring. Wroblewski was a second-team all-Ivy pick as a junior, the last-standing starter from that Sweet 16 team rotation in 2009-10. He averaged 14.2 points, 5.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game last season, while shooting 43 percent from the three-point arc.

“I realized I had to take a lot harder shots than I was used to,” he said. “First couple years, with Louis (Dale) and (Jeff) Foote, who was a great passer, I was shooting standstill open 3’s. Now I’m taking shots off the dribble, I have the responsibility of creating for others as well, so it was a big adjustment for me.”

Wroblewski expects to benefit from freshman Galal Cancer, a shifty, mature 6-foot-2 pass-first point guard. Senior Drew Ferry (6-2) and junior Johnathan Gray (6-3) also love to shoot the 3.

“Galal is an outstanding player,” Ferry said. “Even for a freshman. He’s got the physical size, he’s got the floor vision and he can take it to the basket, penetrate and distribute some looks to us on the perimeter. I think we’re going to count on him a lot this year.”

Bonaventure returns four starters from last year, including the 6-9, 240-pound Nicholson (20.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg). The projected lineup also includes 6-8 Da’Quan Cook, 6-5 Michael Davenport, 6-6 Demitrius Conger and 5-10 point guard Eric Mosley. Mosley transferred from Austin Peay.

The Reilly Center is a formidable home court when the Bonnies are competitive.

“They had almost 4,000 for their exhibition game last weekend,” Cornell coach Bill Courtney said. “This is their best team in a long time and I can remember back when I was a freshman in college playing there, and how incredibly excited the crowd was. It’ll be a frenzy on Friday night, and our guys, we’ll keep them loose. We have to be in a free mind to make shots.”

Cornell will try to speed up the Bonnies with a rotation that could go as deep as 14 players.

“If we’re making perimeter shots, I think we’re hard to match up with for a lot of people,” Courtney said. “We’re going to push in transition and see what we can get there. Hopefully execute our halfcourt offense very well. Obviously we’re a little smaller than they are, so hopefully our guys can set screens and move and share the basketball. If we do that, we’ll have some open looks.”

Courtney’s new-look frontcourt is getting tossed immediately into the fire.

“Josh and Eitan, everybody knows they put on a lot of weight, which is going to be huge for us,” said Tarwater, who played only seven games as a freshman before a bout with mononucleosis ended his season. “Eitan, he used to be a timid guy, and now he’s getting physical and stuff, which is great. He’s tough to guard with all his pumpfakes. He’s slippery inside, which is what a lot of people like to say.

“We’ll see,” Tarwater added. “It’s tough to tell right now because we’re a small team.”

No comments: