Friday, November 11, 2011

Ithaca Journal Previews Cornell Season

Cornell men's basketball coach Bill Courtney is optimistic heading into tonight’s season opener.

By Ed Boulat
Ithaca Journal
November 11, 2011

ITHACA -- Of all people, Bill Courtney knows how deceiving first impressions can be.

Last season, Courtney's first year as head coach of the Cornell men's basketball team, the Big Red finished 10-18 overall and 6-8 in the Ivy League, in sixth place. Cornell had losing streaks of eight and five games and won only three of 14 road games.

So what explains the coach's quiet optimism heading into Friday night's season opener at St. Bonaventure?

Well, it could be that his team lost 10 contests by five points or fewer last year, or that the Big Red won six of its final nine games. It could have something to do with returning four starters, including senior captain and All-Ivy second-team point guard Chris Wroblewski.

Or it could be that with one year at the helm under his belt, Courtney gets to continue building his basketball program the only way he knows how: one season at a time.

"We had some success in the end of last year," Courtney said. "Any time you can end on a high note, I think you feel pleased about what you've been able to accomplish. We were able to see improvements throughout the year and get tangible results from that in the end, so with the guys returning I think it was definitely a good sign as to where things are headed for this year."

Where the team is headed is to be determined, but it's no secret where it is coming from. The Big Red, which has won three Ivy League titles in the past four seasons, is two years removed from its 2010 NCAA Sweet 16 squad, from which four starters and eight seniors departed prior to Courtney's rookie season.

This season, Cornell's coaching staff will have all but one player from the previous season's starting five to work with, including Wroblewski, sharpshooting senior Drew Ferry, junior big man Errick Peck and classmate and defensive specialist Miles Asafo-Adjei. Courtney is unwilling to declare Cornell out of the rebuilding forest but added that expectations have not lowered because of it.

"It's still a rebuilding process, because when you lose such an important class, it probably takes a little more than a year to get back to that level, even to a championship level," Courtney said. "But while you're in the rebuilding process I don't think your goals change. We fully expect to compete for a spot at the top of the Ivy League and in every non-conference game. Our goals won't change; it's just a matter of building our program the way we want to."

How close Cornell will come to reaching those goals will rest heavily on Wroblewski and Ferry. Wroblewski, a tri-captain, returns as the team leader in scoring (14.2 point average), assists (5.7) and steals 1.6).

Ferry, a transfer from Palm Beach State, averaged 11.9 points per game while shooting 39 percent from 3-point range in his first season at Cornell, leading a Big Red squad that ranked first nationally with a .430 percentage on 3-pointers. Guards Max Groebe and Jonathan Gray are expected to join Wroblewski and Ferry in hoisting shots early and often.

"That's the guys we have and that's our strong point, shooting the 3-point shot," Courtney said. "That's going to continue to be a staple of our program; running up and down the floor, pressuring our opponent defensively, making the game a very high tempo game. We're not the biggest team in the world so we have to try and take advantage of that."

Also figuring in Cornell's offensive plans are 6-foot-6 sophomore Dwight Tarwater and freshman guard Galal Cancer, both of whom made strong showings in the Red-White scrimmage and, according to Courtney, will "have a chance to contribute."

Tarwater, who played in seven games before missing the majority of his rookie season due to illness, scored 17 points for the Red team, while Cancer added five assists and seven rebounds. Add a still-evolving inside presence in the 6-foot-6, 224-pound Peck and -- at least in Wroblewski's eyes -- the Big Red is an Ivy League contender.

"We definitely have, with the 21 guys on this team, all the pieces to be an Ivy League championship-caliber team," Wroblewski said. "It just comes down to coming in every day and working our tails off. If there's anyone in the league that knows what it takes to get there, it's us, because we won our first couple of years and we've tasted it and we want to get back."

Following Friday night's game, Cornell's home opener will be at 7 p.m. Monday against Binghamton. The Big Red will play at Illinois on Dec. 19, at Penn State on Dec. 21 and at Maryland on Jan. 3 before opening its Ivy League schedule against Princeton on Jan. 13.

As far as games Courtney has highlighted on his team's schedule -- there is only one, and based on his steady demeanor, it's not much of a surprise.

"We have the first one circled," Courtney said. "Nothing else, just the first one. It's a road opponent, picked fourth in the Atlantic 10, obviously a very good league. That's the first game so that's the one we're concentrating on the most."

Chris Wroblewski averaged 14.2 points and 5.7 assists last season.

By Ed Boulat
Ithaca Journal
November 11, 2011

ITHACA -- Cornell men's basketball captain Chris Wroblewski has a lot to be confident about.

Despite coming off his only season that did not end with an Ivy League title, the senior playmaker and last link to the Big Red's historic run to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2010 is touted as one of the top point guards in the country.

After averaging 14.2 points, 5.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game during his junior campaign, Wroblewski was named second-team All-Ivy. He led the conference in steals, was second in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1:1), sixth in scoring and shot 43 percent from 3-point range, good for sixth in the Ivies.

It doesn't stop there. Wroblewski also was named to the Capital One Academic All-America third team, one of two players in the Ivy League and the first non-senior Cornellian to be so honored. More recently, Wroblewski was named one of 30 finalists for the Lowe's Senior Class Award. The Ivy League Rookie of the Year for 2008-09 is also enjoying his second season on the Bob Cousy Award Watch List, which tracks the top point guards in the nation.

While things on the court and in the classroom have seemingly always come easy for the 6-foot Illinois native, it is in the locker room that Wroblewski says he has had to make the biggest adjustments.

He played his first two seasons in the shadows of such guards as Cornell all-time scoring leader and unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year Ryan Wittman and All-Ivy first-teamer Louis Dale. Last season Wroblewski was named captain of a team that had lost eight seniors from the previous season. This season his off-the-court leadership duties have expanded, something Wroblewski says he has learned to embrace.

"I would say this year my role involves being more of a vocal leader," Wroblewski. "It's a similar leadership role to when I'm on the court handling the ball. It was a transition that I wasn't really used to at first, because my first two years Louis Dale was the primary ball handler. I think you saw early on it was a tough transition for me, whereas this year I'm really trying to hit the ground running. I'm excited and really looking forward to it."

Another thing Wroblewski might have to get used to -- starting Friday night, when the Big Red opens its season at 7 p.m. at St. Bonaventure -- are the words "triple-double," after his 17-point, 10-assist, eight-rebound performance in the Red-White scrimmage last month. No Cornell player has ever recorded a triple-double, although coach Bill Courtney, for one, says he would not be all that surprised if his point guard were to get one.

"He does a great job on the glass for a 5-foot-11 guy," Courtney said. "He really makes an effort to go in there and get some. If he can get 10 rebounds, he has a chance to get one, because I'm sure he'll get 10 assists on some nights and I'm sure he'll get double figure points on almost every night."

Wroblewski is not so sure a triple-double is in his future.

"That's probably as close as I'll ever sniff a triple-double," Wroblewski said. "But you never know, I might have a lucky night."

No. Name Pos. Cl. Ht. Wt. Hometown/High School

2 Galal Cancer G Fr. 6-2 178 Albany / Christian Brothers Academy

3 Chris Wroblewski G Sr. 6-0 178 Highland Park, Ill. / Highland Park HS

4 Dave LaMore F/C Fr. 6-9 228 Whitmore Lake, Mich. / Dexter HS

5 Errick Peck F Jr. 6-6 224 Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral HS

11 Max Groebe G Sr. 6-4 209 North Miami Beach, Fla. / Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior HS

12 Dominick Scelfo G So. 6-3 179 Kenner, La. / Jesuit HS

13 Anthony Gatlin G/F Sr. 6-8 205 Pearland, Texas / Pearland HS

15 Drew Ferry G Sr. 6-2 180 Milwaukee, Wis. / Milwaukee Lutheran HS

20 Jake Matthews G So. 6-2 155 Greensburg, Pa. / Greensburg-Salem HS

21 Peter McMillan F Jr. 6-7 203 Brentwood, Calif. / Northfield Mt. Hermon School

22 Miles Asafo-Adjei G Jr. 6-2 170 Antioch, Tenn. / The Ensworth School

23 Johnathan Gray G Jr. 6-3 184 Tampa, Fla. / Berkeley Preparatory HS

24 Devin Cherry G Fr. 6-3 180 Meridian, Miss. / Meridian HS

25 Jamal Cherry G So. 6-4 190 Tampa, Fla. / Tampa Preparatory School

32 Shonn Miller F Fr. 6-7 202 Euclid, Ohio / St. Ignatius HS

33 Dwight Tarwater F So. 6-6 223 Knoxville, Tenn. / The Webb School of Knoxville

34 Josh Figini F Jr. 6-9 215 Chisago Lakes, Minn. / Chisago Lakes HS

35 Nenad Tomic F Fr. 6-7 248 North Royalton, Ohio / North Royalton HS

44 Manny Sahota F So. 6-5 200 Brampton, Ontario / St. Marguerite d'Youville HS

50 Deion Giddens F/C Fr. 6-9 192 Bitburg, Germany / Willow Canyon (Ariz.) HS

55 Eitan Chemerinski F Jr. 6-8 218 Potomac, Md. / Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Head coach: Bill Courtney

Assistants: Marlon Sears, Mike Blaine, Arlen Galloway

Team (1st-place) Pts.

Harvard (16) 135

Yale (1) 103

Princeton 103

Pennsylvania 90

Brown 62

Cornell 52

Columbia 50

Dartmouth 17

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