Friday, March 9, 2012

Foote Called Up To NBA's New Orleans Hornets

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Former Big Red men's basketball star Jeff Foote '10 has become the first Cornellian to earn a spot on an NBA roster in more than 50 years when he was called up to the New Orleans Hornets today. He is expected to join the team in Denver for tomorrow evening's contest against the Nuggets.

Foote was playing for the Springfield Armor of the NBA Development League where he was named to the league's all-star team. He was averaging 14.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 55 percent from the floor.

A two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and three-time All-Ivy selection, the 7-0 Foote was a first-team All-Ivy League selection and second-team NABC All-District pick after leading the conference in field goal percentage (.625) and rebounding (8.1), while ranking second in blocked shots (1.9) as a senior. He averaged 12.3 points and 2.3 assists on the offensive end that season, helping guide Cornell to its third straight Ivy League title and an appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16. Foote was named the tournament MVP at the MSG Holiday Festival that year and graduated among the school's career leaders in blocked shots (third, 159) and rebounds (12th, 634) despite playing only two and a half years for Cornell.

The Hornets, currently 9-30, are coached by former Notre Dame standout Monty Williams. One player on the roster Foote will likely remember is 6-6 guard Xavier Henry, a freshman starter on the Kansas team that Cornell famously nearly upset in Lawrence during the 2009-10 season. Foote also played against rookie Lance Thomas, a 6-8 forward from Duke when the Big Red matched up with the Blue Devils during the 2007-08 campaign. Leading the way for the Hornets is third-year guard Eric Gordon at 21.0 ppg., while Jarrett Jack (14.8 ppg., 6.0 apg.) is also among six double figure scorers.

Cornell has had many connections to the NBA over the years, as three previous former student-athletes have played in the league with a total of 12 players being drafted over the years.

Nat Militzok was the first Cornellian to play in the NBA, seeing time for both the Toronto Huskies of the BAA (the forerunner of the NBA) and New York Knicks during the 1946-47 season. In 57 total games, Militzok averaged 4.3 points. He had the honor of playing in what is considered the first NBA game for the Knicks against the Huskies in Toronto on Nov. 1, 1946. The longest career belonged to Ed Peterson, who played a season with the Syracuse Nationals in 1949-50 before suiting up for the Tri-City Blackhawks the following year. In 115 NBA games, Peterson averaged 7.0 points. Gene Berce played three games for Tri-City during the 1949-50 season after being drafted by the New York Knicks a year earlier. He averaged 3.3 points and 0.7 assists. The highest drafted player was Lee Morton '54, going 25th overall in the third round to the Rochester Royals in the 1954 draft. Both George Farley '60 (fifth round, 34th overall in 1960) and Louis Jordan '59 (6th round, 42nd overall in 1959) have also gone among the top 50 players drafted.

Additionally, former Big Red letter winners Jeffrion Aubry '99, Cody Toppert '05 and Ryan Wittman '10 have played in the National Basketball Development League (NBDL), the NBA's sanctioned minor league. Off the court, Bryan Colangelo '87 was named the NBA's Executive of the Year in 2005 as the team president and general manager of the Phoenix Suns and currently serves in the same role for the Toronto Raptors organization.

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