Friday, March 9, 2012

News and Notes: NBA Friday Edition

Below, news and notes for Friday....
  • Jeff Foote (Cornell '10) (above back in 2008 in the NCAA Tournament first round vs. Stanford) was signed to a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA. Foote was called up from the NBA D-League's Springfield Armor where he was a starter in the NBA D-League All Star game. The Times Picayune of New Orleans writes:

New Orleans Hornets expected to sign center Jeff Foote to 10-day contract

The New Orleans Hornets are expected to sign 7-foot center Jeff Foote to a 10-day contract on Friday, according to league sources.

Foote played for the Springfield Armor in the NBA Development League and averaged 14.8 points and 8.6 rebounds after 29 games. Foote played at Cornell and was a first team All-Ivy selection in 2010. But he went undrafted in the 2010 NBA draft.

Foote is expected to provide help off the bench for the Hornets with starting center Emeka Okafor still sidelined with a sore left knee.

The Armor played the game minus two starters. JamesOn Curry was out with an injury and is day-to-day while Foote, according to his Twitter account, has earned a call-up to the New Orleans Hornets on a 10-day contract.

Foote is just the second Armor player to get an NBA call-up. Curry was called up by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2009-2010 season. Dennis Horner saw some time with the New Jersey Nets this season, but he earned the job through the preseason camp and isn't considered a call-up.

"He's on his way right now to meet the Hornets in Denver,'' MacKinnon said. "We got a call at 4:15 today. We are extremely happy for Jeff and that is great news for the Springfield Armor.''

Reports: Cornell's Foote set to step into NBA

ITHACA -- Jeff Foote, a three-time All-Ivy League center at Cornell University and a graduate of Spencer-Van Etten High, could be in a National Basketball Association uniform as early as Friday night.

According to various online sources -- including Foote's Twitter account and that of the Springfield Armor, his NBA Development League team -- the New Orleans Hornets will sign him Friday to a short-term contract. Typical contracts of this nature are for 10 days.

Efforts to reach Foote Thursday evening were unsuccessful.

In 29 games and 28 starts with the Armor, the 7-footer averaged 14.8 points and 8.6 rebounds in 32.9 minutes. He also averaged 1.1 blocks and shot 55.1 percent.

Between graduating from Cornell in the spring of 2010 and signing with the Armor in December of 2011, Foote played professionally in Israel, Morocco and Poland.

Following last year's NBA lockout, Foote was invited to try out with the Portland Trail Blazers, but did not make the team and returned to the Armor.

At Cornell, Foote was a part of three Ivy League championship teams (2008, '09, '10) and was a key piece in the Big Red's run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2010. He was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and '10, and as a senior averaged 12.4 points while leading the league in field goal percentage (.633) and rebounding (8.1 per game).

Foote was selected to the All-Ivy second team his sophomore and junior seasons, and was a first-team pick his senior year.

At S-VE, Foote was a first-team all-Interscholastic Athletic Conference selection his senior year, averaging 15 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots.

If Foote signs a contract Friday, he would be eligible to play Friday night in Denver.

Foote would become the fourth Cornellian to play in the NBA, joining Nat Militzok, Ed Petersen and Gene Berce. The last NBA game played by any of them was in 1950. Ten other Big Red players have been drafted by NBA teams. The last was Ken Bantum in 1985.

The Springfield Armor announced before Thursday night's game vs. Canton that Jeff Foote was "unavailable". Later, Scott Schroeder tweeted, and the Armor confirmed, that the D-League All-Star had been called up to the Hornets. Armor personnel had seen the seven-footer as the most likely Nets call-up. The Armor will retain Foote's rights if he returns to the D-League. The Nets hold no rights to Foote. Without Foote and an injured JamesOn Curry, the Armor fell to the Canton Charge 106-103. Dennis Horner, the ex-Net, scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Four other Armor players were in double figures. Luke Hanragody, just sent down by the Cavaliers, had a game-high 24 points.

Wroblewski closes stellar career with 'banner' weekend

ITHACA -- On the final weekend of the Cornell men's basketball team's season, a homemade banner hung from one of the walls of Newman Arena, listing the career achievements of senior point guard Chris Wroblewski.

Number 1 on the list, as I recall, read "All-time career assists leader," a title the 6-foot Illinois native would claim on the penultimate night of the season in a comfortable win over Dartmouth.

Below that was "2008-09 Ivy League Rookie of the Year," "First ever two-time Academic All-American" and "24th 1,000-point scorer in school history." There was also a quote from Cornell coach Bill Courtney: "Impossible to replace."

My memory gets a little spotty after that, but included may have also been a reference to the pair of Ivy League championship teams Wroblewski was a part of (2008-09, '09-10), as well as the run to the Sweet 16 he and the Big Red made during the '09-10 season.

The last bullet on the list, however, I have no problem recalling. It read "Etc, etc, etc ...," surely just a small jab from the friend(s) who made the banner, but also a very serious reminder that what Wroblewski brought to Cornell can hardly be summed up on a single piece of paper -- even one 8 feet by 10 feet.

Wroblewski -- named Wednesday to the All-Ivy League first team -- ended his four-year stint on East Hill as a three-time all-league selection, second all-time at CU in games played, and just the second player in program history to surpass 1,000 points, 400 assists, 300 rebounds and 100 steals. The other: All-American and Ivy Player of the Year Louis Dale (2006-10), his former backcourt mate.

It was Dale's mark that Wroblewski eclipsed to become Cornell's all-time assists leader, finding classmate Drew Ferry for a top-of-the-key 3-pointer early in the game against Dartmouth for No. 471. The two-year captain and three-year starter added four more assists against the Big Green and another seven the following night in a season-ending loss to Ivy League champion Harvard, pushing the record to 482, which will likely stand quite a while longer than did Dale's record.

Wroblewski leaves as Cornell's 13th all-time leading scorer (1,202 points) and is fourth in career 3-point field goals made (189), fifth in 3-point percentage (.414), ninth in free-throw percentage (.823), ninth in steals (139) and 10th in free throws made (279).

Etc, etc, etc.

I think those around the team would agree that Cornell will miss more than just Wroblewski's numbers -- he averaged 11.5 points, 5.25 assists and 4.7 rebounds this winter. His energy, charisma, unselfishness and never-say-die attitude were noticeably contagious on this year's young squad. He sparked every big run, had a hand in every big basket, and was usually at his best when his team needed him the most. He was always positive, even in the face of losing streaks and shooting slumps, and no matter how badly the odds where stacked against his team, always believed it could pull out a win.

Wroblewski's worth to the Red is clearly illustrated in the season finale, when he scored 12 of the team's last 17 points to lead a furious comeback that had Newman Nation rocking and the heavily favored Crimson on the ropes. Harvard hung on, but after the game, the talk on the Crimson side still centered on the Cornell point guard.

"Wroblewski just really willed them to stay in that game," Harvard senior captain Oliver McNally said. "He's a baller and just a really good player."

Crimson coach Tommy Amaker, the former Duke star, concurred.

"Wroblewski is obviously a tough, tough player, and his career has been outstanding," he said. "We knew we had our hands full with him."

So while Wroblewski leaves Cornell in the hands of a promising crop of young players -- freshman forward Shonn Miller was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and junior guard Johnathan Gray made honorable mention -- it figures to be at least a good while before we see another "banner" weekend at Newman Arena.

State of the Bearcats: Success in sports doesn't require surrender in classroom
Other schools show Binghamton U. can balance athletics, academics

Binghamton University is sometimes called a "Public Ivy" because of its academic reputation, and is known as one of the elite schools in the State University of New York system.

But the scandal that erupted two years ago within the men's basketball program, and the sub-par record since, has left some believing a premise that for years was accepted in college athletics: You could not be an elite athletics program and an elite academic institution.

The past decade in college basketball, though, should have laid that premise to rest.

Whether it has been Bucknell beating Kansas and Arkansas in consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 2005 and 2006 or the success of Harvard's Jeremy Lin in the NBA with the New York Knicks, schools such as Binghamton University have been able to mesh on- and off-court success.

And of course, Binghamton fans only need to look at nearby Cornell University, which won three consecutive Ivy League titles and famously advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in 2010, as an example of a school in a small New York area that showed it could punch far above its weight.

True, the seniors who led Cornell to three titles and coach Steve Donahue left Ithaca shortly after. But the Big Red has remained competitive in the Ivy League since, finishing .500 this season.

"You have to go out across the country and find guys who fit the criteria -- who can be terrific on the court and in the classroom," said Cornell coach Bill Courtney, who played at Bucknell in the early 1990s before scholarships were awarded in the Patriot League.

Binghamton's reputation took a hit during the scandal involving the men's basketball program. But in the past two years with coach Mark Macon, the Bearcats have tried to reinforce academic requirements.

Macon even had two players, K.J. Brown and Byron Brown, stay at school for academic obligations instead of travel with the team to Stony Brook this season.

"We have study hall hours and stuff that kind of help us," said Ben Dickinson, a freshman engineering major, of balancing basketball and academics. "It wasn't that hard because our coaches, they're pretty lenient on practice time. So if you need to get a paper done or do some extra homework, you can come late or even miss a practice sometimes."

Keeping a proper balance between academics and athletics, Courtney said, can be a positive in recruiting as well.

"People from throughout the country are interested in attending an Ivy League school, and you have to figure how to make that work for you," he said.

Courtney also said when Cornell won the first of its three league titles in a row, the Ivy League was near the bottom among conference RPI. This year, it ranked in the top 15.

"Because of Jeremy Lin's success, Cornell's success, young men can say 'I can get an Ivy League education and still play basketball at a high level,'" Courtney said. "When you look at that and can buy into that, you get the best of both worlds. It's really helping us attract some guys we may not have been able to attract a couple of years ago."

Something else Binghamton fans may want to do during the NCAA Tournament: Cheer for whoever represents the America East Conference. A win for a non-BCS league team in the Big Dance helps the entire conference in visibility and viability to recruits.

"I'm Harvard's biggest fan right now," Courtney said. "Any success they have in the tournament speaks well to our league. During the year you try your best to beat each other when that ends, every coach in the league now pulls for Harvard when the tournament begins."

And that can go whether you're in the Ivy League or a "Public Ivy" in the America East.


Anonymous said...

Going back to look at the 2009-2010 all-ivy first team, it is comprised of the Cornell big 3, Jeremy Lin & Zach Rosen. 2 players who made it to the NBA, the other 3 IVY players of the year.

Wow, what a good team that would be!

Anonymous said...

Certain schools can certainly make the claim that they're on par with an ivy league school. Binghamton isn't one of them. Sorry, but anyone who tells a Suny grad that their education will be equivalent to an ivy degree will be disappointed. How many Suny grads have been on the is supreme court, served as us attorney general, or been president?

Anonymous said...

11:20 - How many Cornell grads have been president?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why people feel the need to say that they are a "public Ivy" when no such thing exists (except for parts of Cornell). Just be happy with your school, whether that's Binghamton or wherever, and take pride in it.

Anonymous said...

Really, really nice article on wrobo.