Saturday, March 10, 2012

News and Notes: Saturday Edition

Below, some news and notes for Saturday. Above, Jeff Foote (Cornell '10) in NBA action last night for the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets are on NBA TV tonight at 7 pm (CST) at Minnesota.
  • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, "After Wisconsin was bounced out of the 2010 NCAA tournament by Cornell, ESPN college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb criticized Badgers' coach Bo Ryan for not trying some other defense against Cornell other than man-to-man. Cornell was seeded 12th, and UW was seeded 4th. 'I was dumbfounded by Bo Ryan's attack,' Gottlieb said back then.'"
The buzz on… the newest Hornet, 7-foot center Jeff Foote. Signed to a 10-day contract this morning, the Cornell University product had a whirlwind first day in the league. Foote flew to Denver and met his new teammates for the first time only hours before the game, then was given 23 minutes of playing time. He appeared to be trying to get acclimated on offense – understandable given how much he needs to learn in a short amount of time – including one instance where he drifted into Jarrett Jack’s dribble path twice on the same play. The next few days figure to be a cram session for the Ivy League graduate, but it appeared likely in Friday’s game that he’ll be given an excellent chance to show what he can do. At the moment, there are no healthy true centers on the roster aside from Foote and Chris Kaman. In fact, Foote actually logged more minutes against the Nuggets than Kaman (21). Foote delivered several solid plays, scoring his first-ever NBA basket by scooping up a loose ball and dropping in a layup. He had a second close-range bucket in the fourth quarter. He added four defensive rebounds.

DENVER — The irony wasn’t lost on New Orleans Hornets Coach Monty Williams as he dispensed the good news that power forward Gustavo Ayon was sufficiently recovered from a sore left foot and would be back in the starting lineup Friday night against the Nuggets. “I never thought we’d be talking about Gustavo’s experience,” Williams said of Ayon, the European League veteran-turned-NBA rookie, “but we are. Now we’ve got six more fouls. That’s an old-school way of looking at it, but we certainly need his experience. I know he hasn’t played a full season with us yet, but he knows more than Jeff (Foote, signed to a 10-day contract Friday)...

ANOTHER 10-DAY: To make up for the lack of depth in the front line, especially after the decision to not sign Solomon Jones for the rest of the season, the Hornets added another player via 10-day contract Friday. Foote, a 7-foot, 265-pound center from Cornell, has played in 29 games with the Springfield Armor of the NBA Development League this season, starting 28. He averaged 14.8 points and 8.6 rebounds in 33 minutes per game with the Armor. Foote went through the Hornets’ shootaround Friday morning in an attempt to get a crash course on the offensive and defensive schemes he’ll be asked to execute. “He’s long,” Williams said, “and he has got a decent touch around the basket. He was nervous, so I had to kind of calm him down a little bit, remind him that he’s still playing basketball. He’s not in surgery trying to save the president or somebody in his family. “I’m pretty sure he’s excited and didn’t sleep today. He’s like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He’s just excited to be in the NBA, and that’s a good thing.” The addition of Foote for at least the next 10 days — with Thursday’s NBA trading deadline just six days away — could be an indication the Hornets will eventually consummate a trade for center Chris Kaman. Kaman has been on and off the trading block the past two months, starting in place of injured Okafor and increasing his trade value by his performances on the court. Kaman leads the Hornets with 10 double-doubles this season. Since becoming the starter, Kaman has averaged 16.6 points and 9.7 rebounds, while blocking 14 shots.

  • writes, "I’ll reserve judgement on Foote, who worked hard, but isn’t exactly familiar with the Hornets yet."
  • An Associated Press article in the Ithaca Journal notes, "Forward Jeff Foote, who was signed to a 10-day contract by New Orleans prior to the game, played 23 minutes and scored four points and grabbed four rebounds in his NBA debut. Foote is a Cornell and Spencer-Van Etten graduate. Foote, a 7-footer who can also play center, averaged 14.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 29 games with the Springfield Armor of the NBA Developmental League. Foote bolsters the Hornets' front-court depth at a time when New Orleans is missing center Emeka Okafor (sore left knee) and forward Carl Landry (left knee sprain)."
  • WENY produced a piece on Foote and interviewed his parents.

Spencer Van-Etten, Cornell grad Foote called up to NBA

Former Big Red men's basketball star Jeff Foote, a Spencer Van-Etten graduate, has become the first Cornell graduate to earn a spot on an NBA roster in more than 50 years when he was called up to the New Orleans Hornets today.

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 Cornell graduate 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.

There hasn't been a Cornell basketball player in the NBA in over 50 years.

I don't believe there has ever been a section 4 grad in the NBA.

Until now.

Spencer Van-Etten grad Jeff Foote officially signed a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Hornets and will be wearing #54 tonight in Denver.

It's been quite the journey for him.

After not really being recruited out of high school, he walked on at St. Bonaventure but never really got a chance.

His journey then took him to Cornell then Poland and then the NBA D-League.

Now, it's a chance at the NBA.

And while his parents are proud, at least one of them didn't think it was possible.

"It's almost hard to express how proud we are of him. As I said, he's worked for it very much and this is his dream. This has been his dream ever since he's been able to throw a basketball and hit the ceiling growing up as a kid but very proud and he deserves it," says his mother Wanda.

"God's honest I kept telling him to have a fall back plan. The odds of making the NBA are 1 in a million but he was just persistent enough to keep pushing and pushing and pushing and finally he's got his chance," says his father Don.

The Hornets visit the Nuggets Friday night at 9:00.

And his parents say they'll be watching.


Anonymous said...

Why was Gregg Morris not listed as a pro? He played with the Pittsburgh Pipers (ABA) in the late 60's before going to Portugal.

Anonymous said...

Gregg Morris played one of the finest games a Cornell player ever had in CU's win over Kentucky (at Rupp arena) in 1966 scoring 37 while holding Lou Dampier (future NBA player) to well under his average.