Tuesday, November 6, 2012

BroncoBlitz.com Q&A with The Cornell Basketball Blog



Brian Persky
BroncoBlitz.com Basketball Analyst

BroncoBlitz.com exchanged a series of questions and answers with The Cornell Basketball Blog leading up to this Saturday's big opening regular season matchup for both squads. You can see how BroncoBlitz.com responded to The Cornell Basketball Blog's questions here .

BroncoBlitz.com: How big are the losses of Chris Wroblewski and Drew Ferry in your back-court? Who should we expect to see step into those roles this upcoming season?

The Cornell Basketball Blog: Well, "big" is not the word. "Huge" might be a better choice. The loss of Chris Wroblewski is simply not quantifiable. He was the team's floor general as a 6-foot-1 combo guard and had experience as a starter on Cornell's #17 nationally ranked 2010 team that advanced to the Sweet 16

A First Team All Ivy League selection last year (and a former Ivy League Rookie of the Year), Wroblewski averaged 13.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, and 4.9 apg and shot 43% from 3-point range in the Ivy League (the nation's #12 ranked RPI conference). Wroblewski played a hefty 34 mpg while Ferry played 32 mpg. 

Ferry, a 6-foot-1 guard, however, struggled shooting the basketball in the second half of the season, posting an Ivy League stat line: 8.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.4 apg, 33% FG, and 33% 3-pt. 

Both Wroblewski and Ferry were recruits under the Steve Donahue regime (now the head coach of Boston College). Under Donahue, Cornell's offense was built on the John Beilein system, a high motion offense involving cuts, picks and backdoor plays requiring at least four players on the floor that could shoot the basketball from any range.

Under current coach Bill Courtney, hired in the 2010-2011 season, Cornell continued to emphasize three-point shooting, using the personnel left in place from his predecessor such as Wroblewski and Ferry. However, with each recruiting class, Courtney has built a very different basketball team. He has recruited speed, athleticism and length and has successfully landed kids who had scholarship offers from high majors and elite mid majors. 

This year's back-court is quicker and stronger with several players capable of attacking the basket and defending the full length of the court. Sophomore Galal Cancer and senior Miles Asafo Adjei are expected to share minutes at point guard. 

At 6-foot-3, Cancer (6.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.7 apg) is shifty and deceptive with his speed and is very good at getting into the lane. He has all conference physical abilities, but needs to improve his decision-making and was hampered last season with turnovers and below average shot selection. 

Asafo-Adjei (2.7 ppg) at 6-foot-2 was slowed by a leg infection last season and missed 15 games. He has limited offensive abilities, but he plays conservative and generally makes good decisions from the point. Extremely quick, Asafo-Adjei is particularly effective in full court pressure situations.

Cornell expects really big seasons from its shooting guards. Senior Jonathan Gray (6'3") is an incredible story. He was the team manager during the 2009-2010 Sweet 16 season and was promoted mid-year as a walk-on player by Steve Donahue. Each year he has improved and exploded last season as a junior when he averaged 12.3 ppg in Ivy League play and was named All Ivy League. He shot a blistering 42% from 3-pt range. But not just a shooter, like Cancer, Gray can attack the basket with high energy and create his own shot. 

Sophomore Devin Cherry at 6-foot-3 (1.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg), was slowed in his development last year by a preseason injury, but insiders around the program believe he is ready to take a huge step forward this year. He may be Cornell's most explosive offense weapon and like Gray, can score in a variety of ways. 

Red shirt junior Dominick Scelo (6-foot-1) is a combo guard that can play the point guard or play off the ball as a secondary ball handling shooting guard. He is arguably Cornell's purest shooter. Originally offered scholarships by Saint Louis and Tulane among others, he spent his freshman year at Cornell recovering from an ACL tear suffered while in high school. The upcoming season is effectively his second season on the active roster.

BB: Can you describe the brand of basketball that Bill Courtney preaches to his players?

TCBB: Bill Courtney's offense and defense can be described in two words. "High energy." The coaches are preaching "attack" all preseason. Courtney and his staff want to attack you on defense with full court and 3/4 court pressure and will mix in aggressive half court man-to-man and zone defenses to keep the offense off balance and uncomfortable. 

Courtney has a deep bench and will not be concerned with losing players to foul trouble or exhaustion. Offensively, Cornell is changing its style this season, so it remains a mystery as to what specific type of sets Courtney will run. But we are expecting the team to preach the dribble drive and posting its big men while not relying on the three-point shot as much. Both the offense and defense will cater to Cornell's roster of quick and athletic personnel.

BB: What would you say is Cornell's biggest weakness heading into the 2012-2013 season?

TCBB: Shooting the basketball. This is not a team with a lot of pure outside shooters. If opponents keep Cornell out of the paint, the Big Red will struggle. Free throws are also an area of concern (68% as a team and losing its best FT shooter in Wroblewski). This team also lacks proven consistent point guard play. 

BB: Who is Cornell's "x-factor" and how do you expect that player to make an impact for the Big Red this season?

TCBB: Cornell has a few x-factors. Galal Cancer and Miles Asafo Adjei are critical. If either Cancer or Asafo Adjei proves to be an effective point guard, making good decisions, limiting turnovers, Cornell can be a formidable opponent. Cornell's star power is in its front-court. 

Shonn Miller was the Rookie of the Year in the Ivy League last season. At 6-foot-7-- he is a human highlight reel and can play like a seven footer with his wing span. He was in the Ivy's top charts in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks -- the only player in the conference to appear in each of those four categories. 

Errick Peck, a 6-foot-6 forward sat out last season and is a red-shirt junior. He posted 11.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg in 2010-2011 while shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. Built like a truck, he can post up wing forwards and is a very good passer. He was a member of Cornell's 2010 rotation and played in the Sweet 16, including scoring a crucial basket against Kentucky in the 2nd half during a Cornell run. 

Eitan Chemerinski (5.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg), a 6-foot-8 senior center will likely start while sharing time in the paint in a committee with Dave Lamore (6-foot-9 sophomore), Josh Figini (6-foot-9 senior) andDeion Giddens (6-foot-9 sophomore). 

Chemerinski is fairly skilled and has a variety of post moves and is a good defender at breaking up passes . Lamore is physical and likes to mix up while also having a very skilled offensive game. Figini is a perimeter oriented big man. Giddens is a long, athletic defensive-minded center with a developing offensive game.

BB: Tell us about the incoming freshmen. Are any of them expected to make an immediate impact?

TCBB: Cornell's prized recruit was Braxston Bunce, a 6-foot-11 250 pound center from Western Canada. Bunce passed on scholarships opportunities from Washington State, Virginia Tech, Marquette and most of the WAC and Mountain West conferences. A recurring knee injury will keep him out until December. 

Nolan Cressler, a 6-foot-4 combo guard from the Pittsburgh area, could see his way into the rotation. He is one of the better shooters on the team, which makes him an asset on a team that lacks long-range perimeter scoring. His ball handling skills also allow him function as a secondary point guard on the floor.

BB: What are the realistic expectations for Cornell this upcoming season?

TCBB: Realistically, this team can win an Ivy League title this year and many feel that the 2013-2014 season will field an even better team. Most major publications have Cornell in the preseason 3rd or 4th spot in the Ivy League but recognize Cornell's high potential. 

Most supporters of the team miss the glory years of 2008 through 2010 when Cornell dominated the Ivy League (38-4 in Ivy games during the span) and advanced to three straight NCAA Tournaments. A 2nd or 3rd place conference finish might be enough to get Cornell back into the postseason, potentially in the CBI or CollegeInsider.com tournaments.

BB: For WMU fans traveling to Ithaca for the game, where would you recommend they grab a bite to eat? What watering holes and/or specific sites might they want to visit to get the full "Ithaca experience?"

TCBB: Cornell is in a gorgeous natural area, the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, known for its waterfalls, parks, wineries and great food. If you want a great steak and are willing to spend the dollars, John Thomas Steakhouse rivals any New York City steakhouse. And this is coming from a Manhattanite. If you are bringing a significant other with you and you want to "pay them back" for coming along on the trek to Ithaca, take them there. You must make a reservation. 

For less expensive pub grub fair, the Boatyard Grill is a local favorite situated right off of Cayuga Lake (one of the Finger Lakes). If you want the college kid atmosphere, definitely walk around "Collegetown" -- the neighborhood adjacent to the campus. It has dozens of watering holes and casual pubs for food. 

A personal favorite is Ruloff's -- good food and nice wooden bar. The Nines has great pizza for a quick bite and run. Chapter House is a true Ivy League bar and popular for upperclassmen and grad students as well as young professionals. 

Note: Ithaca is a major tourist attraction, especially in the spring, summer and fall. All of the major travel and tourist websites such as Frommer's are helpful for finding food, lodging and attractions in the area. 

If you are in Ithaca early Saturday morning, a few hours before tip off, stop by the Cornell Orchards for cider and apples or the Ithaca Farmer's Market. Both "must visits" for foodies who like the fresh and organic stuff.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm pleased to hear CBB allude to the possibility of Courtney reigning in the three ball. The team's been a bit too one-dimensional these last few seasons. It's time to attack the rim!