An on-the-rise player in college basketball circles, Nolan Cressler seemed to have an ideal situation at Cornell. He started for two seasons, became the go-to scorer and appeared primed to take his place among the program's top guards.
But after a 2-26 season and the madness missing from March, Cressler had a change of heart.
The Plum graduate and Cornell sophomore was granted his release Thursday and will transfer to another Division I school.
Cressler said he is seeking a “new situation” and that the decision is based partially on basketball and partially on academics. It has nothing to do with wanting to be closer to home.
“I want to see what else is out there,” said the 6-foot-4 Cressler, who made All-Ivy League honorable mention this season after averaging 16.8 points, fourth in the Ivy League. “I loved Cornell and am thankful for the opportunity they gave me, but it's not necessarily the place for me. I am ready to pursue somewhere else.”
Cressler, who scored 757 points in two seasons, follows the trend of other former WPIAL stars leaving their initial schools, including Highlands' Micah Mason (Drake to Duquesne), Chartiers Valley's T.J. McConnell (Duquesne to Arizona), Beaver Falls' Sheldon Jeter (Vanderbilt to Polk State to Pitt), and others.
The Ivy League does not award athletic scholarships, but Cressler still will have to sit a year as per NCAA rules. He essentially will be recruited all over again and will attempt to land a scholarship from another school.
A well-rounded scorer and defender who has grown into a dangerous 3-point shooter, Plum's all-time leading scorer does not have a new destination in mind, rather a laundry list of potential fits; some, he understands, could be pipe dreams.
Transferring comes with risks, and there is no looking back.
“It all depends on the fit,” said Cressler, who turned heads at last summer's Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am, scoring 38 in one game. “I feel I can play at a higher level. If it can work out on the basketball court, and I can continue the high level of education, than that's where I'll be.”
Cressler, who sought council from a circle of family and friends and said he did not make a rushed decision, said leaving Cornell does not mean an ugly breakup.
“I don't think there's any bad blood,” he said. “I will be friends with my old teammates for the rest of my life. It will be hard to leave them.”
Cressler's brother, Andrew, also transferred at the college level. He started at Seton Hill before finishing his career at Pitt-Johnstown.