Friday, May 9, 2014

News and Notes: Friday Edition

Below, news and notes for Friday...

  • Jeff Foote (Cornell '10) was invited to participate this month in the NBA D-Leauge's Elite Mini Camp.  "The NBA Development League will hold its fifth-annual Elite Mini Camp on Monday, May 12 and Tuesday May 13 at Chicago’s Quest Multisports gym. The camp features top 2013-14 NBA D-League prospects and gives players an opportunity to display their skills and be evaluated by NBA team personnel in advance of NBA Summer Leagues and 2014 training camps."
Cornell Sweet 16 Basketball Team Invited To Play In The Basketball Tournament
ITHACA, N.Y. – Members of the Cornell men's basketball NCAA Sweet 16 squad have been chosen to play in The Basketball Tournament, a 32-team, winner-take-all tournament that starts on June 6, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pa. In all, 10 of the regulars from that team will reunite.

The Big Red reached new heights in 2009-10, winning the program's third straight Ivy League title en route to an Ivy League-record 29 wins and recording not only the program's first NCAA win, but a trip to the Sweet 16. Cornell closed the season ranked No. 17 in the national rankings, the program's first in 59 years, and set an Ivy record for 3-pointers in a season (326). The team also set single-season school records in points (2,545), field goals (913), assists (543) and blocked shots (127). The Big Red won the MSG Holiday Festival with a victory over St. John's, Cornell's first win over a Big East school since 1969 and captured a season-opening win at Alabama, the team's first win over a school from the Southeastern Conference since 1972. The Big Red shocked the college basketball world as a No. 12 seed, knocking out both fifth-seeded Temple and fourth-seeded Wisconsin by double figures to advance before losing to No. 1 seed Kentucky.

For his efforts, then-head coach Steve Donahue was named the Clair Bee Coach of the Year and the NABC District Coach of the Year. Senior Ryan Wittman graduated as the school's all-time scoring leader and was named the unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year and an AP honorable mention All-American, while Jeff Foote was a first-team All-Ivy pick and the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. Louis Dale rounded out three Big Red players on the All-Ivy first team. All three players are expected to suit up for the reunited Sweet 16 team.

Along with Dale, Foote and Wittman, starters Jon Jaques (a current assistant for the Big Red), Alex Tyler and Chris Wroblewski will be joined by teammates Max Groebe, Aaron Osgood, Geoff Reeves and Pete Reynolds with Adam Wire serving as the team's coach.

The Basketball Tournament (TBT) is an open, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament for $500,000. A total of 32 teams will participate, with 24 having been chosen by fan voting and another eight (including Cornell) chosen as at-large selections by the TBT. The first four rounds will be played June 6-8 at Philadelphia University, with the winner-take-all final being played at a site to be determined by a social media vote on June 28.
  • VU Hoops writes on the TBT, "The tournament is free to enter for the teams, but the winner will take home a prize of $500,000, divided among their members however they choose. The teams include a number of former college teammates, in addition to Team ROBY, there is a team of Air Force Academy alumni (Air Force Bomb Squad), Cornell (their Sweet 16 team) and Notre Dame alumni among others. The talent level of teams range from professionals like Hakim Warrick and Dante Cunningham to former college stars, to Division III players down to some playground all-stars."
  • Mashable writes, "Back in 2010, Cornell — yes, that Cornell — made an improbable run to the March Madness Sweet 16. Now, many of the team's best players are getting the band team back together for another run at glory. Think Old School, but with basketball (kind of)." 
  • Tablet covers Yanni Hufnagel's (Cornell '04) move to Cal.
When former Boston College coach Steve Donahue was fired on March 18, Nat Graham was left looking for a job for the first time in his coaching career.
Fortunately, he didn’t need to wait too long for the right spot to open up.
As an undergraduate, he spent most of his career at Penn, playing alongside current Quaker head coach Jerome Allen for his first two years. He would graduate from the school in 1997 after not playing as a senior, and then went to the University of Western Ontario to play two more seasons before a brief playing career.
As soon as he heard that Penn’s top assistant, Scott Pera, was headed to join Mike Rhodes’ new staff at Rice, Graham reached out to another Quaker assistant and former teammate, Ira Bowman. Before long, it became clear that Graham was headed back to Philadelphia to coach alongside his former teammates.
He’s expected to officially sign his contract on Thursday.
“I’m extremely excited, I think Philly’s a unique city in terms of its love of college basketball, with the Big 5,” Graham said. “Get to work daily in a place like the Palestra, it’s awesome, and to get to work with Jerome and Ira, who I got to play with sometimes–and watch play a lot–is great.”
Graham had come to BC by way of Cornell and the University of Toronto, where he spent one season as an assistant back in 2004-05 before heading to the Ivy League for five years under Donahue. He then moved with the head coach over to the Eagles for the 2010-11 season and spent four years there, including three as the associate head coach, before the entire staff was let go two months ago following an 8-24 season.
“I think [Donahue’s] as good as it gets in terms of an offensive coach, so I’ve certainly learned a lot from him,” Graham said. “I’ve coached the bigs since I’ve been with Coach Donahue, but I think I’ve got a good feel for the game and I’d like to think I’ve recruited well and I think I do a good job with evaluating guys.”
In addition to being very familiar with Philadelphia, Graham’s also comfortable in the Ancient Eight as a coach from his years with the Big Red. He was part of a staff that helped the program make the NCAA Tournament three straight years from 2008-10, including a Sweet 16 run in 2010 that led to Donahue’s hiring in the ACC.
“I think being at Cornell, I don’t know how they feel now, but when we were there, it was not a place that we could really beat out a lot of people for recruits, so I think I learned in recruiting to be a good evaluator and leave no stone unturned, so I think that benefitted me greatly,” he said. “Had to work harder just to find guys that we could win with, so I think that helped me. And I’ve got a good feel for what wins games in this league and what you need to win.”
He joins a Quaker program that’s had quite an eventful offseason. Two assistants have left–Pera left for Rice, while Jason Polykoff took the head coaching job at D-III Earlham (Ind.)–and a number of players have departed the team as well. This past season, the team went 8-20 overall, with just a 5-9 record in Ivy League play despite returning every play from the year before.
There’s still something to work with for this season, however. Juniors Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry are All-Ivy caliber players, and there’s plenty around them with talented youngsters like Matt Howard, Antonio Woods, Dylan Jones and others who should make contributions this year.
“Since my initial conversations with Ira and then with Jerome, I’ve become, I think, increasingly familiar with the roster and what’s kinda transpired and I like to think I have a feel for the pluses and minuses and what’s going on,” Graham said. “I basically watched, I would think, every game on Synergy, it’s so easy to watch stuff now. So I think I have a good feel for what the plan is with the team, offense and defense and each guy individually.”
  • There are some factual errors, but The Cornell Club of Western Washington writes, "On Thursday, March 20... I learned that Cornell’s best basketball player this year, Nolan Cressler ’16, had decided to transfer. Can a team that went 2-26 get worse? Possibly. The rumor is that Cressler asked Andy Noel if there were any plans to make a coaching change and was told, “no.” So he’s outta here. Postscript: Cressler has landed at Vanderbilt. Postscript No. 2: Although I haven’t had any interestin seeing it, the 2013-2014 Men’s Basketball team made a highlight video which somehow had no footage of Cressler—no mean feat when he was the team’s leading scorer. Actually, it had the appearance of a “mean” feat, and a bit Stalinesque. Postscript No. 3: Not only is Cressler the second loss in as many years of a key player who was being counted on to return, but he was the ninth player in the Courtney era to quit the program or leave school with remaining eligibility. To be fair, the Ivy rule prohibiting graduate students from playing was a factor in some of these cases and others may not have been considered major losses but, really, how strongly can a 2-26 team protest that player X was not good enough to play for it? "


Anonymous said...

Leaving Nolan out of the highlight video was "a bit Stalinesque." That's a good turn of phrase.

When Stalin had you killed, he also tried to eliminate any sign that you had ever existed.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Yeah, only problem here is Cornell didn't cut Nolan from the team. It was the other way around. So, hardly Stalinesque.

Cornell is NOT going to celebrate a guy who does NOT want to be a part of Cornell.

Anonymous said...

The Bulls have also since removed the Michael Jordan statue after realizing he signed and played for the Wizards and has since owned another NBA team no less!!!!

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Jordan retired and came back to the NBA and DC was available for him. And Jordan gave the Bulls a decade and everything he had. Not quite for Nolan. He left prematurely for his personal gain. So maybe Vandy will make him a video. Not Cornell.

Runningpie said...

One more year. Wake me up when it's over.

Anonymous said...

Did Steve Donahue leave for "personal gain"?

Anonymous said...

it's a highlight video of the "team's" season - not necessarily any individual player. And for better or worse he was part of team and am sure forged close relationships with other members of the team and other students at Cornell that will survive his transfer - I don't have any problem with concept of not promoting or "celebrating" him individually as you so characterize but if the video does not show one clip of him making one shot or hustling - well, I think that says more about the directors of the video rather than him. I think that's the point folks are trying to make.

Anonymous said...

It's not about whether Cornell should "celebrate" Nolan or "make him a video." It's about whether it's honest to make a highlight video of the 2013-14 season that includes no footage of one of the leading contributors. While there may be circumstances where it makes sense to omit someone who discredits the program (say, Aaron Hernandez of the Patriots), this wasn't that.

I think it was small of Cornell. Others can disagree.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Steve Donahue had two 5 year contracts with Cornell and he fully honored both of them.

Did Nolan stay as long as he was supposed to stay? No. Last time I checked, he had 2 more seasons before he graduated.

Nolan is a great kid by all accounts from everyone in the program and administration. Nobody wishes anything negative for him. But at the end of the day, his decision to transfer makes him no longer an official part of the program and I fully support the decision of the program not to honor his season or his highlights given his decision to leave Cornell.

Nolan had a right to transfer for whatever reasons he wanted to leave. But his decision is indeed "walking out on Cornell University." Make no mistake about it. And no "highlights" of his ought be celebrated in a video of the team he walked out on. His friendships may last forever, but he walked away from his team.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious debate. Non issue. People need to stop picking every random bit of minutiae as an opportunity to bag on the program. Let's look forward to next year already. By all accounts, the team has had an awesome spring