- ESPN Radio Ithaca profiles Cornell Basketball:
There are few sports that compare to college basketball. The quality of play, the passion and determination of the players and coaches, and the electric atmosphere surrounding the games are unmatched. As a self-proclaimed basketball aficionado, I often find myself counting the days until the major programs host their annual "Midnight Madness" events in mid-October, where teams introduce new and returning players and interact with the fans for the first time.The official start of the upcoming season may still be a few months away, but for head coach Bill Courtney and the rest of the Cornell men's coaching staff, the season never ends. The spring and summer months are filled with countless hours of recruiting, when the coaching staff hits the road for weeks at a time searching the country for the best young players to join the Cornell program.Unlike major programs like Duke and Syracuse, who have the luxury of handing out lavish athletic scholarships and seemingly possess an unlimited arsenal of resources and lucrative endorsement deals, Cornell has to do things the old-fashioned way. The Ivy League does not allow players to receive athletic scholarships, so it's sometimes difficult to find young men that are not only great basketball players, but are also able to meet Cornell's rigorous academic standards.Cornell head coach Bill Courtney says he looks for a little bit of everything when going out and looking for players."First and foremost, the kids have to have the grades [to come to Cornell University]. Then you have to make sure you get good players. If there's one thing I've learned in coaching it's that the team is only as good or as bad as it players," says Courtney, who's entering his fifth season as head coach of the Big Red.Courtney also explains that finding "high character" guys is important for the atmosphere surrounding the program and the team's overall success."You can have a great player, but if they don't have character it's not necessarily going to help you. You got to have guys willing to get better, willing to be great teammates, and willing to make sacrifices. And those are hard things to figure out during the whole [recruiting] process."In addition to getting out and finding players that are the right fit for Cornell, Courtney and the rest of the staff are active in organizing and running different camps on campus during the summer to attract more talent and expose them to the college environment.In early June, Cornell hosted it's annual prospect camp where high schoolers from all over the country come to play and refine their skills with the Cornell coaches and current players. According to Courtney, this year's camp was the most successful to date, with around 130 players participating."It's an opportunity for a lot of players to [experience] great competition, but also be seen and evaluated by the Cornell coaching staff," explains Courtney."This year was one of, if not the best one we've had. We had guys that could play at all levels, from the ACC to the Big East, to the Ivy League."One of the members of the basketball staff that is instrumental in organizing and running the camps is David Metzendorf, a 2013 Ithaca College graduate who was named Special Assistant to the Head Coach last year after spending 3 years with the program as a student assistant and manager.Metzendorf, who also organizes the Cornell Youth Camp for seven to fifteen year-olds from August 11-14th, says the prospect camp is a great recruiting tool that helps the coaches draw players to come to Cornell."Big time universities don't necessarily have all the kids they're recruiting at their camps, but our staff has done a great job of getting some of our top guys on campus," says Metzendorf."Over half of our current roster attended the [previous] camps when they were in high school. Our coaching staff has always done a great job reaching out and getting top talent to come to our camps. It’s an awesome tool that gives potential student-athletes a feel for our coaches, players and campus."Courtney adds that the camp also allowed the staff to be around the kids and get to know them both as players and as people."It gave us the opportunity to build relationships [with the players] and give them the chance to see Cornell University up close in person, not just over the phone or on the Internet," says Courtney.While hitting the recruiting trails and hosting summer camps certainly makes up the bulk of the offseason, there's plenty more that goes into preparing for the upcoming season. Metzendorf, who serves as a "jack of all trades" on the operational side of the program, says there are many aspects the average person doesn't know about the inner workings of a college basketball program."You have to be on top of a lot things. Recruiting wise, we need to be aware of a lot of players and how they're performing," says Metzendorf. "A lot of my job involves coordinating prospective players’ schedules and recruiting itineraries so our coaches can see the right guys. The hours get crazy sometimes, but this is important stuff for the team's preparation."Courtney, Metzendorf, and the rest of the coaching staff hope all the long hours and work pay off this upcoming year. Coming off a disappointing 2-26 campaign, Cornell is looking to bounce back and compete in the Ivy League this year. Despite the hardships, Metzendorf is optimistic on the program's future."It was a tough year, but we learned a lot. I'm excited to see the resiliency of our guys. They went through adversity, but it made us stronger collectively."Metzendorf also adds that he has confidence in the program and the coaching staff."I think our staff is the hardest working in the country," says Metzendorf. "I truly believe in Coach Courtney and his vision.It may take some time, but Coach Courtney and the rest of our staff are going to take the program to new heights, and it will be that much sweeter when we turn this thing around."