Friday, November 14, 2014

News and Notes: Friday Edition

Below, news and notes for Friday...

It’ll be a case of “what’s old is new” on Friday when the Cornell men’s basketball team opens its season on the road at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Game time at the Patriot Center is set for 7:30 p.m.
Two newcomers to Coach Bill Courtney’s projected starting lineup are actually returnees from two seasons ago. Six-foot-7 senior forward Shonn Miller, the 2011-12 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-conference pick in ’12-13, is back after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury suffered at the end of his sophomore season. And 6-2 guard Galal Cancer has returned for his senior year after taking last season off for personal reasons.
Their two absences a year ago no doubt helped contribute to a nightmare season that Courtney and the rest of the program would just as soon forget — the Big Red went 1-13 both in the Ivy League and out of it for an overall mark of 2-26, the worst season record-wise in program history.
But the ever-optimistic Courtney said in the Ivy preseason media teleconference that, despite most predictions that have Cornell at or near the bottom of the league again this season, that he’s expecting big things from a group that includes veteran who haven’t played together in two years.
“I guess when you win two games last year and lose your leading scorer, that’s par for the course,” he said, referring to Nolan Cressler (16.8 ppg.), who has tranfered to Vanderbilt after two seasons on East Hill. “I tell you what: If we’re the last-place team in our league, then we’ll rival any league in the country. I’m very, very excited about our squad.
“We have two seniors coming back who weren’t with us last year, and a great mix of young players to go with those guys,” he added. “Our guys are really excited and enthusiastic about the season, and we feel really good about where we are.”
Returnees from last year’s squad include 6-3 junior guard Devin Cherry (12.3 ppg., 4.3 rpg.), 6-2 sophomore backcourt mate Robert Hatter (9.0 ppg., 2.1 apg.) and 6-9 sophomore forward David Onuorah (3.1 ppg., 3.8 rpg.). Hatter and classmate Darryl Smith (5.0 ppg.), a 6-2 guard, combined to win three Ivy Rookie of the Week honors last season.
After Friday’s game, the Big Red heads to Baltimore to take on Loyola in a 4 p.m. tip-off on Sunday. Cornell plays its home opener two nights later, when Colgate comes to town for a 7 p.m. start.

The players run faster. They jump higher. They shoot with more precision.  College basketball isn’t like high school basketball. But that’s just fine with Cornell freshman Wil Bathurst. Bathurst starred at Olean High School. Whatever the Huskies needed, Bathurst had the all-around talent to deliver. He scored. He attacked the basket. He slammed home wowing dunks. He dished out pretty passes. He spoke up and took control when a leader was needed. Along the way, he scored more than 1,000 points, earned Big 30 Player of the Year honors and gained a reputation as one of the best players in Western New York.  But as he begins his journey at Cornell, Bathurst’s focus is on adjusting to the Division I level. He wants to improve and help the Big Red win games.
“IT’S A BIG learning curve,” the 6-foot-3 guard/forward said. “Definitely the speed and athleticism is just so much different. I’m used to being one of the faster, more athletic players on the floor, and that’s just not the case anymore. Everybody at this level is here for a reason. Everybody can run, everybody’s athletic.”
Only a handful of Olean High graduates have gone on to play D-I basketball. Bathurst relishes that opportunity — and the challenges that come with it.
“As far as learning the plays and everything like that, it’s a lot of thinking, but at the same time, you have to be quick on your feet. So you can’t really be thinking. You have to play your game the same way you’ve always played it — based off of instinct.
“I’m just getting used to trusting myself and knowing that I’ll make the right play regardless of what level I’m playing at.”
Cornell coach Bill Courtney said Bathurst has acclimated nicely so far.
“FOR A YOUNG guy — and Wil, believe me, when I say young, I mean young. He just turned 18 — he’s really done a great job of picking up on things at the college level,” Courtney said. “The first thing he had to do was figure out how hard you have to play, which is different than high school no matter what high school program you come from.”
In the fall of 2013, Bathurst committed to Cornell — the first Division I school to offer him.
During his senior year at Olean, he averaged 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He was a finalist for New York’s prestigious Mr. Basketball award.
But Bathurst isn’t the same player who led the Huskies to the state championship game in March.
The biggest change the freshman has made since arriving at Cornell’s campus in Ithaca last summer has been improving his jump shot. Courtney said Bathurst’s shooting ability is “night and day” between then and now.
“I HAVE A different form — kind of a more fluid form,” said Bathurst, noting that his coaches have worked with him on his stroke. “It gets that release off a little quicker.”
Life as a Division I college basketball player is far from glamorous, according to Bathurst. It involves plenty of hard work and requires a positive attitude. Practices are long, averaging between 2 1/2 and 3 hours a day. Academics at a school of Cornell’s distinction are demanding.
“In the movies you see how it’s all glory and you’re the big man on campus and things like that,” said Bathurst, who majors in sociology. “In reality, it’s like having a full-time job while going to school, especially at an Ivy League school it’s basically like having two full-time jobs.”
RIGHT NOW, Bathurst is still trying to find his role on a Big Red team that struggled to a 2-26 record last season and was pegged last among eight teams in the Ivy League preseason poll.
Outsiders’ expectations for the Big Red may be low, but Courtney has said “If we're the eighth best team in this league, this league is as good as any in the country.” Cornell has some talent, including three seniors who have returned to the court after missing the 2013-14 season.
"WE'RE AN entirely different team,” Courtney said. “It’s just a lot of people outside of our gym don’t know that. ... We feel like there’s no limit to what we can accomplish this year.”
Bathurst wants to be part of the success. But as a freshman, he admits it’s tough to determine exactly how many minutes he’ll see.
"I'M PRETTY sure that I will be playing, I’ll be out there on the floor at times,” Bathurst said. “Pretty much they just expect me to play solid defense, use my athleticism to grab rebounds. As far as the scoring load goes, I’m not sure how much I’ll be contributing in that aspect of the game, but they do expect me to contribute.”
Courtney said Bathurst has a chance to be a key player off the bench, potentially as one of Cornell’s top four reserves.
“Right now, he’s in the top nine rotation, so he should be getting playing time if he continues to do what he’s doing and keeps improving,” the fifth-year coach said.
Bathurst’s size, length and versatility have impressed Courtney so far. But another quality has stood out the most.
"MORE IMPRESSIVE than anything is how he wants to get better,” Courtney said. “He’s a kid that really works on his game right now because he knows he can get a ton better and he works at it and he really wants to be good.”
Bathurst’s freshman season will have him playing in the Charleston Classic in South Carolina next week, taking on Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on New Year’s Eve and getting a Western New York homecoming at the University at Buffalo on Jan. 3.
FOR HIM, Friday’s season opener at George Mason is the first game he has circled, though. That night, he plans to put on a red and white No. 20 jersey and play his first collegiate game. By doing so, a dream would be realized.
“I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to still be playing the game that I love,” Bathurst said. “Not many people get that opportunity to play at the Division I level. I’m just hoping that I can find my way into the rotation and benefit not only individually but benefit the team, as well.”
Patriot basketball fans, the wait is over. Friday’s home opener double header promises to be full of excitement, and Mason Nation will get ready for the action with the annual Gold Rush and Hoopla Block Party.
This year marks the ninth annual Gold Rush. Students gather at 3 p.m. at the George Mason statue for a pre-game pep rally, including a performance by the Mean Green, Mason’s drumline, and featured speakers such as head men’s basketball coach Paul Hewitt. At 4 p.m. students will get their Gold Rush 2014 T-shirts. The winning design of this year’s shirt has been a closely guarded secret since its selection by Mason students. (For even more swag, students can show their Mason ID at the game for a free sweatband.)
Once students have their new shirts, it’s on to the Patriot Center for the Hoopla Block party. This year’s event has food, drink and games to entertain the crowd until the women’s game against starts at 5 p.m.
The women’s basketball team tips off its 41st season when they host Virginia Tech at 5 p.m. in the Patriot Center. Taylor Brown, the A-10’s leading scorer last year, is one of four returning players for head coach Nyla Milleson. Mason also returns Sandra Ngoie, Talisha Watts and Reana Mohamed from the 2013-14 season.
The men’s game against Cornell, their first-ever matchup, starts at 7:30 p.m. The team boasts returning players Cory Edwards and Patrick Halloway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Team looked good. Much improved.