Wednesday, December 31, 2014

News and Notes: Wednesday Edition

  • The Philadelphia Daily News writes, "Give the Cornell administration credit for hanging with coach Bill Courtney after a 2-26 season, his fourth at the school. Two of the Big Red’s best players did not play last season. Big man Shonn Miller was out with a shoulder injury, point guard Galal Cancer for personal reasons. Miller is averaging 16.8 points and Cancer 10.0. Cornell is 6-6, has three true road wins, one overtime loss and three others by a combined eight points. Contrast Cornell’s patience with how Boston College dealt with Courtney’s predecessor, Steve Donahue, who was fired after last season and did not get to coach his first BC recruiting class as seniors. If Cornell had acted the same way with Donahue, the school would never have experienced the 2010 Sweet 16, a team recruited and coached by Donahue, who got the time he needed to establish a program."
  • Cornell's game at the University of Buffalo will be televised on ESPN3.  Tonight's game at Syracuse is on ESPNU.  The UB Spectrum writes, "[Buffalo returns home on] Jan. 3 against Cornell (6-6). It is Buffalo’s last game before Mid-American Conference play begins. [Coach Bobby] Hurley said he is not concerned with MAC play yet but is focused on the upcoming game Saturday and plans to use the extended time off to prepare.  'We'll get some good practices in during our time off,' Hurley said. 'I've already seen Cornell a handful of times when scouting other teams this year. The two things that stood out to me is their confidence and that they're better than their record. They're going to come into our arena with a ton of confidence, and we're going to be ready.'  Tipoff against the Big Red is set for 3 p.m. at Alumni Arena. The game can be viewed on ESPN3."
  • The 2014 calendar year, the Ithaca Journal notes, "After winning just twice all of last season, the Cornell men’s basketball team has already won six games in 2014-15 and brought a 6-6 record into its New Year’s Eve clash with Syracuse in the Carrier Dome." The Post Standard also notes, "Cornell at Syracuse (6, ESPNU): The improved Big Red (6-6), which won only two games all of last season, heads to the Carrier Dome for its annual date with the Orange (8-4) as Syracuse wraps up its nonconference schedule."
    4. Shonn Miller (Cornell)
    Could easily be higher on the list, especially after his recent double-double performance (24 pts/11 rebs), but his Cornell team is just 6-6 on the season. He’s top 6 in three categories in the Ivy League: third in PPG (16.8), first in Rebs (8.4), and sixth in Blocks per game (1.8).
    Guard Cancer finds success for Cornell after rejoining team for his senior season

    Galal Cancer hates it when people say academics were purely the reason he left the Cornell basketball team with just two games remaining in his sophomore season.
    When he walked into head coach Bill Courtney’s office in early March 2013, Cancer said everything he hadn’t in his previous three or four talks with his coach. The frustration, the pressure, the disappointment — everything spilled out.
    Overwhelmed by the combination of his team’s struggles, his struggles on the court and his performance academically, Cancer said he wanted to leave the team.
    Courtney felt he was making a rash mistake.
    “I’d never let something like that get to me before, so I had to take a step back and evaluate,” Cancer said. “It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. But I won’t allow myself not to perform to my ability in both (basketball and school).”
    When Cancer left, there was no certainty he’d return. Nearly 18 months after the coach gave up on him, though, Cancer was back on the team after being forced to try out and switch positions. The senior guard leads the team in steals and is third in 3-point shooting percentage, scoring and minutes played. He’ll continue his comeback when the Big Red (6-6) travels to play Syracuse (8-4) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.
    Despite disagreeing with Cancer’s decision, Courtney didn’t fault him for making it. He just didn’t plan on ever bringing him back.
    “I had to be bigger than that and understand,” Courtney said. “If (Cancer) would’ve said, after two or three months, he wanted to come back then yeah, we would’ve let him back on the team.”
    But Cancer missed that window. Courtney gave up. He had to move on.
    Cancer had more free time than he’d ever had. He worked out four times per week, 2-3 hours at a time, refined his jump shot and ravenously consumed film of NBA games.
    But he was feeling basketball’s tug. Newman Arena, Cornell’s home court, beckoned. He let himself be lured in, going to see his former teammates play.
    “That was torture for me,” Cancer said. “The most painful part of the experience was seeing my boys finish with that (2-26) record.”
    Devin Cherry, Cancer’s best friend and replacement at point guard, went to Cancer’s room after many games during that bitter season.
    Cherry vented his frustrations. Cancer said he wished he was playing. Then the two would work out, with Cherry keeping Cancer updated on what happened in Cornell practices.
    “To me, it was just like he was on the team, even though he technically wasn’t,” Cherry said.
    In June, Cancer decided he wanted to come back. Again he stood, darkening Courtney’s doorway unannounced.
    But Courtney told him rejoining wasn’t going to happen unless he tried out.
    The first phase was ensuring that his teammates wanted him back. Cancer had to call each teammate — including the freshmen he didn’t know — and ask if they’d be OK if he returned.
    They were. That, along with his willingness to do such a task, made Courtney think things may go differently.
    As Cancer worked his summer job on campus, he appeared in the gym frequently with teammates. He told Courtney he’d come back under whichever role given, even if he never played a minute.
    “It’s a testament to him that he was able to do all these things even though I told him, ‘I’m probably not taking you back,’” Courtney said. “But the summer went on and school started and he was basically a member of the team by then. He ingratiated himself back into the mix.”
    But he’d have to switch positions. Cancer had been a point guard basically his whole life, but Cherry drove the offense now. Armed with his refined jumper, Cancer transitioned to shooting guard. In nearly the same volume of attempts, he has upped his percentage from 3-point range from 29.2 percent his sophomore year to 39.1 percent this season.
    Defenses, now forced to respect his shot, have guarded Cancer tighter. It makes it easier to up-fake and let him fight his way to the paint. Once there, the innate ball-handler in him can take over.
    Even when he’s not shooting the ball well, he’s still capable of getting other players involved on the offensive end.
    Following Cornell’s win over Siena last Tuesday in his hometown of Albany, New York, Cancer got a chance to spend Christmas with his family.
    He spent two days — Christmas Eve and Christmas Day — at home, seeing his 5-year-old sister opening presents, watching movies like “The Santa Clause” and challenging family at Madden and NBA 2K on his PlayStation 4.
    It was a nice reprieve, but a brief one. Cancer had to get back to the Cornell campus and continue a season that he had to earn the right to be a part of.
    “He is happier, you can just tell,” said Amiera Cancer, his 18-year-old sister. “He didn’t want to sit out another season when he could be helping them.”

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