This year”s 2015-16 Cornell season preview comes from Barry Leonard, who is looking forward to his 24th year providing top-notch radio broadcasting of Big Red hoops.
As he enters year number six as the head coach of Cornell basketball, Bill Courtney will embrace the phrase “Youth must be served.”
Keeping with the third-year vets, guard JoJo Fallas was a pleasant surprise off the bench as a sophomore and provides outside shooting and energy off the bench. Rising sophomores Wil Bathurst and Jordan Abdur-Ra”oof will also be counted on to produce this season. Bathurst, showed a hint of his promise in last casino season”s finale, scoring 20 points at Penn, and he fits the Bill Courtney mold of an athletic swing man who can run, jump and score, though he needs to improve his defense. At 6-7, Abdur-Ra”oof can stretch the floor with his outside shooting and saw increased minutes in Ivy play last season. Just two seniors are on the roster, guard Robert Mischler, a good long distance shooter, and much maligned center Braxston Bunce, who has battled injuries his entire career.
But perhaps the most intriguing question for me, fans, coaches and those connected with the program is the promise of the freshman class. Guard Matt Morgan from Concord, N.C. looks like an instant contributor with ball handling skills and a good outside shot. Burly first-year forward Donovan Wright from Easton, Pa. is a bull underneath the bucket while 6-4 guard Troy Whiteside from Knoxville, Tenn. has the skills to see minutes off the bench.
Courtney has always emphasized an uptempo style, particularly pushing the pace in transition from defense to offense. With the continued improvement of the returning upperclassmen, combined with this athletic freshman class, he may finally be able to play the full 40 minutes of intense, pressure-laced defense he has craved. The schedule, while not as daunting as years past, features trips to play traditional powers Georgia Tech (opener on Nov. 13) along with Pittsburgh (Nov. 25) and the annual trip up the road to Syracuse (Dec. 19).