Picked for sixth in the 2017-2018 Ivy League preseason poll, the Cornell men’s team (12-16 overall, 6-8 Ivy) exceeded expectations to finish the season in fourth place and secure the team’s first ever appearance in the Ivy Tournament. After starting conference play with three straight losses by a total of 71 points, the Red and their second-year head coach Brian Earl regrouped. Over the next four weeks, they went on a 4-2 run, punctuated by a 22-point second half comeback in a 107-101 triple overtime win over Princeton, to get back into the thick of the race for the upper division. After losing a thrilling double overtime at Harvard on the penultimate night of the regular season, Cornell bounced back again to defeat Dartmouth and claim the Ivy’s fourth golden ticket.
In the semifinal against Harvard, the Big Red found themselves up seven with three minutes to go in the first half, but the Crimson closed the stanza on a 16-4 run. Without any answers in the second half, their season ended with a 74-55 defeat. With the return of Matt Morgan and Stone Gettings for their senior seasons, things looked up for the Cornell faithful. In May, however, Gettings changed all of that with a surprise announcement that he would forgo his senior season, graduate in December and become a graduate transfer for 2019-20. Despite the loss of their second-team All-Ivy forward, the Big Red look to jump over the .500 mark and make it back to Ivy Madness.
Offensively, Cornell’s strength resided in its ball movement and two-point shooting, as well as the production of Morgan and Gettings. Morgan, a member of the All-Ivy first team, led the conference in scoring for the third straight year and was 11th in the country with 22.5 points per game. He shot 49.2 percent from the field, including 60.8 percent from inside the arc. Gettings was sixth in the league with 16.7 points a game, shooting 48.7 percent overall and 55 percent from two. As a whole, the team was 24th in the nation in assists to made field goals (59.7 percent) and 42nd in two-point shooting (54 percent).
The Red were not as successful from three, hitting 33.4 percent (249th, nationally). While the team had concerns with its deep shooting, the bigger struggles came on the defensive side. Cornell had an adjusted defensive efficiency of 113.5, which was 324th out of 351 teams. The squad allowed its Division I opponents to shoot threes at a 39.3 percent rate (No. 336), while its forced turnover rate was 15.7 percent (No. 314), steal rate was 7.0 percent (No. 306), offensive rebounding rate was 24.4 percent (No. 300), and its defensive rebounding was 30.3 percent (No. 245). Heading into 2018-19, the Big Red have the challenge of replacing Gettings numbers while trying to improve their three-point efficiency and overall defense.
Gettings, who announced that he will transfer to the University of Arizona for 2019-20, averaged 2.9 assists and a team-high 6.6 rebounds per game. Other losses for the Big Red, include Wil Bathurst, Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof and Troy Brown, who all left due to graduation. Bathurst, a 6′ 3″ guard who started the season out of position at the point, finished the year six games later to an injury. With a year of eligibility remaining, he will spend next season at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Abdur-Ra’oof started 25 games at forward in his sophomore season, which turned out to be the last for coach Bill Courtney. After missing his junior year to an injury, he dropped down the depth chart under Coach Earl and averaged only 5.5 minutes, 2.1 points an 0.5 rebounds in 13 games this year. With one year of eligibility left, he decided against transferring and will work in New York City. In June, he documented his experiences in an article for IvyUntold, a website that he created with Brown and senior Troy Whiteside to give Ivy League minorities a space to share their experiences.
Heading into the off season, many Ivy fans worried that Morgan would be the Cornellian to leave as a graduate transfer, but the 6′ 2″ shooting guard decided to stay for his senior year. After twice entering and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, the North Carolina native will look to finish his college career as the Big Red’s all-time leading scorer. Heading into the ’18-’19 season, he sits at 1.646 points with John Bajusz (’83-’87) at 1,663 points and Ryan Wittman (’06-’10) with 2,028. Three other mainstays of the starting lineup, senior Steve Julian, sophomore Terrance McBride and senior Joel Davis, will join Morgan and Whiteside for the 2018-19 campaign.
JulIan, a 6′ 6″ forward who transferred from Kaskaskia College (IL), started all 28 games with 6.7 points, 5.8 rebounds (seventh in Ivy) and 1.4 blocks (second in Ivy) per game. In his first year since arriving from nationally ranked Sierra Canyon High School (CA), McBride assumed the point guard spot after Bathurst’s injury and started 17 contests. In those games, the team went 9-8, while McBride averaged 6.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists. While not qualifying for the conference’s official stat, his 2.8 assists-to-turnover ratio was 0.2 higher than league-leader Brendan Barry of Dartmouth.
Whiteside, who missed last season to injury, is a 6′ 4″ guard who can play multiple positions. In ’16-’17, he started 23 of 29 games, averaging 6.6 points on 52.7 percent shooting and 3.1 rebounds per game. Davis, affectionately nicknamed “The Microwave” by Big Red broadcaster Barry Leonard, rose up the roster in ’17-’18 to appear in 28 games with 14 starts. The tenacious on-ball defender put up career highs of 17.6 minutes, 4.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
With the big loss in the front court, Earl will look to three new players, including two from the junior college ranks, to provide a fix. Chaz Mack, is a 6′ 6″ forward from Arizona, who spent a year at Hillcrest Academy and two years at Cochise College before transferring to Cornell. Mack led his conference with 19.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last year, as he was named to the second team NJCAA Division I All-America team. Thurston McCarty is a 6′ 7″ forward from Mississippi, who averaged 12.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists as a sophomore at East Central Community College. McCarthy started at the four spot in high school, but moved to the three during his first two years of college. Kobe Dickson is a 6′ 9″ incoming first-year from Holcomb High School, who was named to the Class 4A Division II first team by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association. In his senior year, he put up 5.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 67 percent from the floor.
The Big Red will also welcome three guards to add to the program’s backcourt depth and outside production. Matt Harshany is a 6′ 0″ point guard who averaged 26.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and four assists this past season at Navaree High School (FL). He scored over 1,500 points and 272 three-pointers in his high school career, including 97 treys in his final sesaon. Max Samberg is a 6′ 3″ shooting guard from Rye High School (NY), who was named all-league, all-conference and all-section this past season.
Dean Noll, a 6′ 3″ combo guard from Shawnee High School in South Jersey, was named the Player of the Year by the Courier Post and Burlington County Times. In his last year of high school, he averaged 21.7 points, five rebounds, four assists and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 56 percent overall and 40 percent from three. His 737 points this past season was a school record, besting the previous high of 675 points set by Coach Earl’s brother Dan. Joe Kessler, who coach both Earls and Noll, told the Courier Post, “It seemed like every single year he got better at something. His sophomore year he got better playing defense, his junior year he was able to get to the basket – his quickness with the ball in his hand – and his senior year his outside shot got a lot better. Every year it seemed he improved a major part of his game, and I think that’s why he is the Player of the Year in South Jersey, because he has a complete game now.”