How sweet it is: Cornell’s run to the Sweet 16 and more with Jeff Foote

For those who love March Madness, live for the upsets, in 2010 Cornell did that with their run to the Sweet 16. Cornell plays in the Ivy League, where at the time the winner of league play received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Cornell won the Ivy League three year in a row (2008, 2009, and 2010). In 2008 and 2009, Cornell lost in the first round of the tournament, but you could tell that something special was brewing. In 2010, Cornell finished 29-5 overall and 13-1 in conference, and upset Temple and Wisconsin before losing to Kentucky. I talked with former Big Red center Jeff Foote about his career, his time at Cornell, and the magical run they had.

You played at Cornell for 3 years after redshirting and transferring from St. Bonaventure your freshman year. Describe your time at Cornell playing under coach Donahue.

Foote: Playing for Coach D was awesome. He worked hard to build up a good culture and brought in guys that really built on top of each other and fed off each others success. When I transferred in, the first thing I noticed was the difference in the feel and the dynamic of the team. There was a lot of very healthy competition, and it was fueled by the older guys. They constantly challenged everything in practice, the weight room, and off the court. The team was a lot closer. That continued to develop and with each incoming class it became tighter. We wanted to be around each other and were genuinely best friends.

From a playing and scheme perspective, coach Donahue may be the best X’s and O’s coaches I have ever played for. I think our offensive efficiency and numbers as a team can attest to that. He also did a great job of tailoring the offense to the personnel. If you go back and watch the three years I played, each year our offense was different. Some of the overarching concepts were similar (get good open 3’s, play with spacing, beat teams with timing and movement), but the ins and outs were much different. My first year I came off the bench, and the offense revolved around our guard play (Louis, Gore, and Witt mostly) with two big guys who could shoot and space the floor (Kreef and JHart). My second year though, the offense started changing due to necessity. Louis went down, Gore went down, teams were keying off on Witt, and Ski was just a freshman still learning the offense. Meanwhile I had gotten bigger and stronger and was more confident, so the offense started to flow through me a little more. Then my final year, we had been together so long that the offense was extremely versatile. Louis could take over, Witt, myself, Reeves, etc..I think a further testament to Coach D was his decision to bring Jon into games more while Alex was battling injuries, and upon recognizing the tremendous effect he had on the game (Jon shot a very high percentage from three and spaced the opposing defenses so much) to eventually start him.

You made the NCAA Tournament each year you were there. In 2008 and 2009, you lost in the first round of the tournament, but 2010 you reached the Sweet 16. Cornell was ranked #12 and you guys upset #5 Temple and then #4 Wisconsin. 

How were you guys prepared so well for each game being the underdogs from the Ivy League Conference that only gets one bid to the tournament? Describe the emotions and feelings that went on with you and your team after each win.

Foote: With regard to your second question’s first part, we were prepared so well because we were seasoned. The first two tournament losses (the stomping we received by Stanford and the closer, but still beating we took from Mizzou) prepared us for the atmosphere and the questions/media/distractions. We were going in loose, focused, and hungry. We had all talked in the preseason, and the seniors on the team knew it would be our last shot at something great, so we all pushed each other to get into the best shape, get better, and stay motivated throughout the year. We had some absolute battles in preseason, and the competitive fire in each of us led to our games being very high quality. We hated to lose, and that included any pickup game, drill in practice, lifting competition,  and smash bros fights (video games). At the same time you had a brotherly dynamic. We loved each other, and had each other’s backs for everything. So because of this we grew tremendously and made our run.

As for the emotions after each win, there weren’t many right away honestly. There was certainly happiness and joy, but after each one we did not want to allow ourselves to lose any focus. It was a “Who’s next” mentality after the wins. I think there is a lot of nostalgia about those times now from everyone, but while it was going on it was more a drive to go as far as we could. However, I know that after the Kentucky loss there was a lot of emotion, a lot of us recognizing that we were done and that special group of guys wouldn’t get to play another game in the Cornell uniform anymore.

I have to mention your teammates Lou Dale, Ryan Whitman, and Jon Jacques etc., you guys really had something special. Tell me a little about that.

Foote: You mentioned myself, Lou, Jon, and Ryan for having something special, but it was much deeper than that. Us four, AT, Reeves, Dre, Max, Ski, Wire, Aro, Pete are a band of brothers, that still to this day talk on a daily basis. We have a major group chat, go visit each other often, and still cherish the brotherhood that we have.

You played in Israel, Spain, the NBA Developmental League, for the New Orleans Hornets, and Lithuania after you graduated from Cornell. You signed with a top Euroleague team Maccabi Tel Aviv and eventually earned a call up form the New Orleans Hornets in the NBA. What was that journey like?

Foote: As for my professional career, I bounced around a lot. I loved playing, but after my season in Lithuania and my back surgery, I couldn’t move the same. I played one more year in Springfield, but I knew my time was likely up. Following that I went to law school at the University of Miami, and during my 3 years I worked as a graduate assistant coach under Coach Jim Larranaga.

What do you do now? 

Foote: As for now, I work as an in-house counsel for a Real Estate Development Portfolio – Gator Investments. (owned primarily by fellow Cornell grad, James Goldsmith and his brother Bill)

Cornell was a team that shocked a lot of people in 2010, but for some it was no surprise what they accomplished. They were the first Ivy League team to make it to the Sweet 16, set an Ivy record with 29 wins, and were the top 3 point shooting team in the country.

 

Written by Tom Ballato

TBT: Team Challenge ALS

The past few years in the TBT (The Basketball Tournament) Tournament, we have seen Team Challenge ALS compete at the highest level. They came one basket away from taking down the now four time champions Overseas Elite to win the two million dollar prize. For those who don’t know what the TBT Tournament is, it is a 5 on 5 winner take all basketball tournament consisting of former college and NBA players and top overseas players.

Team Challenge ALS was created by Sean Marshall who played basketball at Boston College. While at Boston College, he roomed with Pete Frates, who was a baseball star at the college. Pete Frates was diagnosed with ALS at 27 years old and has done so much to raise awareness for this disease which includes creating the Ice Bucket Challenge with his friend Pat Quinn. He has raised millions dollars to help research and find a cure someday for ALS. Team Challenge ALS plays for Pete and all those living with ALS.

I have watched and rooted for Team Challenge ALS for the past couple of years and talked with Sean Marshall of the team to find out what they are all about.

You created and play for Team Challenge ALS because Pete Frates was your roommate at BC where you played in college. Besides him being a great athlete, could you describe Pete and your time with him in college. 

Marshall: I met Pete freshman year and we were friends throughout our four years there. He has always been someone who could change your mood in a positive way. If I was down he always found a way to turn that around and he has that affect on everyone. It doesn’t surprise met that he has done so much for ALS awareness because he’s the type of person that will accomplish what he set out to accomplish. I’m honored to play for someone so admirable.

You’ve been quoted as saying, “We play for a community”. How did you find a roster willing to sacrifice possibly earning money in the TBT Tournament for this great cause?

Marshall: Everyone that has played for our team I’ve hand selected and have a personal relationship with. That was my number one goal, was to form a team of great athletes but more importantly great character guys. Some of the guys on our team I’ve known for 15 years and it wasn’t a challenge to get them on board to represent something bigger than ourself.

What have you learned since creating this team about people living with ALS, your supporters, yourself, and others?

Marshall: The first year was an amazing journey making it all the way to the finals. Through the process we learned that the team was much bigger that just Pete. There were so many people that were connected to ALS that were supporting us and putting their hope in us. After the first year, it helped us realize that we had to involve more people in the ALS community. That’s why I came up with the idea to have different names of ALS patients on the back of our jerseys this year. The disease absolutely sucks and what I’ve learned is that these people are so strong to fight ALS. They inspire me with every story I hear. I’ll continue to put out a fighting team in their honor.

Will Team Challenge ALS return in 2019 and can we expect and roster additions?

Marshall: We are returning for 2019 TBT. We made the final 8 this year, but it was a major let down because we really felt we had a team to win it. We just didn’t click the same way we did the previous summer. At this point, we are not sure what additions we will be making, but I am sure that we will put together a team that people will be proud of.

You’ve played professionally overseas in Greece, France, Turkey, etc.. Where will you be playing this upcoming season and what do you expect to bring to the team?

Marshall: I have not signed with a team for this year yet. After sitting down with my wife, we decided that I would spend a little bit more time home this summer and signed later than I usually do. It’s a risk to pass up on jobs early, but I believe that everything works itself out the way it’s supposed to. I will sign soon when the right opportunity presents itself.

If you get a change go follow Team Challenge ALS @TMchallengeALS and donate to the cause they play for.

 

Written by Tom Ballato

Taylor King rides off into the sunset

Taylor King’s career has taken him all over the world, but it all started in California. A high school All-American, King was known for scoring and knocking down 3’s. He verbally committed to UCLA before his freshman year of college, de-commited, and wound up playing in Durham for Coach Mike Krzyzewski. After one season, King decided to transfer to Villanova and play for Coach Jay Wright. After sitting out a year, he only played one season before leaving the team due to personal reasons. King was going to play at USC, but decided to enroll in NAIA school Concordia University Irvine to finish his collegiate career. People often wonder why this highly touted recruit never stuck around, so I caught up with Taylor and asked him about his playing career.

tk

 

You scored over 3,000 points in high school, named a McDonald’s All-American, and Mr. Basketball State of California. What gave you the confidence to be such a prolific scorer with range at such a young age?

TK: I was big at a young age, I played the 5 (center) in elementary and middle school until I was 7th going into 8th grade. I was able to use both hands inside and be a great post player, left/right hand hook shots etc.. When I got to high school I knew I could shoot so shooting 3’s, off the dribble, posting up, getting to the foul line, rebounding (especially offensively), are all the ways I was able to score. I just had that killer mindset that no one could guard me no matter what.

You played one season at Duke before transferring to Villanova. After sitting out a year, you played one season at Villanova before leaving due to personal reasons and returned home. What was your time like at each of those schools?

TK: I enjoyed my time at both Duke and Villanova. I played for two hall of famers and it gave me a chance to play at the highest level of college hoops. I played and did ok at both places, had some big games, played in huge games, and to be in big time schools with lots of hype around those two programs was very special. It’s a brotherhood at both places and that was fun to be apart of and I still keep in contact with guys from both schools so it continues.

You had off the court problems, were away from basketball, and lost love of the game. What influenced you to go back to the sport you’ve played your entire life?

TK: When I left Villanova and came home, I was dealing with some family issues and personal issues. I was just in a bad way with myself and the game wasn’t really something I was feeling anymore. A few weeks past, maybe a month and I went to my high school Mater Dei and played pick up basketball. There were all pros there, guys who currently play in the NBA and overseas, and I killed it. I was the best player in the gym by far. My high school coach had a conversation with me and said I needed to play  and he would help get me connected with another college. I was going to attend USC, but that didn’t pan out so I ended up going to a powerhouse NAIA at Concordia University Irvine. I was first team All-American and did my thing over there and enjoyed it very much.

Your career overseas brought you to Canada, England, Taiwan, Japan, Iran, Lithuania, Mexico, Argentina, and the NBA G League. How would you say your career went?

TK: Yeah, I mean I played in all those countries, had stints in Iraq and China as well as those other countries. To say my career wasn’t short of crazy would be an understatement. Should I have been in the NBA? Absolutely should have, but I ended up in 11 different countries, over 4 continents, and saw parts of the world that most would only dream of seeing. To play the game I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into for a living is a great accomplishment in my eyes. So I am thankful for everything in my career.

You recently retired from basketball. In your Instagram post you said that your focus is to help younger athletes, go back and get your degree, and to be a good coach. Could you see yourself becoming a college coach eventually?

TK: I did recently retire, and started my own training company shooting coach/skill development etc.. I am an assistant high school coach at a great high school and also coach at a club AAU program as well. I am finishing my degree in January so I have a bunch of stuff going on. What I wanted to do is be a head coach in high school and if college coaching comes about then sure I wouldn’t mind.

 

It’s great to see Taylor retiring on his own terms. People can say what they want about his career, but it was nothing short of successful. You can check out Taylor’s training company at www.taylorkingbasketball.com.

 

Article written by Tom Ballato.

*Picture belongs to Taylor King.

 

Team USA and Stony Brook Alum: Jameel Warney

JWJameel Warney played at Stony Brook from 2012-2016. After going undrafted in 2016, Jameel has played for the Texas Legends an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, Team USA at the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup where he was named MVP, signed a 10-day contract with the Mavericks, and recently played in China in the NBL. He is home now and is currently a free agent. It was just announced in September 2018 that Jameel will participate for Team USA World Cup Qualifying Team’s training camp.


 

First off what made you choose Stony Brook?                                                               

I chose Stony Brook because of the family atmosphere they had. They also made me a priority since my sophomore year in high school. They went to all of my AAU games and most of my high school games, so it was without a doubt a good choice for me to go there.

This question is from a Stony Brook Alum. Your senior year, how was your team able to come back and win the American East, not only after the crushing loss to Albany the year before, but after being down to Vermont by double digits at the half?

I think the best part of the four years I was there. We grew a lot. We grew together as a team trying to accomplish a goal that was never accomplished at Stony Brook. Those two games were turning points for us. The loss to Albany was definitely a gut punch, but we knew how close we were to achieving our dreams so the following year we wouldn’t let anything come in between us and winning the championship.

What was Stony Brook’s 1st NCAA Tournament experience like?

It was definitely a great experience. Even though it was a short trip, we enjoyed ourselves and had the opportunity to play against Kentucky which was one of the best teams in the country.

The road you have taken to get where you are today, both through the G-League and Team USA how did that prepare you for the NBA?

It prepared me a lot. From playing in the G-league to Team USA, I learned a lot from the coaches and the players which I use to help me to be a better player now.

What was it like getting that call that you received a 10-day contract form Dallas?

It was an unbelievable experience to finally make it to the league. Even though it was a few days, I learned a lot from the Dallas Mavericks

Throughout your career, who are a few of your favorite teammates?

I loved all my teammates for my four years there. They are definitely people who I consider family and we still keep in touch to this day. My three favorite teammates would have to be Eric McAllister, Tyrell Sturdivant, and Scott King.

You are currently a free agent. Whats next?

I am still figuring that part out with my agent. We have a lot of options so right now. I’m just taking my time to enjoy the off-season and to get better.


Jameel has a chance to prove himself again with Team USA playing for Coach Jeff Van Gundy.  Hopefully this gives him enough exposure to get another call to play in the NBA again. He has proved himself once before, time will only tell, but Jameel Warney’s skillset is enough for him to have a role in the NBA.

It was awesome to talk to Jameel playing for Stony Brook on Long Island. He was the first person I reached out to for my blog. Great guy and he’s proven himself since we last saw him play for Stony Brook.

 

Article was written by Tom Ballato

**Note the picture used in this article is owned by Jameel Warney

St. John’s legend D’Angelo Harrison

D’Angelo Harrison in 2011 committed to St. John’s to play for coach Steve Lavin. Harrison was part of a great recruiting class that included Sir’Dominic Pointer, Phil Greene IV, Maurice Harkless, and Amir Garrett. His recruiting class and coach Steve Lavin brought the hype back to Queens. There were additions by subtractions along the way as Harkless bolted for the NBA after one season where he was a lottery pick and Amir Garrett played two seasons before starting his baseball career, while Jamal Branch transferred to St. John’s from Texas A&M. Coach Lavin brought in this class to get St. John’s back into the NCAA tournament. Each year, Harrison’s game improved, but the one thing missing was a trip to the NCAA tournament. In 2015, St.John’s received an at large bid to the NCAA tournament which was Harrison’s senior year.  They ended up losing to San Diego State, but just getting to the tournament was an accomplishment and a reward for all of the hard work that Harrison and company put in for four years.

Harrison was a prolific scorer at St. John’s and is one of the best players to ever put on a St. John’s jersey. He scored over 2,000 points in his career at St. John’s which places him third all time behind Malik Sealy and Chris Mullin. Harrison has the school record for three pointers made.  Harrison stuck around at St. John’s when times got tough for him personally and he was suspended from the team, but he came back a better person and player. For that St. John’s fans are grateful because he gave everything to the program. I look forward to when his number is retired and hung in the rafters at Carnesecca Arena.

DLO

(Photo does not belong to me. Taken from D’Angelo Harrison’s Twitter Page)

Describe your time at St. John’s and playing for Coach Lavin.

DH: Some of the best times of my life so far. Lav has been so influential to my life. I did not always understand it at first, but over time he taught me to see the big picture. He changed my life and I love him and communicate with him still to this day. Playing wise I loved it, I like to say I’m a New Yorker now.

Four years in the making, but your senior year you guys made the NCAA tournament. What was that like and how important do you think that was for the program?

DH: Making the NCAA tourney was dream come true. It didn’t go how I wanted it to go, but senior year was a season to never forget. Lav should have stayed. I still don’t understand to this day why after that season they parted ways. Just being part of something bigger and having the city behind us for that run was awesome, something I truly never will forget. It impacted the school for years to come same way the 2011 team did it for us.

Do you still keep in touch with Sir’Dom Pointer, Phil Greene, and Jamal Branch? Thoughts on getting back together for a St. John’s TBT team in the near future?

DH: Yes, we are all still in contact and brothers to this day. Maybe we got to get Lav to coach in it.

Your post collegiate career has taken you to Turkey, Israel, and now Russia. What is playing overseas like and what can we expect from you this year in Russia?

DH: Russian VTB league is one of the best leagues in Europe, so I always take what coach Tony Childs told me to go on multiple 1 game winning streaks, but the goal is always to make the playoffs. My game has changed since college and I’ve learned a lot about different cultures.

When your playing career is over, do you see yourself coaching or possibly returning to St. John’s in some role?

DH: I want to be the head assistant at St.Johns when it’s all said and done.

Written by Tom Ballato. Follow me on Twitter @tdotballato

St. John’s Marvin Clark II poised for a big senior season!

imageMarvin Clark II arrived in Queens in 2016 after transferring from Michigan St. where he played two seasons under coach Tom Izzo. At Michigan St., Clark II played in 69 games where he started only 8. After sitting out the 2016-2017 season as per NCAA rules, Clark II started all 33 games for the St. John’s Red Storm in 2017-2018. He shot over 50% from the field and 41% from behind the arch in his first full season at St. John’s. Now he is preparing for his final colligate season.

Here was my conversation with Marvin:

You played 2 years at Michigan St. before transferring to St. Johns. How was your time at MSU under Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo?

MC: My time at Michigan State University is a time that I’ll never forget. I made some of my most cherished friendships and memories there. I also learned a lot under Coach Izzo, life lessons that I’ll never forget. He definitely helped me become a better young man and player.

Coach Mullin and assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih have brought in recruits, but a lot of transfers. How does Coach Mullin get you all to buy in to his system?

MC: Coach Mullin doesn’t really have a system, we play off the strengths of our personnel. We play simple unselfish basketball, make the right and easy play/read and as a result of that we are a hard team to guard because everyone on the court is a threat.

Last year, your junior season you started and really got to showcase your game. Tell us how you think your year went?

MC: Last season was my best season individually from a production standpoint. I was able to legitimately grow and learn from mistakes I made on the floor. Along with seeing what I’m capable of and what I need to get better at and gaining confidence from that. Last year was a great year for me mentally.

Last year, you guys upset #4 Duke and #1 Villanova within a week of each other and that kind of sparked a turnaround in your season. Describe those wins.

MC: Those were definitely two great experiences in my life, two wins I will never forget! Even though last season wasn’t a winning season, our team showed a lot of perseverance and resilience. We never complained and we competed against every team we played. I’m not one for moral victories, but last season was a life lesson for everyone who followed and participated.

What can we expect from you and the team for your senior season?

MC: You can expect a team that lives by unselfishness and sacrifice for one another. We have a lot of talent and depth and a lot of guys that we can plug into multiple positions. It’ll be an ELECTRIC Year to say the least!! We Thank You REDSTORMNATION for your Die Hard support! STORMSZN is approaching and we can’t wait to see you there.

St. John’s under head coach Chris Mullin is preparing for a tournament run this season. They will look to turn it around after finishing 16-17 overall and 4-14 in the Big East last season.

 

Written by Tom Ballato.

The 3 point assassin: Max Hooper

Max Hooper played at Harvard, St. John’s, and finished his college career at Oakland. Many people might remember him in 2015-2016 taking 257 shots and all of them were 3 pointers. Hooper took 490 shots in college and only 11 of them were 2 pointers. I caught up with the sharpshooter about his college days and what is next in his career.

max the hooper             (photo owned by Max Hooper)

This summer you played on the Detroit Pistons’ Summer League team. How was the experience and where do you plan to play this upcoming season?

Hooper: It was a great experience to be around players and coaches who are motivated to make it at the highest level of the game. It forces you to work harder and be your best self. I am not sure where I’ll play this year, but I’m hoping to be in a great situation where my skill set is embraced and my coaches believe in me.

You bounced around in college from Harvard to St. John’s and then found a fit at Oakland. How would you describe your collegiate career?

Hooper: My college career was all about finding the right fit. At Oakland, Greg Kampe’s offense matched what I do on the court perfectly and I was able to perform well on the court because of that.

I’m sure you get this a lot, but your senior season you did not attempt a shot inside the 3 point arch. How did you manage that?

Hooper: My senior career was crazy because of all the attention that our team got as a result of me only shooting 3 pointers. Those who know me well know that 3’s are what I do, however I shoot the occasional layup or midrange jumper. Coach Kampe encouraged me to shoot 3’s whenever I possibly could as he knows the more I shot the better our offense performed. The more attention defenses had to pay on me on the perimeter it made life that much easier for Kay Felder to score inside.

How do you stay ready waiting for your next opportunity and what do you hope to do when your playing career is over?

Hooper: Staying ready is a challenge because you are constantly trying to figure out where you’ll head to play. For me personally, I’m in the gym everyday with people who push me to improve. I workout with Anthony Morrow everyday in the offseason. He is one of the best pure shooters in the NBA and he pushes me to be my best everyday. We have tons of shooting competitions and it gets really heated and competitive. Through this competitions we push each other to be better.  For me basketball is what I am passionate about and what motivates me. I want to coach basketball when my playing career is over. I’d love to coach in college or in the NBA, but I am open as to wherever the opportunity presents itself.

Tell me a little about your podcast? Check it out it’s called Shooting’ the Breeze with Max Hooper

Hooper: My podcast was something that I did for fun. It was great to have candid conversations with the people that I did. It allowed them to share their stories and for others to learn from them. I haven put out an episode in a while. I think I need to do a new one sometime soon.

Written by Tom Ballato.