Archive for March 24th, 2010

I love it when people exceed the expectations put upon them by others.  People who persevere in pursuit of a dream despite little or no encouragement from the outside.   My current favorite is Jeff Foote, shown here, the starting center of the Cornell Big Red basketball team who is on an improbable run in the current NCAA tournament.   Jeff and his teammates face the highly favored and number one seed Kentucky team Thursday night for a chance to move into the final eight teams in the tournament.

Like the Big Red team in this tournament, Jeff Foote has always been an underdog.  He went to Spencer-Van Etten High School, located in a very small rural village not far from where I live.  It’s a small school with most graduating classes numbering less than a hundred students and isn’t known as a hotbed for turning out sports stars.  So when Jeff was playing for S-VE as a gangly 6′ 8″ teenager, he kenw he wanted to play Division I ball but attracted practically no attention.  Division I powerhouses didn’t come to see him.  Neither did even smaller Division I schools.  For that matter, no Division II schools came calling.  Only RIT, a Division III school  a couple of hours away in Rochester expressed any interest at all.

But he wanted to and believed he could play Division I ball and instead of just giving in to the expectations of others, Jeff kept pushing.  He applied to St. Bonaventure, a Division I school in western NY, and made the team as a walk-on.  No scholarship.  No guarantee of playing time.  But he was in Division I even if it was at the end of the bench as a now gawky 7-footer.  At the very least, it gave him a framework in which to work hard towards improvement.

In the meantime, Jeff’s mother, a nurse at a hospital in Elmira, became acquainted with the coaching staff at Cornell when one of their players suffered a back injury and came to her hospital for treatment.  She became friendly with them and told them that they should take a look at her son, the 7- foot walk-on for the Bonnies. 

They were intrigued by the thought of the big unknown kid.  They gave him a try-out and the work Jeff had put in was apparent.  He transferred to Cornell and has had a wonderful career there, improving steadily as the starting center for the three-time Ivy League champions, going each of the last three years to the NCAA tournament.  This year he was named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the year and his game continues to grow as he continually strives to improve.  He’s eyeing a career in the European Leagues and has set his long range goal on the NBA. 

Don’t underestimate the kid.

And don’t count out the Big Red.

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