Cornett Can't Crack Rotation

Many expected Rick Cornett to make an immediate impact in the Notre Dame basketball program this year. But, through four Big East games, the freshman has yet to leave the bench and Mike Brey announced Thursday his rotation for the rest of the year will go eight deep. IrishEyes Magazine Managing Editor Alan Tieuli reports on Cornett's short- and long-term future with the Irish.

Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™

January 24, 2003

Remember Rick Cornett?

By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com News Service

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (IE) – The natural story to write here is on the homecoming of Notre Dame freshman Torin Francis, who will be starting Saturday against Boston College in front of about three dozen family and friends at Conte Forum. 

But let's look instead at one of the Irish's forgotten freshmen, 6-8 power forward Rick Cornett.

Rated a four (out of five) star recruit out of Homewood Christian Academy in Country Club Hills, Illinois, most suspected that Cornett would step right into the Irish frontcourt rotation this year.  But, through four Big East Conference games, the 19-year-old has not seen a minute of action and Thursday head coach Mike Brey more or less announced that Cornett would be anchored to the bench for the rest of the season.

"We're really an eight guy team," Brey said. "Right now we need those eight to be ready for the last 12 games."

The eight are guards Matt Carroll, Chris Thomas, Torrian Jones and Chris Quinn and frontcourters Jordan Cornette, Dan Miller, Francis and Tom Timmermans.  

"If there's a ninth body, (Cornett's) the guy," said Brey. "Tom, Torin and Jordan have established themselves."

What that also means is that Jere Macura's Irish playing career is essentially over, but that's a different topic for another time.

Considering that Notre Dame is officially the worst rebounding team in the Big East – 14th out of 14 in rebounding margin – you may wonder why Brey is giving short shift to an imposing body who pulled down 1,788 rebounds in high school.  It's a good question.

"I'm not concerned about rebounding unless it's a mauling on the boards, like what happened at Pittsburgh," Brey said, noting the Irish's 51-30 disadvantage on the glass Jan. 6. "We're not going to outrebound people, that's not who we are."

Cornett was nicknamed "Preach" in high school since he does not use profanity and is a devout Christian.  And, by all appearances, he has handled his inactive freshman year well.

"Rick's getting better every day in practice," Brey said. "He needs to use his practices to improve.   He gives Jordan, Torin and Tom everything they can handle there.

"It's difficult to play four big guys right now," Brey said. "But he would be the next guy.  We nurture him that way in practice.  Our guys have more confidence in him as well because he practices well."

Cornett chose ND over Kansas State, Illinois and USC and was smitten with the Irish from his sophomore year in high school on.   "They were the second school to send me a (recruiting) letter ever," Cornett said.  "Akron was the first and then Notre Dame.  I've been comfortable with them ever since."

Dave Telep, basketball recruiting guru for The Insiders network, had Cornett rated ahead of Boston College's starry freshman Craig Smith, currently the leader in the race for the Best Newcomer award in the Big East.  He figured Cornett would get immediate minutes in the Irish rotation following the departures of Ryan Humphrey and Harold Swanagan.

But situations change.  With BC's Uka Agbai going down with a serious neck injury early in the season, Smith had the opportunity to show off his enormous talent.  Cornett, on a team that has taken on a perimeter identity, has been cast into the shadows.

With Notre Dame off to its best Big East start ever, and standing at a heady 15-3 overall, Cornett and Irish fans have no reason to complain at this time.  And the minutes should be available next year, with Miller in his last year of eligibility.

Still, will Brey need Cornett if indeed the Irish do find themselves being manhandled by Pittsburgh on the boards Feb. 9, or versus Mike Sweetney and Georgetown?   

 -0- 

IRISHEYES NOTEBOOK: Conte Forum is completely sold out for the Irish visit, the first time BC has been booked to capacity for a game this season. "Here we go again, selling out another eastern building," said Brey. "I hope the Big East is happy with all the tickets we're moving for them."……Brey calls BC's Smith "the best freshman in the Big East," which clearly will get tongues wagging in the Syracuse


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