Since the day he first arrived on the Cornell campus in August of 1995, there has been a lot of talk about John McCord and his prowess on the basketball court.
Former head coach Al Walker and current assistant Tyrone Pitts recruited McCord out of Monroe College in the Bronx. John was to be the answer for the Big Red, but he sat out the 1995-96 season to get himself settled academically.
When he first took the floor on Nov. 28 last semester against Buffalo, there was no longer any doubt about how good McCord could be, as he finished his first game with 26 points and 11 rebounds to lead Cornell to an impressive victory over the Mid-Continent Conference's preseason favorite.
As would be expected for a first game, the Big Red struggled in the first half against Buffalo, trailing the Bulls 27-22 after the first 20 minutes. During the intermission, Coach Scott Thompson prodded McCord, saying "If you're big time, step it up."
McCord responded by scoring 21 second-half points to lead the cagers to a 70-62 victory.
"He's a very good player," Thompson said following McCord's debut. "He's one of those guys that I think is going to have good numbers, and I'm going to say he still hasn't touched what he's capable of doing."
Well, as we've found out, the senior is capable of doing plenty.
McCord was named to the all-tournament teams at both the Boilermaker Invitational and the Bobcat Holiday Stores Classic. And he has twice been named the Ivy League Player of the Week, most recently on Jan. 20 after leading the Big Red to victories over Army and Columbia. He had 21 points and seven rebounds at West Point, then followed that with 11 points and a career-high 15 rebounds in Cornell's 62-46 thrashing of the Lions before an Employee Day crowd of 3,125 on Jan. 18.
Through 14 games, McCord leads the Big Red in scoring (17.9 ppg.), rebounding (9.1 rpg.) and field goal percentage (57.7 percent). He leads the Ivy League in rebounding, ranks second in scoring and third in field goal percentage and blocked shots (1.5 bpg.).
Not bad for a guy who hadn't played basketball since the 1994-95 season and never played in high school.
McCord brings a good mix of offense and defense to the hardwood, but what may make him most memorable to Cornell basketball fans are his electrifying dunks. Whether he's being set up by guards Alex Compton, Michael Roberts or DeShawn Standard for an alley-oop, or he's running the floor on a fast break, McCord has stunned crowds both home and away. One memorable slam took place in the first half at Dartmouth when he took off from the right wing and threw down a tomahawk dunk to silence a raucous Big Green crowd.
Should he keep up his current pace, the 6-6 senior has a chance to be Cornell's first All-Ivy first-team player since Sam Jacobs in 1987-88. His numbers will also make him a viable candidate for Ivy Player of the Year honors. Ken Bantum '85 is the only Cornell player to be named the Ancient Eight's top player, following the 1984-85 campaign.
With six home games remaining, including contests against Princeton (Jan. 31) and Pennsylvania (Feb. 1), the Big Red hopes to be in the thick of the Ivy League race. And with a player the caliber of John McCord in the lineup, anything and everything is possible.