Interview: Cornell Freshman Bryan Knapp

I have been hearing about Bryan Knapp for about 4 years. Sensational talent playing at a Jewish Day School. Back in the day it was only Tamir Goodman. I remember being at the Red Sarachek Tournament in New York and the house was packed. But now, Jewish Day School ballers are finding their way to the NCAAs. Maryland, Tulane, and others are taking on the once unbelievable balance of Judaism and basketball. Maybe no one better than Knapp. After garnering national attention in the Jewish ranks but also from colleges, Knapp found a home at Cornell. With a solid game and a bright future, Knapp is ready to improve and ball with the best.

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1) Tell TGR about yourself?

My name is Bryan Knapp and I am freshman on the men’s basketball team at Cornell University. I am currently enrolled in the Dyson undergraduate college of business, as well as being involved in several extracurricular activities such as being a DJ for Cornell Radio and a writer for the Cornell Big Red Sports Network.

2) You played at a Jewish High School. Did that ever interrupt your basketball experience?

There were occasional scheduling conflicts for recruiting tournaments and showcases… but fortunately, most Friday nights were free and clear!

3) There has been an influx of Jewish Day School students in the NCAA (JoJo Fallas, Aaron Lieberman, etc). Do you think there is a reason for this? Is the talent better today or opportunity greater?

 Although Day School talent has undoubtedly improved over the past few years, I think that the influx of Jewish athletes at the collegiate level is due more to the explosion of social media and online recruitment. Day Schools seldom attract college coaches to practices or even games, and, as such, technology has begun playing a crucial role in familiarizing college coaches and recruiters with players who would have otherwise been overlooked.

4) You played quality minutes as a Freshman. What’s next for your development?

I firmly believe in the principle of consistency. Despite having a few strong performances as a freshman, I would like to become a more consistent player, impacting the game in more ways than simply scoring. In particular I would like to improve areas such as movement without the ball, and help-side and on ball defense. That said, whether on the court or in practice, the fundamental truth is the same: give 100% all the time.

5) Cornell will be a part of the second ever IVY League tournament. Can you punch a ticket to the big dance?

Most definitely. Sports analysts have been firmly rooting against us all season. Last weekend against Dartmouth, for example, ESPN predicted a Cornell defeat despite having a better record and stronger all-around team and style of play. Unsurprisingly, such is the situation in the IVY League Tournament as well. The Yale Undergraduate Sports Analytics Group has predicted that Cornell has a 3% change of winning the title, and, if faced with the University of Pennsylvania in the championship, a 90% chance of defeat. Our team is determined to prove them wrong yet again. Two gritty and hard-fought wins and we are in the big dance; it’s as simple as that.

6) What is the biggest transition from High School to College?

In terms of basketball: pace of place. A turnover in high school simply meant hustling back and preparing for defense. In college, a turnover means you’re team is about to get scored on, and it’s on you.

In terms of academics: teachers in high school often sought out students who needed help understanding a particular concept or project. In college, the onus is on you to reach out to and schedule a time to meet with a professor or teacher’s assistant.

7) What’s the goal for your playing career?

Contribute to the program as best I can. Work hard every day. Learn from my coaches and teammates. If I can do those three things, I will gladly settle with the results.

8) What was the Maccabi experience like? Was it important to you?

The Maccabi Experience was surreal. Not only was I able to connect with the Land of Israel through sports, but I was able to watch thousands of other foreign athletes do so too, many visiting Israel for the first time. The experience reinforced my love for the country, while also exposing me to a swath of different Jewish cultures and identities from around the globe.

9) Any advice for young Jewish ball players in the Day School world?

Love the game of basketball, and, more importantly, love your teammates. Some of my best high school memories were made in early morning workouts or Sunday practices. And be proud of the Day School you represent. You have an opportunity to disprove stereotypes and misconceptions about small, frail Jewish athletes. Fight with all you got.

And if you aspire to play collegiality, my advice is singular: don’t be afraid to reach out to a coach. Recruitment is a two-way relationship, and expressing your interest in a school is often just as important as a school’s interest in you.

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