Madness Diagnosis: Jeff Foote, Here Comes Treble

What’s the old adage?

You can’t teach height?

Well, it’s true. I tried to self-teach myself height for years and I just never got it. I studied like crazy. I took extra classes and always did my homework. But I never was able to score over 6’0” on my height tests. Just couldn’t seem to get it. Luckily, that’s not an issue for Jeff Foote, the center for Cornell University (ever heard of it?).

The thing about Jeff Foote is at first glance there is nothing impressive looking about him other than his height. He’s a legit seven feet tall and he’s got good size at around 260 pounds. He looks a little slow. He has good dexterity but is he quick enough to show something against the bigger, faster, and stronger athletic competition at the next level? He was solid competing against Temple in Friday’s game as Cornell shot their way to a 78-65 victory. As well as Cornell shot the ball, Foote’s inside presence was a good safety valve for them on offense.

And just for fun, the rest of this post I’ll be referring to Jeff Foote as “Big Tuna” in honor of his fellow alumnus, Andy Bernard.

Stat Line: 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 assist, 1 steal, 5 turnovers 6/8 FG, 4/6 FT, 0 fouls

What He Does Well
He uses his height to his advantage. Sounds simple and obvious for a 7-footer, right? Well, it’s not always that easy for these guys. A lot of guys pretend to be guards or small forwards. They try to push the limits of post play out to 18 feet and show how versatile their game can be. Foote doesn’t do that. Only he time he plays on the perimeter is to set screens and help facilitate the offense. Big Tuna knows his limitations on offense. He stays in the post, takes his time and gets as big and long as he can when he goes up for a shot.

Big Tuna is pretty balanced and skilled with both hands in the post too. His footwork is good enough to get him to not fall all over himself (see: Sene, Saer). But his real strength in how he scores is by using his tallness and being able to score with either hand. He’s able to absorb contact on one arm and use the other to still put up a good shot attempt to try and get the three-point play. He also possesses a solid defensive base inside. I’d like to see him against a much more athletic post player than what Temple threw at him on Friday but overall, he doesn’t gamble a lot and just stays in the way. That’s sometimes all you need.

What He Does Poorly
Let’s be honest about Big Tuna here; he’s not a very good athlete. He’s very slow and methodical with his footwork in the post, which can get him into trouble against big defenders. Some may look at him and think, “if Aaron Gray and Sean Marks can be in the league, so can Jeff Foote.” But Gray and Marks are a lot more athletic than Foote and you can see it in the way he moves inside. He had decent post moves but they took too long to happen. Once he had completed the move (mainly a lot of drop-steps to the baseline), the defender had already recovered and Foote had to rely on being taller than his man. In the NBA, that will get eaten alive.

Tuna also was pretty sloppy with the ball. His slow footwork sometimes got him into trouble and caused his five turnovers. In the NBA, moves have to be succinct in the post and if not, you’re going to cause your team a lot of problems. The biggest question is would Jeff Foote be able to do some agility training to get faster feet? If he wants to play in the NBA, then he’ll have to.

Tweets of Madness

@SebastianPruiti @talkhoops he has two left Footes….not real good footwork, but great size and passing ability…

@gnagesh @talkhoops He could barely walk and chew gum as a freshman. Now he’s a legit NBA prospect. Couple years in the D League might help though.

Can He Play in the NBA?
A 7-foot guy who can score in the post, pass the ball well and defend the rim will always be a guy with potential to play in the NBA. You can work with a guy like Foote because he has a good skill set. Think Spencer Hawes without the outside touch or athleticism. Yikes. Actually, don’t picture that. That’s not pretty for anybody. Ultimately, Foote might not ever be a good enough athlete to play in the NBA despite his size. I can see him trying things out in the D-League if he wants to test the NBA waters and try to make a career of it but the athleticism would still have to improve for him to not be eaten alive there too.

Ultimately, I’m going to say that he probably isn’t an NBA player based on what I’ve seen. My opinion could easily change if Cornell advances through the next round or two and Foote proves himself against bigger competition. We might not be able to learn much more about him against Wisconsin in the next round but if they can get to the Sweet Sixteen, seeing how Foote plays against the athletic monsters in Kentucky Blue will show us just how far along Foote is in his playing career.

One last thing, we don’t really even know if Big Tuna WANTS to play in the NBA. Maybe he’s just one of those tall guys who plays out of necessity. After all, he goes to Cornell and because of it he’ll either do sales in a small paper company or he’ll be the CEO of some company with the chance to embezzle millions of dollars some day. He might not want to take the pay cut of playing professional basketball.

Seth Carstens