Former Cornell players show up for yoga

August, 2, 2011
8/02/11
1:38
PM ET
Remember when plucky runs to the Sweet 16 were enough to make you a darling? You'll forgive us if we're no longer so easily impressed. In 2011, Virginia Commonwealth and Butler shattered the very notion of Sweet 16 darlings, proving that anyone -- small school or large, from the shakiest bubble team to one that lost to Youngstown State on Feb. 3 -- could upend the traditional hoops hierarchy and beat the most talented and well-heeled programs in the country in the games that mattered most.

Still, the Big Red's run in 2010 was pretty cool. Unfortunately, Cornell met Kentucky in the Sweet 16, and as DeMarcus Cousins, one of the five Wildcats selected in the first round of the draft later that summer, famously put it: "We're here to play basketball. It's not a spelling bee." UK throttled Cornell, ending the Ivy League darling's run and (if only briefly) restoring college hoops' postseason pecking order.

So what are the Big Red up to these days? The New York Times caught up with them at the 92nd Street Y, where five former Cornell stars -- Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman, Louis Dale, Jon Jaques and Aaron Osgoodwere -- were beginning what sounds like a rather awkward afternoon in the yoga studio:
There, the five former Cornell standouts — Foote, Ryan Wittman, Louis Dale, Jon Jaques and Aaron Osgood — settled on undersize mats in the front row of the dimly lighted class, staggering their positions to avoid hitting one another with their arms during the stretches. For the next 1 hour 25 minutes, the five labored through an intermediate yoga class of 13 women and 2 other men as the instructor rattled off instructions with the faint sound of music in the background.

“It’s a little difficult when you’re 7 feet tall versus 5-10 like Louis,” said Foote, who needed special attention from the instructor throughout the session. “We used to do it as a team a little at Cornell, but never quite like that.”

Wittman, the 2010 Ivy League player of the year, said: “We probably should be in a beginner’s class, but we decided to give it a try.” He added: “I’ve noticed a big difference since I began doing it this summer. It helps with flexibility, quickness and durability.”

Eventually, I'm going to get myself to a beginner's yoga class. Seriously. I'll swallow my pride if everyone I know that does yoga -- dudes included, but mostly females -- stops telling me how much better it makes you feel. Deal? Deal.

Anyway, the Cornell gents aren't just mucking around in Downward-Facing Dog for the fun of it. It's part of a summer workout regimen that includes "skill drills, two-on-two games and weight lifting as often as six days a week."

Why all the work? Because four of the five have either received or are entertaining various offers from overseas clubs. Wittman played summer league games with NBA teams and signed with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants last year -- home of the most terrifying mascot in all of sports -- before eventually making the trek to Italy. This year, Wittman's NBA dreams are even more unlikely, thanks to a lockout that has basically frozen any unsigned free agents and rookies out of roster contention until further notice.

In any case, the group sounds like a tight-knit one. Almost like the Entourage bros. I'm not sure where yoga at the 92nd Street Y lands on the spectrum of eternal bro-ness, but hey, whatever works, right?

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