Fresh off a meeting with Cornell’s basketball coaches during his official visit to the campus during the Labor Day weekend, Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof strolled over to the locker room to lounge with the members of the Big Red Bears.
As the music blared and players shared laughs with one another, a feeling of ease fell over the Gonzaga senior forward. Minus the different school colors and fresh faces, Abdur-Ra’oof felt as if he was back in the Gonzaga locker room, passing the time with teammates he’s come to view as “brothers.” Immediately, Abdur-Ra’oof knew that he was ready to adopt Cornell as his college family, leading him to commit to the Ivy League school’s basketball program Tuesday night.
“I was looking for a family where I could feel comfortable like I do at Gonzaga,” Abdur-Ra’oof said, “and that moment in the locker room with the [Cornell] players let me know that this was my next home.”
Abdur-Ra’oof chose the Big Red over Brown, Princeton, George Washington, Old Dominion, UMBC and Kennesaw State. The versatile forward averaged 9.2 points for Gonzaga last season, earning All-Met honorable mention and playing a key role in the Eagles sweeping through their Washington Catholic Athletic Conference regular-season schedule.
The positive vibes from Cornell stemmed from Abdur-Ra’oof’s unofficial visit to the Ithaca, N.Y. campus in May. The school’s size and diverse atmosphere somewhat reminded Abdur-Ra’oof of the University of Maryland — where his dad, Aziz, played football — making him even more comfortable with the school and its many resources.
“It’s a great balance of education as an Ivy League school and size as a bigger school with a lot of diversity,” Abdur-Ra’oof said. “It almost felt like home the first time I visited, but after being there with the team and with students on campus, that reaffirmed all of my feelings.”
At 6-foot-7, 205 pounds, Abdur-Ra’oof has the athleticism to run the floor and length to crash the boards as well as guard multiple positions in the paint. His powerful dunks often energize the Eagles and an improvement in his face-up ability as a post player led his recruitment to spike within the past year.
Abdur-Ra’oof also credits his evolving defensive skills to the daily task of guarding 2013 All-Met Player of the Year Kris Jenkins in practice.
“Kris was the toughest matchup in the WCAC and maybe the area, so that forced me to work on my speed, strength and agility,” Abdur-Ra’oof said of Jenkins, who is now a freshman at Villanova. “The Cornell coaches see me as an athletic wing forward that can guard multiple positions and that’s what I’ve been doing in high school, going up against a guy like Kris in practice.”
As the Eagles’ leading returning scorer, Abdur-Ra’oof will be looked upon to increase his production on both ends of the floor. In preparation for his elevated role, the senior said he put up 500 shots a day during the early portion of the summer and concentrated on improving his ball handling.
“Much of the nucleus from our team last year is gone, so we really need to remold together as a team and family,” Abur-Ra’oof said. “I’ve been working really hard on my game and as a leader to help us be successful.”