Team preview: Cornell

Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2006-07 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 24, 2006, 11:50 AM ET
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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

COACH AND PROGRAM

One man who averaged just more than a basket per game was responsible for Cornell's greatest victory of the 2005-06 season. No box score of the win exists, but everyone in Ithaca knows what happened.

Last Jan. 24, during a rebounding drill in practice, Big Red sophomore Khaliq Gant collided awkwardly with two other teammates and lay paralyzed on the Newman Arena floor.

Gant suffered a 50-percent dislocation of his C-4 and C-5 vertebrae. Bone from his hip was used to fuse together the two vertebrae. Initial diagnoses set the timetable for his ability to walk again anywhere from two months to never.

But after an extensive rehabilitation stint at Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, close to his Norcross, Ga., residence, Gant has resumed a normal collegian's life once thought forever out of his reach. He may never play basketball again, but he will make his own way to Newman to watch the Big Red try to better last year's third-place Ivy League finish.

"He's doing unbelievable," Cornell head coach Steve Donahue said last August. "He made a miraculous recovery, in all honesty. He's walking around campus now on his own. He's a resident assistant -- back to his old job. He's as much a part of this campus as a normal student would be."

No one, least of all Donahue, can say whether the Big Red's four-game winning streak after Grant was hurt was attributable to a fallen comrade. But Cornell's second straight 8-6 league mark was another wiggle of toes for a program that won only nine Ivy games total in Donahue's first three seasons in Ithaca.

Asked if Gant's injury impacted the Big Red either way, Donahue said, "At that time, it was hard to look at it in that way. But glancing back I was proud of everything our guys did from that moment on -- not just on the court but how they held up off the court and dealt with this tragedy that was around them."

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