North County's Cliff Cornish to High Point
It was difficult for Cliff Cornish to sort through all the interest he was receiving from various Division I college basketball programs.
The 6-foot-7, 240-pound forward from North County was recruited by Boston University, Central Connecticut State, Kent State, La Salle, Morgan State and Stony Brook, among others. But one program – High Point – quickly stood out from all the rest.
“They saw him … at every tournament we played in, from West Virginia to Vegas to L.A.,” said Fred McCathorine, Cornish’s coach with the Crusader Nation basketball program. “They got to see him play a lot of games – six in West Virginia, eight in Vegas and nine in L.A. They got to see a lot of Cliff Cornish play.”
Cornish couldn’t help but notice the intensity of the Panthers staff’s pursuit. After making two trips – an unofficial and an official visit – to the North Carolina school, Cornish’s mind was made up. He committed to High Point late last week.
“I’m still happy with my decision,” Cornish said. “I knew I was going there as soon as I [visited]. It just felt right as soon as I stepped on campus after talking with the coaches and players.”
Cornish spent the first two years of his high school career at Cardinal Gibbons. When the Baltimore Catholic League school closed after the 2008-09 school year, Cornish transferred to St. Paul’s, where he said he averaged “probably 14 points and nine rebounds” as a junior. But the 45-minute commute from Cornish’s Anne Arundel County home to St. Paul’s became too much, and he decided to finish high school at nearby North County.
It was Cornish’s play with Crusader Nation, however, that put him on the radar of so many mid-major schools. McCathorine said most college coaches had similar praise for Cornish’s game.
“One was how well he runs for us and how strong he is,” McCathorine said. “And how well he passed the ball. On the interior, he passes very, very well for a big man. Cliff gets up and down the floor. He might be a 3 actually.”
Cornish said he “never heard of” High Point before the Panthers coaches started recruiting him. He immediately did his research on the program and the university, and liked what he saw. After his first visit, Cornish was pretty much sold.
“As soon as I went there, I wanted to stay,” Cornish said. “It’s just immaculate. There’s no trash. It’s like a gated community, just like on television. … Everybody is just nice to you. Just a lot of stuff to do on campus.”
Cornish, who’s considering a major in sociology, said he bonded quickly with Panthers assistant coach Ahmad Dorsett, a former Mount St. Mary’s and Bowie State assistant. Dorsett isn’t the only High Point member with Maryland ties. Former Dunbar star and Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro guard Devante Wallace is a freshman there, as is guard Tre Duncan, a Severn grad who spent last year at Princeton Day Academy.
“I was surprised to find out there are guys from” Maryland, Cornish said.
McCathorine thinks Cornish could factor in to High Point’s rotation as a freshman. He’s versatile enough to play the 3 or the 4, he’s comfortable playing out on the wing – High Point’s offensive style is similar to Crusader Nation’s – and he’s a good mid-range shooter. Cornish said he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to see action next fall.
“It’s a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Cornish said. “I want to bring a championship there.”
Handout photo of Cliff Cornish courtesy of Crusader Nation.