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Former Plum star Cressler raises game entering sophomore season at Cornell

| Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Courtesy Cornell University
Plum grad Nolan Cressler will be a key contributor this season at Cornell.
Patrick Shanahan | Cornell University
Plum grad Nolan Cressler (shooting), a sophomore guard, will transfer from Cornell to Vanderbilt.

Admittedly, college life was a challenge for Nolan Cressler last year when he was a freshman.

But there's college life, and then there's college life at an Ivy League school.

Class demands are pressing enough, and playing a sport can create a crammed schedule. But Cressler has learned to cope. The Cornell sophomore has become robotic in his student life but remains machine-like on the basketball court.

“It was tough but it's much better this year,” said Cressler, a Plum graduate and his alma mater's all-time leading scorer.

“It took all of last year to get everything down and kind of find my regular schedule. Now that I've found it, it's habitual.”

Cressler is set to begin his second college season with raised expectations after warming up quickly to the Division I game as a freshman.

Cornell opens the season Friday night at No. 8 Syracuse. The Big Red also play at defending national champion Louisville on Nov. 15. Cressler will be a go-to scorer in those games, and the rest of them on the Big Red's schedule.

Cressler had an explosive performance in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am League, scoring 38 points in one game. He hopes the momentum carries over.

“I am a sophomore, but I am treating this like it's my senior year,” he said. “It will definitely be a different situation. I'll be asked to score more and take on more of a leadership role. I am almost considered a veteran as a sophomore. I am excited to see how it all ends up.”

Cressler picked up two Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards last year. He appeared in all 31 games, making 12 starts, and led the team in 3-pointers (54) and hit 40 percent of his shots from long-range.

He averaged 9.3 points and 3.7 rebounds. His scoring average climbed to 11.1 points against Ivy League teams, against whom he shot 48 percent.

After a head-turning 20-point effort (6 of 8 3-pointers) in his first college game, against Western Michigan, he managed career games against Penn and Brown, scoring 22 in each.

The awe of playing on the big stage has dwindled. For instance, Cornell played at Duke last season, and Cressler shook coach Mike Krzyzewski's hand.

“It's a normal thing now,” Cressler said of the awe factor. “Last year I went through a little bit of that. This year it's more of a normal thing.”

Cressler will play shooting guard and small forward and be the team's secondary ball-handler.

He also admitted to times last season when he didn't feel in the best game shape. So, he aimed to change that over the offseason.

“I have tried to work on my body a lot more,” he said. “I have a better diet; over the summer I cut out all bread. And I hit the weight room harder. I knew I'd be playing more minutes and I want to be ready.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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