Rutgers faces another tough season in Big Ten Conference
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) After losing the top two scorers and rebounders from a 10-22 team, it appears that a rough debut in the Big Ten may be followed by an equally tough second season for Rutgers
Coach Eddie Jordan does not see it that way.
”We’re looking forward to being more successful in the second year in the Big Ten,” he said. ”We lost three of our top players last year, so it’s a new team. We have seven newcomers. I like our talent base. We look good, deeper, athletic.”
The Scarlet Knights must replace statistical leaders Kadeem Jack, Myles Mack and Junior Etou from a team that upset Wisconsin at home before losing its final 15 games to finish 2-16 in conference play. It was the ninth straight losing season for Rutgers, which has not reached the postseason since 2006 and the NCAA Tournament since 1991.
The Knights’ offense will be centered around highly touted freshman Corey Sanders, who is the first legitimate point guard recruited by Rutgers since Geoff and Todd Billet in the late 1990s.
”He’s young, athletic, enthusiastic, knows how to play,” Jordan said. ”He’s one of the top guys already who can start for us. He’s an energetic young man, he’s fun to be around.”
Senior guard Bishop Daniels is the leading returning scorer after averaging 8.4 points in his first year with Rutgers. Other returnees who saw regular time in the rotation were forward Greg Lewis, who started every game, and sophomores DJ Foreman and Mike Williams.
Sanders and Daniels will likely start in the backcourt, with JUCO transfer Deshawn Freeman and Lewis up front and either Foreman or Jonathan Laurent on the wing.
Shaquille Doorson, a 6-foot-11, 275-pound sophomore center who averaged 10 minutes in 29 games last year, will be out until at least November with a stress fracture in his left foot.
Some things to watch this season:
COREY SANDERS: All eyes will be on him. Although not a great shooter, he’s athletic, can pass the ball and knows how to get to the rim. At 6-2 he can ignite a crowd with some big-time dunks. Sanders will be asked to do a lot as a freshman and how he handles the pressure will be important.
FROM THE JUCO RANKS: Another key newcomer is the 6-foot-7 Freeman, who averaged 19.2 points (on 55 percent shooting) and 9.6 rebounds last year for Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. He could provide help for a team starving for offense, as he can go hard to the glass or step back and attack off the dribble. He and Sanders are big keys to the present and future.
NEW-LOOK OFFENSE: After running the deliberate Princeton system during his first two seasons, Jordan plans on turning his players loose a bit more. ”I see a lot of good things for us as far as the way we’re going to play,” the coach said. ”I’m excited about that. We’re more perimeter-oriented and we have a lot of athleticism.”
SHOOTERS? A major question is who’s going to shoot the ball? Rutgers ranked last in the Big Ten in 3-pointers made (4.8 per game) and second-to-last in 3-point percentage (29.5). The Knights are hoping that Bradley transfer Omari Grier can help. Although averaging 7.9 points per game last year, he has a proven track record as a shooter.
EDDIE’S TEAM: For the first time, Jordan has a team of ”his guys.” Lewis is the lone player left from the Mike Rice regime, and the hope is that with Jordan coaching all his own recruits there will be a better connection.