The first thing Mike Rice promised the fans during his opening press conference was that he would start to win some of the recruiting battles Rutgers had long lost.
A lot of fans scoffed. Rice was the cheap hire, they said. He wasn't the one to change the culture.
Boy, were they wrong.
More after the jump...Some started to notice the change when Rice went after assistant coaches. He first went after Arizona's Book Richardson, long known as one of the best recruiters of New York City. Then he tried for Pittsburgh's Brandin Knight, another up and coming recruiter. After striking out with both of those, the "same ol' Rutgers" talk started again.
But Rice found David Cox and Van Macon and began his assault on Washington DC and New York City. And that was went something very compelling began.
Rice and co started bringing recruit after recruit on campus for visits. The word leaked out and the die hard fans started to get very excited. Both Rakeem Christmas and Tyrone Johnson made visits. Neither committed, but the amount of high quality talent that was checking out the RAC made fans sit up.
Then came the first commitment. A former Georgetown commit--Jordan Goodman, PF--committed. He was, however, a 2012 recruit. Most experts said he was very talented, but he was still a way out. The best fans could figure, since Rice was hired in May, was the coach had targeted 2012 as his year to bring in a huge class.
Fans couldn't be more wrong.
A power forward, Derrek Randall, committed soon after. Followed by highly touted Kadeem Jack and NJ guard Myles Mack. Then Malik Kone. Then Jerome Seagears. Then Mike Taylor--NY's best shooter. And finally, top 150 center Greg Lewis.
The work Rice had put in was amazing. He'd gotten 7 players to commit and 6 of them were consensus top 150 players. It appeared a solid nucleus was being formed.
Not only that, Rice didn't give up on 2010 graduates. He convinced Austin Carroll and Gilvydas Biruta (hat tip to Tim Pernetting on Gil) to stay signed with RU. Then he swung for--and got--Mike Poole and Tyree Graham to commit. All--except the injured Graham--have helped this season.
Mike Rice has done a lot right so far. He's build a solid coaching staff, created an identity, and brought in a solid nucleus of players.
Finally, waiting until next year might be worth it.