I'll admit that I'm not much of a basketball guy. So to get the perspective of someone who follows all three metro Big East programs closely, I sought out LFBall, who was kind enough to give his take on few questions about Rutgers basketball. His blog is a must-read for anyone interested in Rutgers, Seton Hall, amd St. John's basketball, or college basketball in general.
1. First, for any readers that aren't familiar with you from your blog or from Rivals, can you briefly describe your background in basketball?
Thanks for asking this. Many folks think I am just a guy writing stuff to just write. My background includes playing HS basketball on a team that went to the NYC HS semi finals where I was all Manhattan and honorable mention All City. I played Junior College basketball where I was part of the All Region Team and team captain. I also played at a small NAIA school in West Virginia called Davis and Elkins College where I was a two year starter. After my last college game I never played again! Started coaching in the NYC Rucker Tournament where I coached and worked out alot of future pros and D1 college players. I coached the Dyckman Program run by Mr. Jim Couch for over 20 years! I also had the pleasure to be the lead assistant coach at Westchester Community College (Where Jarid Famous now attends) responsible for recruitment workouts, and game coaching. Our teams went to 3 NJCAA Tournaments in Hutchinson Kansas during my time at the school under Ralph Arietta.
During my 30 plus years of basketball involvement after playing, I have worked out numerous players including no less that 15 ex-Rutgers players, as well as an equal amount of Seton Hall and SJU players. I have watched HS basketball for over 30 years and have attended games with many guys who did not coach at the time and now are D1 Head and Assistant Coaches. That would include Bobby Gonzalez and Al Skinner. In fact Al and I along with ex D1 Assistant Bernard Tomilan drove together to games as far away as Boston prior to Al getting into coaching at Marist College. I remember him making the call to Marist on our way to Boston for the old Boston Shootout.
I have watched all the greats in the past 30 years. I have seen guys go from stars to drug addicts. I have seen guys go from stars to bench players. I have seen guys go from stars to no one knowing them 5 years later. But I have also seen guys go from Unknown to the NBA. In fact I have seen guys go from underrated in HS to the NBA All Star Team.
Going to games from NYC to North Carolina I see alot. I see the good and the bad. I see AAU guys coaching and caring and HS coaches who could care less. Remember every coach will not be that concerned with the kids he coaches. For every Hurley, Boyle, Curtis March, Johhny Mathis (NYC Kennedy), Ron Neclerio, Mo Hicks, etc. there are still guys doing it just for the small stipend they receive for coaching.
Lots of what I say on my blogs which are on LFBALLONHOOPS.Blogspot.com or GameOver.com, cover alot of what I see going on and it can be controversial.
2. With Rutgers struggling once again this year, everyone is pointing towards player development and the lack of a true point guard as the biggest culprits. What's your take on that explanation, and do you have any other impressions of this season?
First of all, I have to start by saying how disappointed I am watching the decline of JR Inman, Corey Chandler, and others. I am also surprised by the record because I feel Rutgers has enough talent to have won more games in and out of conference. No way should they lose to many of those schools. The kids on Rutgers would have tore up recruiting letters from those out of conference schools they lost to without reading them. I like Binghamton and its wonderful coaching staff who are destined for bigger jobs elsewhere in the near future, but they should never have beat Rutgers at The RAC. Everyone continues to say Rutgers does not have talent. To that I say NOT TRUE. They do not have the people RU might want at this time but you can not tell me Rutgers does not have talent. And many folks in basketball circles agree with my assessment.
Unfortunately I feel many players have given up and cannot wait until the season ends. I think this is a direct result of the players feeling the coaches gave up on them early in the season. You cannot expect Sr. leadership when you cater to 2 freshmen from day 1. By the way, I feel the recruitment options of both these young men. although they seem like great kids and GOOD talents, were overrated. Both were smart enough to attend Rutgers where they knew they would play alot! Smart of them and good for them. Unfortunately the same mistake made at Seton Hall under Tommy Amaker with the Barrett, Tony El, and Griffith class where he just made it their team has happened at Rutgers which is partially responsible for this bad season. What happens next season?
Now this might seem like I am bashing the RU staff but I really am not. I used to have a decent relationship with all of those coaches. In fact I was one of Craig Carter's youth coaches and even drove him to RU for one of his visits when he was a HS player. But they have done some great things, and they have made some mistakes because they are human.
The staff at Rutgers has not gotten the support needed to help them become successful. Where is the 24 hours a day practice facility, new or improved arena, marketing dollars to bring in sell-outs for every game, and more? New AD? He seems like a football guy so who knows. But one thing for sure, FHJ will get another year and that is good and bad because it will be hard to win next season as well, and potential recruits who are impact players and program changers know this. The hardest thing to overcome for a program is having a coach who folks think might not be around long. So 1 more year would not be enough. FHJ needs a 3 year contract extension or shall I say at least 3 years more years before RU faithful will see good results.
Talent wise RU needs to hope Corey Chandler does not leave. But if RU is searching for a great PG than the writing is on the wall about who will start next season in the back court. Looks like it will be the new PG they get, and Mike Rosario. Trust me Mike is the starter at the 2 and Corey is too slight to play the 3. So this will be interesting.
Talent wise next season and wins? The starters most likely will be new PG, Rosario, Enchinique, the Big Fella, and another player to be named. Miller? Pettis? Who? Does that line-up make anyone confident? Maybe Rosario will have a Douby type year and RU will jell as a team and upset alot of people! Than again maybe Stephon Marbury will suit up for the Boston Celtics and become the Playoff MVP! Anything can happen and you do not need to be at Disney to experience it.
3. What about the long term future of the Rutgers basketball program - Fred Hill is probably going to get another year; is that the right call? Can he still turn it around, and he does he deserve that chance?
Yes he can turn it around. But he needs to do an honest self assessment of himself and his program. It will take at least 3 years for this to happen because the program changers are not attending Rutgers. Program changers often have alot of things taken care of before enrolling. Not going to go into detail but many of these kids have been spoiled since they were playing biddy basketball. The deals behind closed doors will not happen at RU at this time. Not sure what might have happened many years ago, but I doubt if RU will do special favors to get stud players who can turn things around right away. Ever seen the movie "Blue Chips?"
Fred needs something to sell. New practice facility, new arena, state of the art weight room with indoor swimming pool attached to practice facility. He also needs support from the school in regards to marketing and recruitment. I loved reading how the football coach landed in a helicopter on a HS football field. That's the type of stuff Kentucky does. North Carolina came to see Dexter Strickland in the super 8 at MSG last season 2 hours after a televised home game. It was impressive and made possible by the private chartered jet they flew into Teterboro on.
4. From reading your site and a few of your posts on Rivals in the past, you've spoken a bit about some of the seedier aspects of college basketball recruiting. What do you think of the topics discussed in the recent Gary Williams interview with the Washington Post?
I have had the pleasure of sitting in on a Gary Williams home visit with one of my ex-players who did sign with Maryland. Funny thing is we never heard from Gary again after the kid signed and the kid lived in my home. It has been rumored that Gary does not really like recruiting. Not sure about that because he was into it when he visited us.
As far as recruiting? It is a seedy business and even those who want to do it right find themselves dragged into bidding wars on occasion. It is somewhat better now, but years ago college teams hired guys in various cities to do recruiting for them, and they did anything to get players because their pay was based on a kid attending the school who hired them. In fact one well known talent guy was a recruiter for Tennessee years ago. Still remember him wearing his UT short at HS games. But yes it still is seedy and underhanded.
One of the problems is the big guys and their alums can buy autos,and homes for players, and get away with it based on who they are, while the small guys get hit for being at a summer game lol. So unfair! There are rumors about alot of seedy stuff at a number of programs, but Rutgers has not been included and I doubt if they will.
5. Is there a concern out there that Rutgers is turning into strictly a football school, and is starting to neglect hoops? In terms of facilities upgrades, what needs to happen?
Yes there is. Alot has gone into RU football while basketball is suffering. It seems all about the pig skin! Needs to change but hiring a football guy makes a person wonder.
6. Should the Big East conference split at some point in the near future?
NO! I think it is a great conference. But the bottom teams need to get better fast. It's becoming a have and have not conference. But no split.
7. Lastly, who do you like in the BE tourney in MSG this year? What about to win it all in March?
UCONN!!!!!!!!!! They have players and they have support from the entire state! Not to mention two head coaches including one who is great lol. But Pitt will show up and make it fun. I like North Carolina to win it all with a BE team as national runner up.
Thanks again to LFBall for his honesty and candor.