One of the last two recruits of the Fred Hill era, then freshman Gil Biruta exploded on to floor as a Scarlet Knight. Biruta showed a knack for getting inside, battling against the other Big East Big Men, put backs and quick dunks. He always hustled, was on the floor and seemed to be the player embodiment of Mike Rice's sideline demeanor. He finished as the Knights' 2nd leading scorer.
On the downside, he was often saddled with foul trouble and played out of position at the center spot because of necessity. Coming into last year, Biruta was said to have a good outside shot as well, but fans rarely got a chance to see that.
What can they expect from the now-sophomore this year?
Find out after the jump....Biruta comes into the 2011-2012 season as a power forward. With the incoming freshman class (including injured center Kadeem Jack) and Austin Johnson there isn't a need for Biruta to play center. Biruta is expected to slide over and attempt to fill the role vacated by Jonathan Mitchell. And not just in scoring.
Biruta is going to have to adjust to a new style of defense. In Mike Rice's system, players often switch defenses 1 through 4. The center often stays on the center to allows for fewer mismatches. This isn't expected to change this year. Biruta is going to need to improve his foot speed and be quicker in anticipating the switch. He won't have to stick one player all the time. There will be moments where Biruta finds himself guarding a guard. There are going to be times where he's out of place. But if last year is any indication, Biruta is a quick learner.
At the same time, Biruta is going have a much different role on offense as well. Last year, Biruta was expected to rebound, pass out of the post, and put down dunks--(the force of which got him a technical foul early in the year). He was one of the most imposing inside players Rutgers has had in a while. Biruta is going to have to take those talents and build on them. If he's left open at the 3 point arc, he's going to have to knock down that shot. He's going to have to take the ball to the basket off the dribble at times. Expect to see Biruta's offensive game become more well rounded. If he can be consistent from the outside, Rutgers' offense is going to improve by leaps and bounds.
Biruta is also going to have to be a leader on the floor. His hustle and tough play is going to be an example for the rest of the Scarlet Knights. The freshman will follow his leader. The intensity Biruta brings will help the team's leadership and chemistry as time goes on. Dane Miller, Austin Johnson, and Mike Poole have been reported as the team's new vocal leaders. Biruta's energy will lead the Knights on the floor as well.
This is going to be a year of adjustment for Biruta. He has roles to learn on both sides of the ball. Assuming he works hard, there should be no reason fans will see less of Biruta on the floor. Ideally, his stats would go up. But with more weapons this year, you might see a better, more well-rounded Biruta, but one with lower stats.
And that's exciting to think about.