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Rutgers Basketball: What Kind of Player Builds a Program?

As Eddie, Shoes, Van and Mike hit the trail, who are they chasing?

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Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

For years, Rutgers fans have longed to land the player that is NBA ready.  The player that will come to the RAC, light the place up, send the team to the Sweet Sixteen and then be off on his merry way to Lottery Pick Island.

Today is July 9, 2014 and the Live Recruiting Period opens at 5 pm.  Die Hard basketball fans of all teams will flock to Twitter and follow the recruiting gurus who will no doubt litter their feeds with coaching name drops and who said coaches are watching.

Rutgers fans will be hoping Eddie Jordan is following Isaiah Briscoe and Rawle Alkins around, trying to speed up the process by landing some blue-chippers.

But are those the players Rutgers needs right now?

The answer may not be what you think.


Let's get this out of the way right now.  If a top tier talent like Briscoe or Alkins or whomever wants to come to Rutgers, you accept that commitment with open arms and see what happens.  There is no comparison for what landing a recruit like that will do for exposure and positive press.

The problem is, with Rutgers, it has happened before.  Look back at the only McDonald's All Americans to ever commit to Rutgers:  Mike Rosario*.

Rosario did turn out to be a very good college player, but he wasn't the right college player for Rutgers at the time he committed.  When Rosario set foot on the banks, coach Fred Hill handed him the keys to the car and let him drive.  And, yes, Fred Hill was a pretty bad coach, but also, the circumstances weren't right for Rosario.

Rosario, on the right team, could put them over the top--like he did with Florida.  But that was a veteran team that had been around the block and Rosario was able to assimilate into the team and then help.

At Rutgers, he couldn't do that.  He was on a team where the seniors were helping fry up a steak of turmoil and the head coach thought, "Hey if this new kid shoots the lights out, we'll be fine.  Why bother with Xs and Os?"

That wasn't the right situation for Rutgers then.

And it might not be the right one now.


The Scarlet Knights are still a team in transition, and they are going to need bodies to fill the 2015 roster.  But are they ready for a superstar recruit to land on the banks?

Yes and no.

Like I said, they want to come here, you have to take them.  But they have to be the right fit.  The culture of Eddie Jordan basketball isn't complete yet.  These new players won't have a tradition to assimilate into.  When they join the Banks next year, Myles Mack, Kadeem Jack and Malick Kone will be gone.  There will be 4 upper classmen, one of which will be a JUCO.

Jordan's first full class will only be sophomores.  They won't be able to show anyone the ropes yet.  You get players to assimilate with senior leadership.  When seniors buy in, a group of them, everyone else falls in line.  And then the superstar has no choice but to be a team player.

But a team like this is still fragile, still building its chemistry, and that chemistry can be destroyed.  Whomever Eddie Jordan decides to bring in needs to fill the Rutgers basketball mode.  With luck, Jordan learned that last year.

Superstars are great, and they can really speed up the rebuilding process, but they have to have the right personalities.  Personally, I don't know who these kids are, and I'm sure they are great kids who will fit in just right.

But the Rosario situation must put caution in the wind.

Too often at Rutgers, fans have heard about chemistry problems.  With the right foundation put down--leadership built, players and a system developed--it's easier to bring in more difficult personalities and get them to play ball.

So, what is the answer?

Austin Burnette, Ryan Johnson, Mike Williams, Ibrahima Diallo, and Shaquille Doorson.  Players who are underrated and seem to have the reputation to be team guys.  They're not superstars, but they will build and grow together.  They'll learn and run Eddie's system, improve the team, and by the time they're juniors and seniors, they'll be ready.

They'll have put the team in a position to win, and only be missing 1 piece.

And that's the best time for the best players to jump on.  Football fans, think about it:  Schiano built with underrated guys, and then landed Ray Rice.  His early home runs on the recruiting trails, Rikki Cook, and Berkley Hutchinson never panned out.

But Brian Leonard did.  Ryan Neill.  They bought in and grew together.  And then the big name put the over the top (Kenny Britt, Anthony Davis, et cetera), once the philosophy was in place.

Grown your team, grow your leaders, and then land the big fish.

It's the way to go.  It takes a little longer, but it's more fun for the team.

Of course, I'll take my chances with the big fish any day, as well.  Come on down to the Rutgers and help us out.

Now, as the live recruiting period begins, it'll be interesting to see what names leak out and who draws the most Rutgers interest going forward.

*I believe Wally Judge was an All American too, but he transferred to RU.

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