Two week's ago we covered the Rutgers men's basketball team at Big Ten media day. Today was Rutgers media day, where Eddie Jordan talked in more detail about the team and players spoke with the local media as well.
Here are some key points and topics that head coach Eddie Jordan discussed:
- Eddie was upbeat and enthusiastic about this team. He made a point to tell Keith Sargeant that he will not make predictions or set specific goals, but my assessment is Eddie is cautiously optimistic. He was careful not to put any unnecessary pressure on his squad by publicly setting expectations. "We’re excited about our team," coach Jordan said. "We’re young and we’re new. It’s important to me that our guys embrace the process of trying to grow together and trying to develop chemistry and comradery. It’s on the floor, in the locker room, and on campus."
- Eddie discussed how last year's team relied on Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack to carry the scoring load. He stated that he feels 8-9 different players have the ability to average between 8-10 points a game. The odds of that actually happening are slim, but it's really positive that Eddie believes that is possible. Offensive balance is so important to this team being successful, avoiding scoring droughts for long stretches at a time. Last season, if Mack and Jack started out cold from the field, the team would fall behind quickly and in many instances, never recover. This year, Eddie seems confident every player that will be on the floor will have the opportunity to contribute scoring to the offense. He stressed their ability to "be more balanced and stay aggressive."
- Aside from a talent upgrade, Eddie stressed size and flexibility with this team. "I like our size throughout the entire team. We can go with a big perimeter lineup or we can go small." He continued, talking about the offense, "Last year we could play with one center. This year we can play with any two bigs we want at anytime." He also said this team provides "flexibility with size, lineups and match-ups." This is another great development. Last year's squad was very predictable in how to game plan against. Teams attacked Mack and Jack, daring the rest of the team to execute offensively and beat them. Unfortunately, there wasn't a strong enough supporting cast to do that. Based on Eddie's comments, Rutgers should be harder to prepare for and attack defensively against. Eddie will have a much deeper roster that will allow him to play certain styles, or key in on certain match-ups game to game, team to team.
- Our head basketball coach is serving as a true mentor to his players and he is very intent on their personal development. When asked about star freshman Corey Sanders and the hype he has brought, Eddie quickly responded "there is no star power in this gym." While praising Sanders for his work in the classroom and saying "there are no red flags with Corey Sanders off the basketball court", he did say Corey sometimes "gives him one of those, I don't know, star looks. (with a smile)." The follow up question was how does Jordan handle Sanders when he does that? Eddie quickly said, "I put the whole team on the line. Right guys?" The team was in the back of the room during his press conference. He continued, "I put the whole team on the line, get on the line." Again smiling, "So we get a couple suicides in there, and maybe peer pressure will cool his butt down. Right seniors? Thank you." In terms of Corey's game, Eddie praised him for being a "defensive player first, a pass point guard first." It was clear that Eddie has high hopes for Corey and is attempting to mold him into a special player.
- Overall, this team has the potential to be the deepest, most athletic and toughest team of the Eddie Jordan era. They will have the ability to give multiple looks on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court during a game. They are young and will make mistakes, but they should be the most entertaining Rutgers team to watch in many years. Eddie stressed the importance of being aggressive and shooting the open three. Injuries are a concern, as Shaq Doorson has been in a boot and waits to get an MRI in the next week. Jordan mentioned Corey is dealing with some hamstring issues, so they are watching him carefully. With only 11 active scholarship players this season, the overall health of the team will be a major factor in its success. That being said, Eddie seems energized by this team and ready to see what they can do. So are we!!!
Here is the official team picture for the 2015-2016 squad. The season starts on Friday, November 13th against Rutgers-Newark. We will have several more preview posts before the season kicks off.