With the start of the new season only nine days away, we have already previewed the returning second year players and the senior class for the Rutgers men's basketball team. Now it's time to preview the seven newcomers and freshman, more than half of the roster.
Aaron: Johnson has been raved about in practice, which is all he can do this season after transferring from Kansas State. As exciting as the thought of Corey Sanders and Kwe Parker was together, adding in Johnson with Sanders could be even better. He had big games last season, leading Kansas State to upsets of Iowa State and Kansas. As much as I am looking forward to this season, adding Nigel to the mix next season gives them legitimate chance to jump a level as a team.
Dave: To be honest, I didn't want him here. I thought the scholarship would be better used on a freshman who could play right away, and grow into a prime role. By all accounts, I was incredibly wrong. Even though Johnson has to sit out this year, he sounds like the kind of kid this program needs. Fast, talented, and can push Corey Sanders in practice. His talent can help this season, even though he won't suit up, and next year he'll be ready to step in at the guard position and contribute right away. Can't watch him this year, but it sounds like I wish we could.
Aaron: It was a great pick up by the staff to secure Grier's transfer this summer. He has plenty of experience playing in the underrated Missouri Valley Conference, which includes Evansville, Northern Iowa and mid-major powerhouse Wichita State. He shot 32% from three point range his two years at Bradley and 82% from the free throw line, so he should help in both areas. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Grier should be a key member of this team. Between his potential offensive production, while also mentoring a young backcourt along with Bishop Daniels, his performance is a key to the success of this team.
Dave: I LOVE THREE POINT SHOOTERS. So I love this signing. Grier has a role on this team, and it's going to be to defend and make the open three. He's a senior, he's been through the wars and he's fundamentally sound. So far this off-season, he's been the forgotten addition to this team, but I think he's going to be playing a very big part this season. Hopefully, he goes down in Rutgers fans memory as the best graduate transfer to play here.
Aaron: It's important for Freeman to replace as much of Kadeem's Jack production as possible. They have a different style of playing, Jack was more of a post-up player and Freeman prefers to face the basket and drive the lane. He has ability to be the top rebounder and a reputation for playing tough defense. He plays aggressive and can bring an energy to the team that they desperately need. He played two years at a top JUCO school and should be ready for prime time and have an immediate impact.
Dave: We know this team needs scoring. Freeman is going to carry the load. I've heard some ridiculous comparisons for Freeman, like he's a Jae Crowder clone. If he's half of what Crowder was at Marquette, he's going to fit in great here. Freeman has to replace Kadeem Jack, yes. But hopefully he does that by knowing his role, attacking the basket and getting out in transition. JUCO means he's done it before, and this won't be a shock to his system. Rutgers needs that. Badly.
Aaron: Diallo redshirted last season, so he already has a full season of practice under his belt. His role is simple, be a defensive force and rebounding machine around the rim. He is 6'10 and could make a major impact for this team. With Shaq Doorson still out with a leg injury, Diallo has a chance to play significant minutes right away. Not much should be expected offensively, but if he can fulfill his potential on the defensive end, it doesn't matter.
Dave: Very interested to see what we get out of Diallo. Last year, early in practices, Eddie Jordan talked him up as if he'd be the first player off the bench--before he was forced to sit out. As Aaron said, with Shaq aching, Diallo will need to fill that role. He has to defend and pull down important rebound. Basically Diallo has to finish defensive possessions. If this team can't rebound, it's going to be big trouble, and remember the guards are going to be looking to run, so they likely won't help in rebounding. Diallo needs to secure the ball.
Aaron: Goode comes in with a reputation as a great long range shooter. Rutgers is desperate to improve their three-point shooting, so Goode will have an opportunity to make an impact if he can shoot well consistently. I think he may have trouble cracking the regular rotation with Bishop Daniels, Omari Grier, Mike Williams and Corey Sanders ahead of him. His minutes will also depend on this ability to play defense at a high level. He will have his chances early in the season to prove his worth.
Dave: I LOVE THREE POINT SHOOTERS. Goode has to make shots and not screw up on defense. His half season of redshirting will probably help him be prepared for that. But, likely, he's a project. If he can knock down shots, he'll play.
Aaron: Laurent could be the steal of the class, coming in as an unheralded 3-star wing from Florida. Due to his athleticism and lack of depth at his position, he could be in line for major minutes this season. He is still a bit raw but his willingness to play defense and aggressiveness on the court could be major positives for this team. Here is to hoping Laurent is the X factor that helps Rutgers exceed expectations.
Dave: By all accounts, Laurent is the surprise of the recruiting class. The kid can defend and run the floor and he plays a position of need. Look for him to play a ton in the out of conference portion of the schedule. Can he step up when the lights go on in the Big Ten? I say yes. X Factor indeed.
Aaron: Sanders is Eddie Jordan's prodigy, as he is molding him into a star point guard. He is still learning and will make mistakes this season, but his potential is off the charts. Sanders is saying and doing all the right things since he has been on campus. His energy and competitiveness alone should make this team better. I don't want to get too excited but I think he could really turn heads in the Big Ten this season, ultimately helping Rutgers to exceed expectations.
Dave:Ah, Corey Sanders. The key to the season, right? What else can you say? In year 3 of the Jordan era, a true pass-first point guard is finally on campus. How quickly can he learn? Will he pout when he's benched? If the answers to these questions are positive, we are in for a treat. But, I will say this, the first time Corey Sanders breaks a defender down and dunks in a key situation, the RAC is going to rock. It sounds like Corey wants to be flashy and wants to win. Can he be Johnny Flynn for the good guys? Because this needs to happen for Rutgers at the RAC. Not the opposition. Corey can do this.
Aaron: All seven new players have the potential to make a positive impact on this season. Grier and Freeman are the most experienced and need to hit the ground running. Sanders has the most potential and will play big minutes leading the offense, but there will be a learning curve. Laurent could breakout as a surprise star on the wing and should bring a much needed aggressiveness to the team. Diallo and Goode could be key role players, especially Diallo with his size and defensive potential. It's the most talent Rutgers has brought to campus in many years. They don't have the hype of the 2011 freshman class, but as a whole are a much better fit for this current team.
Dave: There are so many new faces on this team, let's face it, it's going to be a work in progress. But if everyone knows and plays their roles to the best of their ability, it can be a quick work. You want to see these kids getting better in late January and early February and start knocking off some teams. That will be the sign of a bright future. Can they do it? There's only nine days before we find out.