Coming off a 15 game losing streak and the loss of our two best players, Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack, its understandable that optimism for next season's team is lagging. We should expect to be picked last in the conference by every major publication heading into October.
However, there is a major reason to be excited and hopeful for next season. And his name is Corey Sanders. He is a consensus 4-star recruit ranked by ESPN as the 60th best player in 2015 class and the 9th best point guard. Rivals.com ranks him the 75th best player in the class and 247.com has him ranked as the 86th best player and 13th best point guard. He is the highest rated recruit we have had since 2008 when McDonald's All-American Mike Rosario came to play for coach Fred Hill. We know how that worked out but there are several reasons why Sanders tenure will be different.
Sanders plays with a swagger and fearlessness that I would argue we have never seen before on the banks. His energy and enthusiasm flows out of his game at all times. We desperately needed a player with the confidence and ability of Sanders, who isn't carrying the weight of past failures with him. As much as I loved Myles Mack and everything he did for this program, it was obvious how worn down he became last season. He did play hurt the last part of the season and was a true warrior until the end. However, all season he looked like he was playing with the entire RAC on his shoulders. The burden he bore the last two seasons took an obvious toll that prevented him from carrying Rutgers to new heights. Sanders will not have any of that weighing on him and he will be excited to lead this team. And being from Florida, he doesn't hear from family and friends like Mack and Rosario did about the failures and disappointments from the past 24 years at Rutgers.
As you can see from his senior year video below, Sanders is quite an athlete.
USA Today called him "the most entertaining player in the Class of 2015". I would argue he is the most athletic point guard Rutgers has had since a player in the seventies by the name of Eddie Jordan. He drives to the rim with force while maintaining body control that makes him a strong finisher. He has a great handle and a killer crossover. At 6'1" he has tremendous leaping ability and attacks the rim. Watch this video below of him winning a dunk contest in Florida, leaping over 7'6" Tacko Fall, a 4-star recruit who signed with UCF. Sure its not a game situation, but how can you not love the moxie of Sanders challenging himself to dunk over a player more than a foot taller in front of a crowd. Probably because he did dunk over Fall in a game, check the 2:00 minute mark of his highlight reel above.
Of course there are elements to Sanders game that he must improve on. While he has 3 point range, he needs to be more consistent and improve shot selection. To be able to drive successfully in the Big Ten, he has to keep defenses honest by respecting his long range ability. Otherwise they will clog the lane on him and make it much harder to explode to the rim. While he is considered a good defender, Sanders will need to prove he can match up against bigger guards in the conference on a consistent basis.
Overall Sanders represents coach Eddie Jordan's biggest piece of the puzzle in restoring the program to respectability. He will need to take Corey's raw athleticism and unwavering swagger and develop him into the leader of the team on and off the court. While this team needs to develop depth and a consistent low post presence, Sanders represents the key to everything this season and beyond. He will need to buy into everything Jordan and staff ask him to do, which will be to worry less about the cameras and highlight reels and more about making himself and his teammates better. From this tweet below it looks Sanders is hard at work at Rutgers already.