Rutgers basketball is right around the corner.
And because football was on a bye week, Steve Pikiell took over the Chris Ash show to talk the upcoming hoops season. And I was there to document it.
But first, let me back up.
I never thought, when I first bought college basketball tickets, that I would become as close to the program as I have. It started with this site, writing about Mike Rice, Eddie Jordan, and now—occasionally—Steve Pikiell. Rutgers basketball—the winter—is my favorite time of year. I got to go to the RAC and film a commercial with my son. This was one of those moments Ben and I will remember forever, and it’s all thanks to Mike Greengarten, Rutgers PR guy extraordinaire.
Since then, I’ve become more bound to visiting and taking part in more basketball things. It’s quite the community, from Greengarten on up. Everyone is nice, everyone is excited about Rutgers basketball. And that excitement is palpable.
So, on this random Wednesday night, I trekked on down to Edison to watch Pikiell preview the season with Jerry Recco.
The event was buzzing. I went by myself, and so many tables were taken, I ended up sitting with another person who showed up solo. We chatted for a bit, and the Pikiell came around and shook everyone’s hand, thanking us for coming.
Recco was a great host, asking just the questions you wanted to hear, as a fan. Pikiell talked a lot about the Big Ten and how tough a league it is. But he also talked how important it will be, now that they can play Corey Sanders off the ball and Souf Mensah as a point guard.
He loves Geo Baker, talking about how cerebral a player he is. He can hit the three and he can make free throws—music to fans ears. He called Myles Johnson one of their best interior scorers.
It’s clear Pikiell’s excited about this season. I got a chance to ask a question on the show on what fans will be able to see differently on the court from last year to this year. Pikiell’s eyes lit up and he talked about how much competition they have in practice now. Geo versus Mike Williams, Candido Sa vs. Deshawn Freeman.
There’s some buzz in the air for college hoops at Rutgers—for the first time in a long time.
“Enjoy the steps,” Steve Pikiell said. “Enjoy the build.”
There’s hope Rutgers will be better this year. Afterward, I got to shake Pikiell’s hand, take a photo and tell him how excited I am for the season. Genuine and honest, you can tell how excited he is too.
I’m glad I chose this time to be involved. Because I’m certainly enjoying it.