The Rutgers men’s basketball team ends their regular season on Saturday at noon at the RAC against Illinois. The tradition of Senior Day makes this game extra special. For the Scarlet Knights, the only four year member of the program is walk-on Khalil Batie. The New Jersey guard, who played high school ball at Trenton Catholic Academy, is well respected and has been a model member of the program during his career. Although his impact on the court has been limited, the amount of work and dedication he has put in the past four years should be greatly appreciated. I’m looking forward to him getting his moment this weekend.
In addition, the only scholarship player at the end of their eligibility is graduate transfer CJ Gettys. Although he has only been with the program this season, he has made a big impact in head coach Steve Pikiell’s first year at Rutgers. The 7 footer has turned out to be a great addition, averaging 7.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game, while being a regular starter all year. Those are respectable numbers and the best of his career, after playing his first four years at mid-major UNC-Wilmington. Also, his 37 assists on the season are third most on the team, behind guards Corey Sanders and Nigel Johnson. He leads the team in shooting at 56% from the floor and KenPom rates Gettys as the second most efficient player on the team, behind only Mike Williams.
To fully appreciate Gettys though, you must look beyond just the stats. He became an instant leader and has been a positive example that coach Pikiell could point to in how to prepare to play. In the two practices I’ve attended, the energy and experience of Gettys stood out. He has a unique ability to keep things light, while at the same time, being locked in and focused on what is happening in practice. Gettys has been a great resource for the less experienced big men on the roster and has been able to help settle the team down at times on the court during games.
There have been plenty of positive moments on when things count on the court as well. Against Drexel in the second game of the season, Gettys announced his arrival with a solid 13 point, 9 rebound, 2 block, 2 assist performance that quickly made him a fan favorite at the RAC. He scored a season high 15 points, while adding 7 boards and 4 blocks against Morgan State. In what was an important non-conference game against Fairleigh Dickinson, Gettys had 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists, with his passing ability on full display.
While Gettys has had some ups and downs this season, he has stayed healthy and his play has been pretty steady. Sure, he struggled mightily against top competition, but he has played arguably the three best big men in the country in Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado, Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, and Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan. However, he hasn’t wavered in his effort and has had some notable performances since February. They include a 14 point, 8 rebound game against Minnesota. He had 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists in the close loss at Northwestern. Just this past Tuesday, he showcased his mid-range jumper against Maryland, scoring 12 points on 6 of 8 shooting, as well as grabbing his average of 5 boards.
I’ll remember Gettys for some key moments too. He made two HUGE free throws with under a minute to play at Penn State in a game Rutgers won by 2 points, their first ever road win in B1G play. He got a fingertip on the ball on the final possession against Nebraska, directing it to Corey Sanders, setting up his game winning shot. Gettys also did something rarely seen from a player his size against Iowa at the RAC, the lone highlight in an otherwise forgettable performance from Rutgers.
ICYMI: Ever see a 7-foot, 280-pound guy go 94 feet for the coast-to-coast bucket?— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 1, 2017
Just watch this C.J. Gettys play. https://t.co/C7XCagVDGU
And of course, the top highlight of his senior season so far was when he followed a Sanders miss with a game winning putback to seal a dramatic 13 point comeback against Hartford the day after Thanksgiving, which preserved a 6-0 start to the season and made the RAC roar!
His leadership and consistency have been so important for Pikiell in year one. Health and foul issues have plagued Gettys at different points in his career, but neither has been an issue this season. His positive attitude and just the right amount of swagger really helped this team get off to a great start in non-conference play. While he has faced some difficult matchups in Big Ten play, Gettys never stopped battling. Even against Minnesota, when Jordan Murphy had a highlight reel dunk that “posterized” Gettys, he took it in stride afterwards.
lol it's basketball, you're bound to get dunked on. Life goes on ✌— C.J. Gettys (@gettys23) February 11, 2017
No such thing as bad publicity.— C.J. Gettys (@gettys23) February 11, 2017
His size, positive attitude, and play on the court have made him very popular with Rutgers fans and rightfully so. The Rutgers band included a life size, cardboard cut-out in their section during a recent home game.
CJ Gettys is playing double duty tonight! A special addition to our trombone section!… https://t.co/29G23mxXit— RU Marching Band (@RUMarchingBand) February 23, 2017
Even other Big Ten fanbases have taken note of Gettys in a positive way:
CJ Gettys is hands down my fav Non-Iowa B1G player— tommy o'copiers (@TeeOhhSee) February 23, 2017
When their eligibility is done I want Haas and Gettys to form a WWE tag team @OTB_SBNation— Hammer & Rails (@HammerAndRails) February 15, 2017
His willingness to come to Rutgers after being courted by other high major programs speaks to his character. In this article from NJ Advance Media’s Jeremy Schneider back in November, he said this about choosing to play on the banks:
"The most appealing thing about this opportunity to be honest was being a part of a change. I like the fact that we've kind of been in a slump in the Big Ten for the past couple years. I like the idea of me coming in and trying to change the culture of this program that will be remembered for years to come. I was part of that first winning season, or something," Gettys said. "We're going somewhere nobody expected us to go."
Although conference play has been struggle for Rutgers, currently mired in a six game losing streak, there has been a lot of progress this season. Laying the foundation during the first year of a new coaching regime is so important in developing a strong culture that future teams will be built from. Considering Pikiell didn’t land Gettys until late August, it’s safe to say he hit a home run in bringing in a key player to help him establish the culture he wants within the program. Gettys has delivered this season and he deserves to be saluted on Saturday. Rarely does a player make such an impression and impact in just one season as Gettys has done.
Batie deserves to be celebrated as well, as he has stuck with the program through losses and turmoil, remaining a solid piece the entire time. Gettys and Batie are certainly different in many ways, but their dedication and hard work for Rutgers basketball has been the same. If you are at the RAC this Saturday, make sure to stand and cheer long and hard for these two. If you are watching from home or a bar, make sure you stand, clap or raise a glass for them. Let’s hope Rutgers can finally put it all together against a red hot Illinois team and give these seniors the sendoff they deserve. Thank you CJ and Khalil!
You can watch coach Pikiell talk about Gettys and Batie here: