PISCATAWAY — The last two seasons have not been kind to Shaquille Doorson.
The Rutgers center missed all of his sophomore season with an injury that also kept him out of the entire following offseason. While he recovered in time to feature in 31 contests in the first season under head coach Steve Pikiell, there was never a point he felt at full strength.
Two years removed from the darkest moments of his college basketball career, Doorson is at a peak of health and ready to contribute.
“Physically, right now, I’m feeling great. I’ve been feeling way better than I was before and just ready to play in the Big Ten,” Doorson said. “It’s been a good job from (the training staff) working on my body and making sure I’m in great shape so yeah, I feel good right now. I feel like I’m ready to bump with the bigs in the Big Ten.”
For proof of Doorson’s health, look no further than his production since the Scarlet Knights re-entered Big Ten play.
The 7-footer contributed seven rebounds and 4 points in Rutgers near-upset of No. 4 Michigan State Wednesday night. The performance came a week after Doorson collected six rebounds and 2 points against then-No. 13 Purdue. Looking a bit back in the season, he got four rebounds and brought some solid defense on Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado in one of the biggest upset wins in program history.
In terms of scoring, his efficiency is off the charts — Doorson hit all three shots he attempted in his past two appearances. As far the point total is concerned, there is no concern.
“(I) take (my scoring) as it comes,” Doorson said. “It’s not really something I have to do. I’ll do whatever I need to help the team win. If that’s me taking zero shots or if it’s me taking 1,000 shots, it doesn’t matter. I’ll do whatever it takes for the team to win.”
Doorson played 21 and 22 minutes against Purdue and Michigan State, respectively, the most minutes he’s gotten in any games this season. Pikiell put Doorson on the floor much less during non-conference play due to the nature of the opposition, who would normally trot out smaller line-ups and play more around the perimeter.
The transition to facing the towerings forwards in the Big Ten was a welcome change for Doorson.
“That’s what I like to do,” he said. “I like to get matchups against the bigs, it’s more physical. It’s really enjoyable instead of chasing these small guards everywhere. I’m really enjoying myself.”
Rutgers came up just short against the Spartans, but left with encouraging signs for the future.
Having a reliable big off the bench in Doorson is one of the bigger developments for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact starting center Mamadou Doucoure often struggles with foul trouble. Doorson said he’s sharing as much wisdom with Doucoure as he can, and that he expects the freshman to improve in the area as he learns and adjusts to the speed and physicality of college basketball.
The next test for both of them comes against the hottest team in the country. Ohio State comes to the RAC Sunday off of two straight blowout wins over Maryland and Michigan State.
The Buckeyes bring a seven-footer of their own in Kaleb Wesson, another challenge for Doorson to face in the continuous Big Ten gauntlet. Pikiell expects his veteran center to be up for the test.
“We’re playing teams with guys like him and we’ll play Wesson, he’s another big guy for Ohio State,” Pikiell said. “He’s getting better and better in those games. Now that we’re in conference play, everyone seems to have those seven-footer that weighs 270 or 280 or bigger. Sometimes the non-conference games are more difficult because he’s chasing around three-point shooters. But he’s been better in practice, his body is feeling good. It’s probably the first time in his career he feels good. His knees, his leg, everything. Hopefully he continues that because we need him to.”