On July 4th, our country comes together to celebrate it’s birthday and history as a nation. Here at On The Banks, it seemed like a good time to also look forward towards the future regarding Rutgers athletics. In the spirit of the holiday, we profile four athletes at Rutgers that have future’s so bright, they will likely set proverbial fireworks off with their performances on the field or court in the years to come.
Two of them arrive as highly touted recruits and are just a few months from beginning their collegiate careers in Scarlet. The other two look to build off big expectations set from sparkling freshman debuts.
Enjoy your barbecue, or time at the beach, or even indoor time out of the heat, crack open a cold beverage, and toast to the bright future of these Rutgers athletes!
The 5-star point guard who signed with Rutgers last November is the latest star in the making for Hall of Fame head coach C. Vivian Stringer. Zippy arrives this fall with the potential to take over the offense and help fill the scoring void left by Tyler Scaife, who finished her Rutgers career as the second leading scorer in program history. Here is how an ESPN scouting report described Broughton’s game, who was named the Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year this past season.
“Athletic floor leader with confident persona; Electric lead-guard with a scorer’s mentality; handles, speeds up the floor and delivers with flair in traffic; deep range threat complemented by explosive quick step off the dribble, collapses the defense and delivers; disruptive defender; a dynamic guard in the class of 2018.”
ESPN ranked her 23rd overall in the 2018 class and the 5th best point guard in the country. How quickly Zippy adjusts to the college game will have a major impact on the trajectory for the women’s basketball team next season. She seems to fit the mold of a hard nosed, aggressive scorer that have flourished under Stringer in the past. After many transfers have entered the program recently, it’s nice to see a legitimate blue chip player arrive with four years of eligibility. Zippy Broughton is the biggest reason to be optimistic about the future of the women’s basketball program.
We all got a glimpse of the potential that the young quarterback from Old Bridge possesses in his right arm during the Scarlet-White Game back in April. While the former Miami commit did throw a couple of interceptions and was far from perfect, Sitkowski showed several promising qualities as well. The most notable was his ability to throw an accurate deep ball, connecting on two beauty’s down the field with speedster Bo Melton. While head coach Chris Ash wanted to avoid expectations growing too much ahead of next season and declined to name a starting quarterback out of spring camp, there is little doubt that Sitkowski appears to be the favorite entering training camp in August. Although patience will be needed if Artur starts as a true freshman, he’ll add a level of excitement and more importantly, a weapon under center, that Rutgers football hasn’t had in some time.
The Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Rutgers Female Freshman Athlete of the Year is used to big expectations. She was the co-leading scorer and points leader for Rutgers last season, along with senior Colby Ciarrocca, producing 6 goals, 5 assists, and 17 total points. Ali was also named to the All-Big Ten Third Team last season. The former national high school player of the year is primed to become the face of the women’s soccer program now that heralded goalkeeper Casey Murphy has moved onto a professional career in France and a recent stint with the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. While Ali has a long way to go before eventually joining her former teammate in representing her country at the highest level, she has the potential to do just that. Leading Rutgers to its first ever Big Ten title and multiple deep runs into the NCAA Tournament in the next few seasons would be a great start. Don’t be surprised if Ali explodes offensively in her sophomore campaign and becomes a legitimate star on the pitch across the women’s college soccer landscape.
Like Ali, Baker was also named Freshman athlete of the year for Rutgers back in May after a solid debut campaign on the court. The next three seasons for the Rutgers men’s basketball team are hugely important one’s for the overall future of the program. You could argue that Geo Baker holds that future in the palm of his hands and that’s something Rutgers hoops fans should be excited about. As a freshman, he played with an uncommon balance of skill, passion and poise for a player so young. Not only does he have the potential to lead the team in multiple categories year after year, including scoring and three-point shooting, he is proving valuable in helping to add talent to the program as well. He has been instrumental in hosting key recruits on visits to campus and has been actively recruiting prospects who have ultimately joined the program or will soon, including Montez Mathis, Ron Harper Jr. and Paul Mulcahy.
In the last game of his freshman season, he broke through with an impressive 25 point performance that served as the perfect ceremonial hand-off from departing backcourt mates Corey Sanders and Mike Williams. Without a true point guard on next season’s roster as of now, head coach Steve Pikiell has expressed a lot of confidence in Baker’s ability to lead the offense. A year of strengthening his body and developing his game should benefit the talented Baker well. As more talent is added to the roster, Baker will blossom even more and ultimately, he is will become the face and leader of the program for years to come.
While a lot of young and talented players in multiple sports have become Rutgers student-athletes in the past year, or will make their debuts this coming school year, the four mentioned above stand out as the brightest of the bright. As you watch the fireworks on July 4th, remember these four, as the sky is the limit for them all and their future performances will lead to better days ahead for Rutgers athletics!