Rutgers men’s basketball head coach Steve Pikiell spoke at Big Ten Media Day in Indianapolis on Thursday morning. Entering his sixth season on the job, the Scarlet Knights were picked to finish in 8th place in the Big Ten preseason media poll after finishing in the top half of the conference and making the NCAA Tournament last season.
You can watch Pikiell address the media at the 9:45 mark of the video below. Rutgers women’s basketball associate head coach Tim Eatman addresses the media at the start of this video and for everything he said, click here.
Here is a full transcript of everything Pikiell said at his press conference.
STEVE PIKIELL: It’s great to be back here. I thank everyone for coming here today. First of all, I would like to welcome the new coaches in our league, Mike Woodson at Indiana, Ben Johnson at Minnesota, and Micah Shrewsberry at Penn State. It’s an unbelievable league with really unbelievable coaches, great people, and a great conference with many, many challenges. I just wanted to wish them luck and welcome them to this great conference. Truly excited to be here. Year six for our basketball program.
We have some of our student-athletes that you’ll get to meet later on today. It’s truly a great time to be a Scarlet Knight.
We’re winning in all sports. The job Pat Hobbs has done as athletic director has been unbelievable, building new buildings. Coach Schiano in football. Both our soccer teams are ranked. Our field hockey team, our baseball coach doing an unbelievable job. Our two lacrosse teams went to the NCAA tournament. I work side by decide with a Hall of Fame coach in Coach Stringer in women’s basketball. Just an exciting time to be there.
I’m honored to start my sixth season. I love this team. We spent a ton of time this summer developing team chemistry, getting better. I truly think this is going to be a really, really exciting season. We have a great blend of veteran players with a great senior class, Caleb McConnell and Geo Baker, Ron Harper Jr., and a grad transfer in Ralph Agee who I think is going to bring some real fiber to our program too, to go along with Paul Mulcahy and a lot of younger players that are itching to play. I feel really, really good, excited.
We open up league play I think with three of the top teams pre-season picks in the league, so I thank the schedule maker for taking good care of Coach Pikiell. Looking forward to the challenges that this league brings and excited about the season.
Q. I don’t think you’ve gone into a pre-season with as many expectations coming off the NCAA tournament. Do you embrace it? Is it something that you think is a challenge?
STEVE PIKIELL: You know what, you know this too, there’s always expectations on the bank. It’s a great thing. I think our team embraces it. I think, again, I’ve got a good blend of veteran guys. I have a terrific staff, too. Brought back Karl Hobbs, part of two national championships, Brandin Knight, we’ve been through this. T.J. Thompson. The staff that I’ve been able to keep have done a great job preparing our guys for the expectations that are ahead of us. But I like the fact that we got some guys that have been through it a little bit, we got some experience now in the NCAA tournament. We’re just doing some great things. If we pack the RAC, I like those expectations.
Q. With everything that has been going on, COVID, so many distractions, plus the intensity of playing in the Big Ten, keeping up with all the talented teams as well as all the talented programs you have within your own school, how do you actually keep their minds kind of geared to basketball and not let the distractions get ahold of them?
STEVE PIKIELL: We certainly embrace some of the distractions this year. Last year with COVID, not having the regular distractions of being a normal college student, going to football games, I think that was really difficult. I do want to congratulate the league for the job that they did navigating us through the pandemic. The leadership from this conference was unbelievable. To have a season last year, most importantly, was unbelievable. We’re really excited that our guys can get back to some normalcy. I do like it when we go to concerts, when they go to football games, they’re able to kind of get away from basketball at times. I’d also remind them also of the challenges this. League had 12 ranked teams out of 14 last year. Unheard of in college basketball. This league night in and night out is the most competitive league in the country. Those challenges hopefully show up every day in our practices in how we prepare them to meet those challenges. But last year was a whole host of other challenges we had to kind of get through, and they did a great job navigating all those different obstacles.
Q. You had such an abundance of terrific perimeter players on last year’s team, a couple decided to transfer. Does that change how you coach? Does it make your decision making a little easier? Does it increase the pressure on the guys who are left to be a little bit more consistent?
STEVE PIKIELL: Like with every program, guys leave, guys graduate and move on. I think we’ve tried to build a culture that the next guy up and is ready to help us. I love our back court. It’s by far been the most cohesive backcourt that I’ve had. Geo Baker being a fifth-year guy that can make and take big shots. Paul Mulcahy is as improved a guy in the league as we’ve had, played a ton of minutes. Caleb McConnell has been a guy from day one that brings terrific energy in a multi-position kind of guy, thinking he has a chance to be an All-Defensive Team player in our conference. I love their experience. I love some of our young guys that have a year under their belt, Jaden Jones, we brought in a freshman, Jalen Miller, as good a defender as I’ve had in the program. We got Aundre Hyatt out of the transfer portal from LSU. The kid named Oskar Palmquist, Dean Reiber. We have a lot of players that didn’t get as many minutes last year, but they have a year of experience, know what our system is all about. I look forward to the challenges that this team will bring to me this year. But our chemistry is elite right now. It’s a really, really good group. I’ve enjoyed coaching this group as much as I’ve enjoyed coaching any group in my 16 years of being a head coach.
Q. You alluded to your backcourt. Your thoughts on how the other guys are stepping into their roles this season?
STEVE PIKIELL: I’m really excited about the development of Cliff. He’s a special player, first and foremost, special person. As good a worker as I’ve had in the program, and I’ve had some really good workers. Athletically he’s at as high a level athlete as there is anywhere. But as a person, too, off the charts. He will be as improved a player as there is in the league. I think he learned a lot last year. He was injured. He started the season as a starter, fought through some injuries, then played behind a very experienced Myles Johnson. He’s ready to take that next step. We’ve added Ralph Agee to our program. I think Ralph is going to bring tremendous fiber as a fifth-year senior. That position will be as good a 5 spot as we’ve had since I’ve been at Rutgers. Dean Reiber is a 6’10” freshman with terrific athleticism who is in year two. He gets the COVID year back. Excited about him. Oskar Palmquist and Ron Harper, we’re as big as we’ve ever been as a program from the point guard to center spot. Feel really good about that. Looking forward to those guys showing you the improvements that they’ve made.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports