On Friday, Andy Katz of the Big Ten Network interviewed Rutgers men’s basketball stars Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. They discussed a number of topics just weeks before practice for the 2021-2022 season officially begins.
Katz asked both players about their decision to return to Rutgers for this season.
“We have bigger goals and winning just one game in the NCAA Tournament just felt like we fell a little short last year,” Baker said. “And then I just think about Rutgers, I think about the university. I think about the people, I think about the place. It’s just a special place so I don’t think that myself or Ron was in any type of rush to leave such a special place.”
“When I decided to go through the NBA process, I was really excited at first,” Harper explained. “But then everything started catching up so fast so it became time to start scheduling some workouts with teams and it felt like I was leaving a lot behind if I decided to leave and it just didn’t sit right with me. I came here to do more than what we did so far. To finish what we came here to do. To finally fulfill Coach Pikiell’s vision. I think we have a great, special group and I just want to be a part of it for one more year.”
When Katz asked about losing Myles Johnson, Jacob Young and Montez Mathis, all key players who transferred to other programs this offseason, Baker said, “Every team is going to lose good players. It’s really just about how you react and reload. I think we gave great guys coming in, I think we have great freshmen. I think the young guys from last year had a great summer, they’re working the hardest I’ve seen anyone work.”
When asked about student-athletes now being able to profit off of their name, image and likeness in college sports now, Baker, who was a vocal leader in the process becoming a reality, commented, “It’s going to be a change. The biggest thing I think is people need to use if to help others, especially in a team atmosphere like college basketball where it’s easy to get envious or jealous of another person. You are always trying to look for ways to put the team first. At the end of the day we are still trying to win a national championship. Our end goal isn’t to make money, it’s to win a national championship.”
How can Rutgers accomplish that goal?
“Every championship team has players who were stars in their roles,” said Harper Jr. “We just try to put that on our young guys. Be a star in your role, control what you can control and we’ll have a great year.”
Getting contributions from younger players like Cliff Omoruyi, Jaden Jones, Jalen Miller, Mawot Mag, Dean Reiber and Oskar Palmquist are vital to the Scarlet Knights returning to the NCAA Tournament and advancing further this season. The two stars explained how they are connecting with them.
“Guys are hungry,” continued Baker. “I think people understand that Rutgers basketball was built on defense, rebounding, the little things. Ron and I have tried to explain a lot to just be great in your role. If your role is to get stops, make the hustle plays, do the little things then that’s perfect. That’s what every team needs. We preach that and the guys have really taken to that and understand that doing the little things, the big things come after.”
As for the potential for Rutgers to be an elite team defensively, Ron Harper Jr. explained why they believe they can.
“These young guys, they’re really ready to defend,” Harper said. “Mawot Mag is one of the best defenders I’ve ever gone up against. Jalen Miller is another guy. He’ll pick you up at 94 feet and turn you a million times. Cliff (Omoruyi) is blocking shots. These young guys are really hungry and they want to play defense.”
Other topics the players discussed was how difficult it is to make the NBA
For the entire eleven plus minute interview with Katz, you can watch here: