Big Ten Previews: Rutgers Scarlet Knights


Feb 14, 2014; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan reacts during the second half against SMU at Louis Brown Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Result: 12-21 (5-13 AAC)

Postseason Result: N/A

Head Coach: Eddie Jordan, 12-21 at Rutgers

The consensus cellar-dweller team in the Big Ten for the 2014-15 season, Rutgers is one of two newcomers to the Big Ten, the other Maryland, and will face a steep hill in the level of competition after completing one season in the AAC. With Eddie Jordan entering his second year in Piscataway, this Rutgers team will have to overcome key losses from last year’s below-average squad in order to stay competitive in the Big Ten.

Eddie Jordan may sound familiar to fans in the DMV area. That’s because he is also the former Wizards head coach, leading the original ‘Big 3’ to four consecutive playoff appearances, with Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers ending three of those runs in consecutive years. Nonetheless, Jordan’s coaching ability has helped him bring in key transfers this year, citing a rebuilding mode and an opportunity to build a program up.

Much like Maryland, Rutgers will enter the 2014-15 season with a ton of questions. Will Jordan’s squad silence the critics and surprise some folks? Let’s break down the Scarlett Knight’s roster heading into this season.

Key Returning Players:

  • G Myles Mack (Sr.)
  • F Kadeem Jack (Jr.)
  • F Junior Etou (So.)
  • G/F Malick Kone (Sr.)

The good news: Rutgers returns their two top scorers from last year’s squad in point guard Myles Mack and power forward Kadeem Jack. With a lot of key losses, these two will become the focal point of this years offense. Jordan is good at developing younger point guards, and Mack made strides last season. Jordan knew Mack could score, but he wanted the then-junior to refine his game as a more complete point guard and get others involved. Nonetheless, you can’t stop a scorer from scoring. Mack could finish in the top ten in points-per-game in the Big Ten this season.

As for the frontcourt, Kadeem Jack and Junior Etou accounted for 32.5 percent of the team’s rebounds last year. With another year to develop, especially for sophomore big Etou, Rutgers will be strong on the boards this upcoming season. With the senior wing Malick Kone likely getting the starting position this season, expect more of a focus on rebounding for him. As good as Etou is, his lack of strength still concerns me heading against bigger bodies in the Big Ten. Kone’s body is built like Dez Wells: versatile, quick yet his strength allows him to get inside and use his body more efficiently.

Rutgers’s starting five will have a lot of talent and offensive firepower, but this season’s departures severely hurt this team’s chances to contend for a top spot in the Big Ten. Wally Judge and JJ Moore graduated, Jerome Seagears transferred to UNLV, Craig Brown transferred to Kent State and D’Von Campbell transferred to Campbellsville State, so there’s quite a bit of turnover. Although Brown and Campbell contributed in limited roles off the bench, Judge, Moore and Seagears will be tough to replace. Those three accounted a bulk of last season’s production: 36 percent of the team’s points, 33 percent of the team’s rebounds, 37 percent of the team’s assists, 36.6 percent of the team’s steals, and 32 percent of their turnovers. Filling those shoes will be tough to do.

Impact Incomers:

  • 6’2″ SG Bishop Daniels
  • 6’9″ F Ibrahima Diallo
  • 6’8″ F D.J. Foreman
  • 6’2″ SG Mike Williams
  • 6’5″ G/F Ryan Johnson
  • 6’11” C Shaquille Doorson

Daniels, Foreman, Diallo and Williams are the top commits from the 2014 class. Foreman is a big body that does a good job on the boards and has a natural touch offensively, but most impressively he can run the floor very well. He’ll need to continue to add muscle in order to outmuscle the bigger forwards in the Big Ten. 6’2″ guard Mike Williams committed to Rutgers back in July of 2013, who picked the Scarlet Knights over offers from George Washington, St. Johns and Temple. Williams, a three-star guard, will see action behind Bishop Daniels, who will likely start at shooting guard.

Daniels, who will have two years of eligibility remaining, sat out last year after transferring from Miami, where he averaged five points and one rebound and assist in just 17 minutes-per-game. Daniels had a limited role at Miami, but left the program for academic reasons and ended up at ASA College in New York, where he’d become a JUCO prospect. Five months later, he made his commitment to Rutgers official, and will likely get the starting position this season. Daniels is a young prospect, but is extremely athletic and quick for his 6’5″ frame.

Doorson had previously committed to Pittsburgh, but after Pittsburgh began recruiting even once they reached their scholarship limit, the two parties decided to part ways in January of 2014 and Doorson ended up committing to Rutgers. Doorson is a raw, explosive big that oozes potential. Coming from the Canarias Basketball Academy in Spain, his question mark is when will he fully adapt to the American game and turn that talent into potential.

Rutgers also picked up commitments from Ibrahima Diallo and Ryan Johnson, but the NCAA ruled them as partial qualifiers for this season and thus will be ineligible to play this season. Diallo is another athletic big that can run the floor well, but his soft touch around the rim, whether it’s back-to-the-basket or tip-ins, is the best part about his game.  Guard/forward Ryan Johnson may be one of the bigger sleepers in the Big Ten when all said and done. Given Jeremy-Lamb comparisons out of high school, his shooting touch makes him a constant threat. His versatility and ability to move well without the ball stretches out defenses and makes him a tough opponent. A bigger guard, Johnson can give Rutgers a good spark off the bench next season.

Frontcourt Outlook: 

Rutgers fans should be excited with another year of Etou and Jack starting for Rutgers. With another year of experience and opportunity for Etou to put on more muscle to his lanky frame, Rutgers will need to emphasize rebounding more as the Scarlett Knights finished 135th in the nation last year in rebounding, despite losing their second and fourth-leading rebounders from last year in Wally Judge and JJ Moore.

While their starters are good, the backups are inexperienced, which could hurt this team moving forward. While I love the potential of Doorson, his raw skills may end up hurting them at times. Their incoming big men need to put on a ton of muscle heading into this season. Like Mark Turgeon, Eddie Jordan loves versatile, defensive big men that can run the floor, and he found that in Doorson and Diallo, even though Diallo is ineligible this season. Per a tweet from Jerry Carino, Eddie Jordan said that if eligible, Diallo would be in Rutger’s top five this season; that’s how good he is. Diallo’s absence will hurt the frontcourt depth, but if they can rebound more efficiently, they’ll earn a solid mark.

Backcourt Outlook:

The most exciting part about this team, Rutgers has experience and scoring in Myles Mack and Bishop Daniels. As mentioned, Mack is a scorer, but Jordan has forced him to build his game into a more dynamic, passing point guard. And Mack listened. Although unable to break double-digit assists last year, he posted at least five assists in 12 of the team’s 33 games last season. Getting his teammates involved will become more of a focus, but that will be easier to do with Bishop Daniels paired alongside Mack in the backcourt.

Daniels is a young, explosive athlete that will be the X-factor for Rutgers this season. His main goal will be to alleviate some pressure off Mack, who does it all himself too often. A former Hurricane, Daniels will need to keep composure and help run this offense with Mack and push the pace, which is almost a foreign concept in the Big Ten.

I love Malick Kone’s presence. He may seem like the forgotten about guy, but his strength and all-around game makes him explosive. In his senior year, look for Kone to leave it all on the floor to help Rutgers reach that next level. While I gave Kone a Dez Wells comparison, I look for Kone to work on his mid-range and outside game. In 15 minutes per game last year, Kone shot 44% from the field, but the bulk of his point came around the basket, as evident to his 13% three-point percentage. Adding an outside game could make him one of the most improved in the conference.

Onto the bench, Kerwin Okoro is the only impact reserve that will see much playing time this year, and that may even be a stretch. In limited action last year, Okoro averaged 2.5 points per game and 0.8 rebounds per game…yes, Okoro averaged just 6.8 minutes per game. That show’s the returning experience Rutgers has this year.

Much like Maryland back in 2012, they’ll rely on their freshman to make an impact. Mike Williams will see a ton of time and may even be the sixth man of this team by the end of the year. A big time shooter, Williams’ ability to defend is a huge plus for a team that had a lot of trouble defending last season. An aggressive guard, Williams keeps his defender honest because he can also get into the paint if a defender plays too tight at the arc. Another recruit with a ton of upside, he will need to be ready come day one because he will be heavily relied on in his freshman year.

Predicted Finish: 12-14

Rutgers’ good mix of younger talent and veteran leadership that gives Eddie Jordan arguably a more talented roster than last year. Judge and Seagears will certainly be tough to replace, but I’m sure Jordan has been emphasizing the philosophy of “sum is greater than the sum of its parts.” With guys like Daniels, Johnson, Mack and Jack, this could be a very exciting team to watch. However, there’s still a lot of raw talent that will take time to develop. There will be growing pains for sure, but even with a lower-tier prediction, this team can surprise and make its way to the middle of the Big Ten.