Rice Salutes Jack as Bright Spot
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Rice Salutes Jack as Bright Spot

Rutgers coach Mike Rice referred to Kadeem Jack's emergence in the post as one of the few bright spots in an ugly February. In the 76-72 home loss to Providence Saturday, Jack was one of the reasons Rutgers kept the game close with the first double-double performance of his career.

It is likely a story of too little, too late, but Rutgers sophomore center Kadeem Jack is quietly evolving into a reliable impact player. The one-time Scout.com four-star forward recorded his first career double-double in Saturday night's loss.

The way coach Mike Rice sees it, the loss of Elijah Carter for the season may be the spark Jack needs to assert himself as a scorer.

"Kadeem understands now that he has to be more aggressive," Rice said It's not like we haven't asked Kadeem to be more aggressive, but now that we lack the scoring punch, he now all of a sudden is becoming more aggressive."

For Jack, constant aggression has been a problem since he first arrived at Rutgers as an early enrollee.

Now approaching the end of his redshirt sophomore season, however, Jack has had his best week as a Scarlet Knight.

During the length of Carter's absence – two and a half games – Jack is averaging 11.6 points and six rebounds per game off the bench.

Prior to Carter's injury, his season average was a hair under five and five.

"You could almost say Kadeem's [consistency] has arrived," Rice said. "… Now that Eli's not in, I need a second option who's consistent and so far right now, it's Kadeem. His effort and his focus have been great. … He's a bright spot in a tough last month."

Jack scored 15 points to go along with his 10 rebounds against Providence, but did not spend any time gloating over the stats, saying the win was what mattered and his team fell short.

Rutgers has three regular season games left before a Tuesday night game at Madison Square Garden in the first round of the Big East tournament.

With a week to regroup from the loss, Jack expects a bounce back and wants to lead the way to a strong finish.

"We're the kind of team that can come back and stick with anybody," Jack said about preparing to face first-place Georgetown. "We go on a lot of runs and we have guys like [Myles Mack] and myself that are stepping up as scorers. We just have to learn how to finish out games. That's it."

Jack enrolled at Rutgers a semester early to redshirt and learn under Rice in his first year. His progress, however, regressed significantly as a redshirt freshman when he broke his foot and missed half the season.

With a full sophomore year to develop and see the speed of Big East play, Jack's confidence is high.

"With more playing time, I'm getting more used to the game at the highest level," Jack said. "I'm getting more comfortable on the court and that's what's going on right now."