Learning Leadership at the Shore

With all but three of Rutgers' scholarship players on one team at the Jersey Shore Basketball League, and with eight new players on the roster, leadership is the biggest thing being developed this summer.

BELMAR, N.J. – The Rutgers-led Gutter Cleaners lost their first three games of the Jersey Shore Basketball League, and somewhere in their minds, Austin Johnson, Dane Miller and the rest of the returning Scarlet Knights could hear coach Mike Rice yelling.

In a league shy on defense, which contradicts Rice's philosophy, the experienced Scarlet Knights grabbed their new teammates and held a teaching session about defensive concepts and responsibility.

Although the JSBL may be not much more than a glorified pickup game, it is providing a boost to Rutgers for the coming season in an area of incredible need:


"I think myself and all the returning guys who have been under coach Rice for a year need to step up and lead the way with the younger guys," Rutgers sophomore guard Austin Carroll said. "We're trying to get the team together, and get coach Rice's principles and beliefs in their heads, so come fall and winter, when we start doing team workouts and all that stuff, we kind of have a head start."

The loss of Jonathan Mitchell, Mike Coburn and James Beatty didn't just strip the Scarlet Knights of three starters from last season, but also of the three best leaders in the program.

With eight newcomers – seven freshmen and transfer Wally Judge – joining the roster, it puts an awful lot of leadership pressure on Carroll, Johnson, Miller, Gilvydas Biruta and sophomore guard Mike Poole.

And the leadership began to show last week when the losses mounted, even if it is a summer league.

"You know how big coach Rice is on defense, and these guys will make you pay if you're not in the right spots defensively," Johnson said. "We showed people the correct spots, and the correct slides. We've been through it. We know what to expect come Sept. 1."

The Gutter Cleaners responded with a 111-103 win, and gave their best effort of the summer on defense, and with energy – two of the cornerstones of Rice's teachings.

"You know how much coach Rice wants to win, and how much he harps about it," Johnson said. "That's good, because he instills into us that we want to win everything. It's been a wake-up call to the younger guys because they're used to winning everything. They have no idea how tough it is at this level."

It is also given the younger players, including freshman point guard Myles Mack, an indication of how different college basketball will be.

"I get to see how the next level is because some of these guys are pros overseas, and I get to see what I am going to go up against in the future," Mack said. "The physicality is very high. These guys seem like they work out every day and they're very physical."

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