BB Notes: RAC Renovation, Improving Talent

NEW YORK -- Rutgers coach Mike Rice discusses the latest on the renovation project for the Rutgers Athletic Center as well as areas of improvement needed for a successful season. Also, players talk about where they improved the most in the offseason and Dane Miller explains why he changed his number.

NEW YORK – High on Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti's to-do list is renovating the Rutgers Athletic Center, and coach Mike Rice believes it is paramount to his team enjoying long-term success.

Speaking at Big East media day Wednesday, Rice lauded Pernetti for understanding the need to upgrade the RAC, and the athletic department is actively fundraising for the extensive project.

"It's very important," Rice said. "No one knows we need to renovate the RAC more than our athletic director, more than our recent president (Richard L. McCormick). They're fundraising. There is a plan. It is moving forward, and that is very important because we lack certain things that we need in a facility for a Big East program."

Among the deficiencies at the RAC is the lack of a video replay board. There is also no air conditioning in the building, which recruits often notice when they visit in the summer.

"There is no better arena 18 nights of the year," he said. "No better arena, but in today's day and age, selling recruits and selling donors and selling everybody that you need to build a program, we need to move forward with a renovated RAC. And they are.

"It's very important for my program."

Need for Points
With still a few weeks before the season opens, Rice is admittedly concerned about nearly every facet of his team.

However, in looking at an area of much-needed improvement from a year ago, the defense-first Rice looked quickly to the other end of the court.

"We need to score more," he said. "We've averaged 64, 65 points a game. It's not enough in the Big East."

A key component of an improved offense is Kansas State transfer Wally Judge, who sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-9 Judge, who was one of the nation's top recruits coming out of high school, can play with his back to the basket, shoot the jumper and run the floor.

"Wally is somebody who can physically help us the moment he steps on the court, and that is not necessarily scoring," Rice said. "It's rebounding, defending. He's a really knowledgeable basketball player. If he can just learn to not be so hard on himself and not put too much pressure on himself every play, and he's done."

Rice also looked at the front court when analyzing a pair of players to make the biggest leap in the offseason. He cited Kadeem Jack and Derrick Randall.

"They have probably made the biggest jump from when they came in," Rice said. "It's the work ethic, their bodies, their understanding of the game."

Miller's Change
Rutgers senior Dane Miller changed from his familiar No. 11 and will wear No. 2 this season in honor of his fallen friend, Siaquan Moore, a former AAU teammate who died from stabbing wounds during a fight at a Rochester night club in February.

Moore died the morning of Rutgers' game at Seton Hall, an overtime win in which Miller scored 21 points, had eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks against zero turnovers.

"I got the news and it really broke me down," Miller said. "I decided then I would change my number.

"He wore No. 2 in high school so I figured I would change from No. 11 to No. 2 for him and represent for him for everyone back home."

Lost in Translation?
Junior wing Mike Poole believes the talent is in place for Rutgers to contend for an NCAA Tournament spot, but he has one thing is his anxious to see.

"Are we going to play as hard as we work?' he said. "I don't know if our practice work is going to translate into games. We've been working hard, and I hope it is."

Time is Right
Enter the third season, and having all but one starter back from a year ago, Rice said the makeup of the Scarlet Knights is conducive to winning.

"I think you have to have balance in the front court and the back court," he said, "and year three is when you should start to see some of that planning and that hard work coming to fruition."

Carter's Workout
Sophomore guard Elijah Carter led Rutgers in scoring last season at 13.8 points per game, but he wasn't happy with his shooting. He shot 40.9 percent from the field, including 35.3 percent from the field.

So, he spent markedly more time in the gym to develop a more consistent shot.

"Last year I probably would shoot 200 shots three times a week," Carter said. "This year I shot about 500 a day."

The idea was something Carter came up with as he thought about ways to improve his game.

"I didn't want to take a step back this year, so I knew I had to do something to be better," he said. "That's what I came up with."

Poole's Confidence
Poole, who was off guard and can play small forward, said his biggest area of growth was in strength and weight gain. He put on 10 pounds and said it has given him more confidence.

"I was thinking too much," he said. I was antsy. I think I'm more consistent. With the strength I gained, I'm a lot more confident."

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