Rutgers Pegged Last in AAC Poll

Rutgers received a last place position in the preseason American men's basketball poll, but that is of little concern to head coach Eddie Jordan. Speaking at American media day in Memphis, Tenn., Jordan broke down preseason expectations and the start of the rebuilding process.

Rutgers basketball has to rebuild from somewhere, so it might as well be from the ground up. Inheriting a severely depleted roster when hired by interim athletic director Carl Kirschner on April 23, head coach Eddie Jordan is eager to get going.

Expectations are low from a national perspective, picked last in the 10-team basketball league, but that does not bother Jordan.

"We're wanting to exceed expectations," Jordan said at AAC media day. "If we end up ninth, we're exceeding it. But I don't look at standings. This process is about creating a winning culture. Let's have a good time working hard. Let's do things right. Let's appear right. Let's present ourselves as upstanding citizens in the community for Rutgers."

Wins and losses will go a long way in defining Jordan in his first year running his alma mater, but restoring faith in the program is equally important. Following the ugliness of Mike Rice's behavior and dismissal, Jordan wants to turn the page to brighter times in Rutgers basketball.

"Our recruits have to see that," Jordan said. "Our administrators have to see that. It's just not being 10th, ninth or eighth. Obviously winning is always in the equation, but there's a vision that we have and there's a process and we're getting there. … You don't do it in one phone call, in one sit down. It takes time, and even now I think they're seeing that it's fun playing basketball again."

Louisville and Connecticut are major favorites to win the first American title, with Rutgers being picked as the biggest underdog.

"That's why you play the games as they say," Jordan said.

Favorable NCAA rulings for forwards J.J. More and Kerwin Okoro give Rutgers a full roster, and one that excites Jordan through two weeks of preseason practices.

"It was an attractive situation for kids wanting to transfer, junior college kids," he said on rebuilding this season. "It was too late to recruit the class of [2013], but we got one (Junior Etou) and he's a good player. It was a process. Save our kids. Save their parents. Get some kids in now and go recruit, evaluate and now recruit for 15 and 16. We're a little bit behind but we're catching up."

Rutgers is full in the 2014 class and already has its first 2015 commit. Losing Moore and fifth-year senior Wally Judge at the end of the season, Jordan's long-term goals are to build depth and have a strong season in the AAC before the Big Ten move.

"To me it's been great," he said. "We're rebuilding from the ground up. We have to replenish our roster. We have to build trust again in our current players and our community. It's just the way I am. My personality fits what's needed. We build relationships and it's working out pretty well."

Rutgers has nearly a month before tipping off the Jordan era, but has multiple exhibition situations leading up to Florida A&M. Jordan spent the last decade at the professional level with the Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers, so evaluating a college roster will come easier when he sees it against other competition.

"I haven't seen us in front of someone else, and that's when I'll know a little bit more, maybe a whole lot more," Jordan said. "Where are we in reality? We're going to have a scrimmage coming up soon, an exhibition game coming up soon and Nov. 8 is our first game. I want to see how we are against somebody else with a game atmosphere. That's how we'll get a true test of who we are."

Jody Demling of CardinalAuthority.com contributed to this report.


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