Salvage Mission

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – When Rutgers takes the court tonight for an exhibition open to fans, it is with a giant sigh of relief following a tumultuous offseason. The Eddie Jordan era officially tips off in seven days, and has an inside look at rebuilding the roster.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Some of the best papers in college get written at the last minute under hectic circumstances. Rutgers basketball finds itself looking for similar results with the roster Eddie Jordan salvaged in the aftermath of Mike Rice.

Jordan took over the program from interim head coach David Cox on April 23 with four scholarship players and one unsigned verbal commitment still solid to the program.

Rutgers barely had the bodies to field a team in April, and is now 11-deep at the scholarship level for tipoff against Caldwell in the rejuvenated Louis Brown Athletic Center.

"This year was different than anything in the future, but we still had to monitor who we wanted to come to Rutgers," Jordan said. "We weren't going to just take anyone that could dribble the basketball. They have to be talented, dedicated student athletes. That's how we're going to recruit, and we have that already."

Jordan received his first boost to the roster immediately after taking over when junior Malick Kone decided to return to school after being granted a transfer release.

Another turning point came at the end of the week when Broward junior college wing Craig Brown signed his National Letter of Intent. Brown committed under the previous regime, and stayed onboard after the decision to retain assistant coach Van Macon.

Jordan signed him sight unseen on the word of his assistants.

"I give my assistants a lot of credit," Jordan said. "I give my compliance people a lot of credit. They caught me up to speed very quickly. We have a method of our recruiting within our region. I think the main thing is that people have been receptive to us."

Rutgers received its biggest addition June 14 when it welcomed guard Jerome Seagears back into its locker room. Seagears left Rutgers in the spring, but was unhappy at Auburn.

Given the circumstances of his transfer, the NCAA allowed him to return to Rutgers without penalty, and he will start tonight against Caldwell. Seagears comes from Silver Spring, Md., and grew up a Washington Wizards fan while Jordan served as head coach.

"He's very composed, and he's always on point with everything so it was an easy decision [to return]," Seagears said. "He knows how to recruit too. All he has to do is say he's an NBA coach. That's all it would take for me. He played at the highest level and he coached at the highest level. What else can you ask for as your college coach?"

Then the recruiting started. Rutgers explored plenty of transfer options, and found two local players that were expected to be immediately eligible. Sophomore Kerwin Okoro from Iowa State and senior J.J. Moore from Pittsburgh transferred in for the summer.

Both received hardship waivers from the NCAA, and Moore projects as a starter.

Rutgers then recruited junior college guard D'Von Campbell and Arlington (Va.) Bishop O'Connell forward Junior Etou.

Signing both after official visits to campus and putting walk-on guard Logan Kelley on scholarship, Jordan brings a complete roster to the court tonight in his debut.

"It was unlike any summer I've ever had before," said Cox, who recruited Etou and Seagears. "We left no stone unturned, and I think we did a decent job of salvaging a roster."

Rutgers is the biggest underdog in the American, picked last in the preseason media poll, but has no plans of calling the 2013-14 season a rebuilding year. The rebuilding took place in the offseason, said fifth-year senior Wally Judge, and now Rutgers plans to win games.

"You can't win without a team and that's what he's building," Judge said. "He's building team chemistry and camaraderie. The link to the chain is only as strong as your next one. We have to stick together to win."

Rutgers basketball was a black eye to the university seven months ago, and is now in a "best case scenario" in the eyes of the program.

"Eddie Jordan is incredible," said Rutgers assistant Van Macon. "He's probably forgotten more about basketball than most people will ever know. Every day is a learning experience. Offensively, he's so innovative in the things that he does. I'm just trying to learn as much as possible from him, just like the guy are."

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