If the Rutgers players want any respect in the Big Ten this year, they are going to have to take it.
Seeing the last-place projects released last week, the newest members of the roster plan on changing that perception.
“It killed me man,” said guard Bishop Daniels. “The way my ego is set up, my confidence, I’m sitting there like ‘there’s no way.’ Knowing the talent we got, the way we work, it’s disrespect. I feel like we can finish close to the top, if not at the top.”
Rutgers in the 2013-14 season did little to inspire confidence for its inaugural Big Ten year. A 12-21 record, 61-point loss in the AAC tournament and post-season transfers with starting experience will do that to you.
Only 56 percent of the Rutgers roster returned from last year, and that means a fresh start in Eddie Jordan’s second season.
“I think our reputation from the last game of the season [against Louisville] and everything that happened with Mike Rice, players transferring, they don’t realize who we’ve got,” Daniels said. “They don’t realize the talent we have. I think they’re sleeping on us so badly, it’s crazy.
“ … You’re going off what last year or whatever the case may be, but you don’t come in here. You don’t see us grinding. You don’t see us putting in the work. When you disrespect us, we’re going to take it to another level. Now we have to take it out on our opponents. We really have to show what we’re about. I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been picked last in a conference. It doesn’t sit well with me.”
Rutgers enters the Big Ten in a more stable position than it did last year when entering the American. Jordan has a year under his belt as a college head coach after a career built in the NBA.
Jordan also added a proven recruiter – Greg Vetrone – and his one-time right-hand man with the Washington Wizards – Mike O’Koren.
“We were just disjointed, only because we were new,” Jordan said. “And we don’t have that so much now. Even with the young guys, that’s what having a program, building a program means. The guys from last year help the new guys. That makes your development faster. Going into this year, I just feel good about where we are heading as a team.”
The compliments from Jordan came early and often when it came to senior forward Kadeem Jack. Jack can expect plenty of NBA eyes on hi this season after the 6-foot-9, 235-pounder averaged 14.3 points and 6.8 boards per game last year.
Jack said his responsibility as a leader comes in teaching the seven new faces the details of the Rutgers basketball system.
“It’s a junkyard dog mentality where everybody understands that we have to put a chip on our shoulder,” Jack said. “We’re the underdog in almost every building that we play. We have to understand that and embrace that.”
Forward Ibrahima Diallo is ineligible as a partial qualifier this season, but practices and works out with the team. He was quick to cling to Jack, who also red-shirted as a freshman, and jumped on the underdog mentality.
“I like to be an underdog,” Diallo said. “Then you have more to prove. I like having to prove people wrong. I’m OK with being targeted as an underdog.”
The proving begins Nov. 16 when George Washington travels to the RAC for the season opener. GW beat Rutgers 93-87 last season.