There is no holy grail solution for Rutgers basketball, and the failures of three coaches in the last decade provides plenty of evidence.
That suits Steve Pikiell and his staff just fine. The resurrection plan is a simple one, focused on hard work, discipline and, most importantly, patience. All three assistant coaches stressed no overnight fix in their media debut.
“This is going to be a process – no quick fixes,” said assistant coach Jay Young, who joined the staff after 11 years with Pikiell at Stony Brook. “We’ve got to get the right people on-board, and if we can find those, we’ll certainly use our scholarships wisely. If not, we’ll decide. Everything is in play – transfers, fifth-year guys, but they have to be the right people, the right situations. We have to make sure that we don’t try and do something quickly for the short term. This is a long-term thing. We’re always keeping that in mind when we’re making those decisions.”
Rutgers could add as many as six players in 2016, but is unlikely to do so. Quality over quantity is a priority for the new coaching staff.
“I think it’s important that we do have open scholarships right now,” Young said. “This is going to be built brick by brick, so there are no quick fixes here. You’ve got to find the right people, the right students, the right players to fill these positions. Honestly, if you can’t , you’re better off leaving them open right now and making sure we get these people.”
Recruiting is not an impossibility at Rutgers although the program sits at a disadvantage after a poor 2015-16 season.
Fred Hill Jr. landed Mike Rosario and Mike Rice hauled in a top-10 class with zero facility momentum. The new staff holds a unique pitch with the expected ground-breaking announcement from athletic director Pat Hobbs.
“It will give us an opportunity to show the commitment, and more importantly, it gives us a situation where we can help our players,” said assistant Karl Hobbs on an indoor practice facility. “… You’re talking about the academics in terms of the study halls and it will be first rate. I think it will give us an edge in terms of what we’re up against in comparison to what the other universities have. We’re excited about that, and I think it will really give us a chance to compete and be competitive.”
In recruiting, Brandin Knight chose to leave New Jersey for Pittsburgh as a former North Jersey star.
Back in his home state, Knight does not want to see other stars make the same choice.
“This is a great place to be,” Knight said. “A lot of these kids love being here. They could go other places to go to high school but they choose to be in New Jersey. Hopefully we can create that sense of success in our program that kids will feel confident and want to stay home. Understand that they’ll play in front of their fans, their crowd, their people, their family, and really be proud of the product they’re putting out.”
Rutgers got off to a good in-state start with a commitment from Matt Bullock. The Scarlet Knights issued dozens of overs during the live period with seeds laid in 2017 and 2018.
“The first thing that we have to do is we have to get them excited about being here,” Knight said. “That comes with, one, getting out and trying to work our tails off as far as recruiting these guys. Also, people want to go and be a part of a successful product. That’s the main thing. If we have success then it will intrigue them. It will make them feel a sense of pride to want to stay home.”