WATCH: Coach Steve Pikiell Names Starters for Rutgers Opener, Includes Two Newcomers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Two sophomores, a red-shirt junior, a true freshman and a graduate transfer make up the Rutgers basketball starting lineup in Steve Pikiell's debut as head coach.

It looks like the highly-anticipated arrival of freshman Issa Thiam will be a trial by fire. From the battle to keep Thiam after a coaching change to his strong preseason camp with Rutgers  basketball, Thiam showed coach Steve Pikiell enough to start Friday at shooting guard in the season opener.

Billed as the Scarlet Knights' best shooter, Thiam joins Corey SandersJonathan LaurentDeShawn Freeman and CJ Gettys as starters against Molloy.

"He's the best shooter in a program that doesn't have a whole lot of them," Pikiell said. "He works his tail off. He's 6-foot-9, He's high energy. He practices the right way. He's been good."

Winning a starting job is just step one. Keeping it is a bigger challenge with experienced players like Nigel Johnson and Mike Williams off the bench.

"All of them have earned it," Pikiell said. "There were five positions open and CJ earned the five spot, DeShawn earned the four, John earned the three, Issa and Corey and now they've got to keep it. There's guys behind them that want to play too."

Rutgers opens Friday night against Molloy before it hosts Drexel Sunday afternoon.

"I'm just here to try and do what I can for the team," Gettys said. "I'm not expecting to start. I'm not expecting to play 30 minutes a game. I'm not expecting to score 20 points a game. I'm here to step in for a role that's needed. Whatever they need me to do in order to help this team win."


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