Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell wants rebounds and defense, and the points will come. In fact, he singled out junior college transfer Candido Sa as a shot blocker and perimeter defender during multiple preseason media sessions.
But for every defensive reference, Pikiell also complimented Sa as a shooter, and Sa wants to be known as such.
“It's funny,” Sa said. “I don't really read the scouting reports about me, but I hear people say Candido is only a defensive presence. No. I think my offensive game is really good. I'm going to surprise some people.”
Sa has 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks with 37 registered minutes in the first two games. Asked about his first-career three-pointer, Sa did what all smart scorers do – thank his guards.
“With Nigel [Johnson] and Corey [Sanders], if I'm open, I know I'm going to get the ball,” Sa said. “They make everything easier. … I love that. We're doing everything we can to win. It's a new Rutgers era, and we want to be great.”
Sa remains relatively new to basketball with only seven years of experience in the sport. The move from junior college to Rutgers was a “great challenge” but progress from game one to two paints him as a quick learner.
Rutgers got nine more minutes and three fewer fouls out of Sa against Drexel compared to his debut against Molloy.
“I struggled at the beginning, but we have a really good group,” he said. “They helped me make the transition smoother. At first, the game was faster. Everyone was moving faster.”
What is the key to Sa's development? Ask any of his friends that try to track him down during the week.
“When I got here, I was like 207 pounds. I've gained like 20 pounds since then. That helped me a lot. … Everybody makes jokes that if you want to find Candido, you've got to go to the dining hall. I'm always there.”
Sa was the first big man off the bench for Pikiell behind DeShawn Freeman and CJ Gettys in the rotation.
“I love our bench, and I love Candido Sa coming off the bench,” Pikiell said before the team's departure to Chicago. “... I think our bench is going to be one of our strengths, and that's important. The way I want to play, you need to play a lot of bodies and depth and running guys in and out and hopefully they get tired from playing great defense and they need to come out just for rest reasons.”