Sam Hellman, Scarlet Report Publisher – How excited were you to get the call up for Sunday's broadcast on Facebook Live, especially with it being Rutgers at the Garden?
Austin Johnson, Former Rutgers Forward and Sunday's Color Analyst – “I'm thrilled. There's always something special about the Garden. Me being in New York City for the last two years, my appreciation for MSG and what it means for sports has grown even more. Any time Rutgers comes into the city, it's always a really special feeling. To be a part of the broadcasts, especially with Danny [Breslauer], during what has been a magical season thus far, I'm really appreciative of the opportunity from the Rutgers athletic department.”
SH – Are you sure you didn't mean in spite of Danny?
AJ – Danny is my guy.
SH – Yeah, he's great. I was kidding.
AJ – I know. He's been great to me, very influential for my very young broadcasting career. He's a consummate professional. To see how quickly he's able to prepare his notes and proper pronunciations of guys' names and get that over to me beforehand, it shows you how seriously he takes this stuff.”
SH – The last time I saw you at the Garden was for the Notre Dame game in the tournament. Obviously you remember that. Is the Garden a special building for you after the way you went out in that game?
AJ – “It is. It's still a surreal thought to be able to think back on that in retrospect. It was an amazing end to what was a roller coaster ride of a college career. To be able to go out and be able to say that I gave it my all and walk off the stage like that, it was an awesome feeling for myself and my teammates and my family. It will always be a place that I hold in high regard. I need to get out there more. There are so many exciting events going on at the Garden, but I'm often times too busy with other things.”
SH – For Rutgers fans that haven't followed you since you left, what are you up to now?
AJ – “I've been in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the last two years. Work brought me here. After completing my masters, I took a role for a company called Insperity. It's a large PEO. I was working as a small business consultant. I thought it was a great experience where I got to learn the ins and outs of what makes a business run successfully. Recently, I decided that I wanted to get back into something more surrounding with sports, so I took a role with ESPN. I'll begin in January working in sales there as an account manager, so I'm excited to be able to learn from the industry leader, worldwide leader in sports.”
SH – You talked about your degree. How much did you grow and develop at Rutgers as a part of that? People look at the basketball program and they see a lot of losses during your time, but you still made the most out of it.
AJ – “I was actually talking with MC Mike Coburn and a few other guys like Malick Kone and Greg Lewis recently when I had a chance to see them at a recent alumni event. It was funny. We had the same sentiment about our experience there. We all agree that a lot of life-long lessons that we learned were off the court. Throughout the experiences that we went through together, we have a bond that I think is unbreakable. I'm very grateful for the things that I learned via osmosis just being in different classroom situations, being around a lot of different influences and then having access to a very, very influential network of people here in the New York City area. There's a lot of prominent Rutgers influences here in sports and in the business world. It's been great to me. I love the university from the bottom of my heart. I'm very grateful for everything that I was exposed to as a Scarlet Knight.”
SH – What has it been like to watch this season? It's not a good strength of schedule but coach Steve Pikiell is winning games.
AJ – “It's been a joy. I think that part of this building thing is establishing a sense of winning, a sense of success. It doesn't really matter this early on about the strength of schedule. It's just teaching the kids how to win. Unfortunately during my time, I wasn't able to achieve that. It's very cool for me to see. Sports are everywhere, and I have a lot of coworkers and friends here in the city who are directly affiliated with sports teams or different universities. They often times had a lot of negative things to say about Rutgers University and the stigma associated with the university for the past however-many years. It's been so negative. To see something so positive and so consistent is really a breath of fresh air. I'm the one that's talking a little bit of trash nowadays. I actually play with a few Seton Hall guys, Andre Barrett, so I've been talking back and forth with him a little bit. I'm excited about the upcoming Seton Hall game and hoping for the best for the Scarlet Knights there.”
SH – Putting on your color analyst hat for tomorrow, what do you see from this team? What is Rutgers doing well? What are their weaknesses? What stands out about this rendition of Rutgers basketball?
AJ – “This brand is exciting. It's a brand that I haven't seen in a really long time, guys that can gt out in the open court and finish in transition. They have athletes, and they have great guys that can come off the bench and contribute. I'm thrilled with the backcourt play and I love seeing a guy like CJ Gettys definitely maximizing his opportunity. He has great footwork and a big body. He's very mobile and he throws his weight around in there. He's been really rebounding the ball well, which is crazy to see. That shows you how much buying in from the rebounding standpoint means and how influential it is for a college program. I'm excited to see the kids going out there and playing with this type zest. You can tell that they're loving playing the game of basketball with one another.”
SH – Last question. Why do you think Rutgers waited until both of us left to build up Livingston campus into such a cool place?
AJ – “I don't know, man, but I feel slighted. It's crazy to see the progress that continues to be made to all sorts of aspects at Rutgers University. I went back recently and I saw that they have a Surf Taco. I have to hit Surf Taco every time that I'm down in the Belmar area. To see that it's at Rutgers, now, I feel so slighted. But it's great for the years that come. It's going to attract the right type of people academically and athletically. I'm excited for what's in store for the university for years to come.”null