2004 RUTGERS BASKETBALL PREVIEW
PART 1 – ROSTER CHANGES
Rutgers fans await the 2004 season with mixed feelings in Head Coach Gary Waters' fourth season. A disastrous second campaign, during which toxic chemistry poisoned a promising season, drastically lowered expectations for Year 3. However, two capable freshmen, plus much improved chemistry, enabled the Scarlet Knights to overachieve and exceed low expectations. But a continuing inability to win on the road sparked a late-season collapse that saw the upstart Scarlet Knights plummet off the NCAA bubble and out of the Big East Tournament in the first round. The NIT offered Rutgers redemption and, desiring a local draw for the semifinals at Madison Square Garden, eased Rutgers' path with a three-game homestand. Despite sluggish play early in the tournament, the Scarlet Knights reached the Garden and, behind a heavily partisan crowd, advanced to the finals before succumbing to Michigan, 62-55.
Some saw the NIT as a huge success. Others saw a mirage as a good homecourt team beat a bunch of mediocre teams on its homecourt. Any momentum from the NIT apparently faded when the spring recruiting season ended with the signing of a questionable JUCO big man to fill a glaring frontcourt void. However, just as quickly, Rutgers recruiting fortunes turned as three highly touted New Jersey high school rising seniors verbally committed to Rutgers. Joined by a center from Michigan, these four all signed letters of intent on the first day of the fall signing period. Four years into the job, Waters has finally addressed the recruiting problems that have afflicted his program. However, this promising class is a year away from helping. Waters faces the 2004 season with a depleted roster and an inexperienced frontcourt. This article is the first in a three-part series previewing the 2004 Scarlet Knights. The article will discuss changes to the roster – departed players, returning players, and new players. Statistical averages reflect the contributions over a full 33-game schedule, regardless of the number of games actually played. As such, the statistics represent each player's contribution to the team.
PF Herve Lamizana
Lamizana was the most highly acclaimed Rutgers recruit in years. Herve was wondrously talented but enigmatic. He could play inside or outside. He could play facing the basket or with his back to the basket. He could post smaller players inside or drag bigger players out to the perimeter where he could shoot over them or drive around them. He could shoot, pass, rebound, dribble, and block shots. Yet, for all his considerable talent, Herve never came close to realizing All-Big East honors in three seasons at Rutgers. Last season, Herve averaged 31.0 minutes (second on the team), 13.4 points (second), 7.6 rebounds (first), 3.1 blocks (first), 0.9 steals (t-second), 1.8 assists (fourth), and 2.8 TOs (first). Despite Herve's maddening inconsistency, Lamizana's departure is a huge loss for Rutgers. Herve was the one player that opposing coach's had to design their defense to stop because he was so versatile. He was the player who could create his own shot and force opponents to double-team him, thus creating shooting opportunities for his teammates. Defensively, Lamizana was a liability despite his shot-blocking prowess. He was lazy and unfocused – too easily losing his defender or simply allowing his defender to get better position on the floor. Herve relied upon his shot-blocking ability to mitigate his defensive shortcomings. Often, it did not and led to cheap fouls. Lamizana was too inconsistent to lead the team. His scoring varied dramatically his shooting percentage was unsatisfactory has he missed too many good shots or took bad shots from good position on the floor. As did his playing time as poor defensive habits often incurred foul trouble.
What will be missed: defensive mismatches, low post scoring/passing, frontcourt minutes, and shot blocking.
What won't be missed: lackadaisical attitude, lazy defense, and inconsistency.
C Sean Axani
Axani returned for a fifth season after Waters promised to remove the cancerous influences on team chemistry and to let Axani play PF instead of center. Waters fixed the chemistry problems but Axani again played center, as Waters was unable to find a satisfactory replacement during the spring recruiting season. Last season, Sean averaged 25.4 minutes (t-fourth), 1.0 steals (first), 6.7 rebounds (second), 1.0 blocks (second), 5.6 points (sixth), 1.2 assists (sixth), and 1.2 TOs (sixth). Axani played hard for four years. Never more than a defensive role player, Waters' early recruiting struggles and ongoing roster attrition forced Axani to play a bigger role that really did not suit his skills. Sean was not a starting Big East center but nonetheless was forced to be one. He was a garbage man for Waters – playing defense, rebounding, setting screens, and scoring on putbacks. Axani should have been a good reserve. As it was, he was a substandard starting center through no fault of his own.
What will be missed: position defense, offensive rebounding, frontcourt minutes, and shot blocking.
What won't be missed: FT shooting and mid-range shooting.
SG Calvin Wooten
The centerpiece of Waters' first full recruiting class, Wooten was a scorer who never really got a chance to showcase his skills at Rutgers. As a freshman, Calvin played sparingly behind ballhog Jerome Coleman. Wooten injured his knee (ACL) in Spring 2003. Waters, lacking backcourt experience, rushed Wooten back into the lineup by December. Wooten got himself into Waters' doghouse shortly after he returned and played sparingly before he was suspended for nearly the rest of the season. Last season, Calvin averaged 3.2 minutes (ninth) and 1.4 points (ninth). Wooten played in only 13 games and was really not a contributor, though the team averaged only 69 points per game and desperately needed another scorer. Rumored for months to be unwelcome in the program, Wooten transferred to Oakland (MI) University in the spring. The third such casualty from Waters' first full recruiting class.
What will be missed: good judgment and ability to score from anywhere on the court – perimeter, mid-range, and dribble penetration.
What won't be missed: poor defense and off-the-court distractions.
Sr SF Ricky Shields
Shields became a starter in his second game at Rutgers and has started ever since. A complementary scorer his first two years, Shields assumed the role of co-leader with Lamizana. Last season, Ricky averaged 33.0 minutes (first), 15.5 points (first), 4.7 rebounds (t-third), 1.9 assists (third), 0.9 steals (second), and 2.1 TOs (second). A player who arrived at Rutgers as a versatile scorer increasingly became one-dimensional, solely relying upon his perimeter jump shot. As was Lamizana, Shields was also wildly inconsistent. A formidable scorer at the RAC, Ricky frequently disappeared on the road, when the team most needed veteran leadership. Shields showed much more versatility in leading Rutgers through the NIT. Unfortunately, it took an All-Big East snubbing to get him to realize that he needed to be less of a jump shooter. Shields enters the season as the acknowledged leader of the team but must start acting like a leader. Waters' teams have been terribly undisciplined on the offensive end of the court, often following the poor lead of their best player. Shields must set a better example for smart, efficient performance than he did last year as a Jerome clone.
What can be expected: perimeter shooting.
Needed development: better defense, stronger rebounding, more dribble penetration, rediscovery of his lost mid-range game, more passing off dribble penetration, and better shot selection.
So PG Marquis Webb
Webb arrived at Rutgers as a scorer who lacked a good perimeter shot. Waters, having dismissed his starting PG (Mike Sherrod), immediately converted Webb to a PG. Last season, Marquis averaged 30.8 minutes (third), 2.9 assists (first), 7.2 points (fourth), 0.9 steals (fourth), 3.4 rebounds (fifth), and 2.0 TOs (third). Webb demonstrated remarkable poise an impossible situation. Not only did he run the offense, but he also assumed the role of backcourt defensive stopper. His statistics substantially understate his contributions to the team. Many expected Webb to assume a reserve role this season. They were not paying attention last season. He enters the season as the glue that holds this team together.
What can be expected: great defense, great leadership, outstanding FT shooting, and unselfishness.
Needed development: seize the leadership role, more aggressive shooting, more scoring, and better rebounding.
So SG Quincy Douby
Douby arrived at Rutgers as a wisp with a reputation as a shooter. A reputation he fulfilled. Last season, Quincy averaged 25.4 minutes (t-fourth), 12.5 points (third), 1.7 assists (fifth), 0.8 steals (fifth), 1.9 rebounds (seventh), and 1.9 TOs (fourth). Defensive limitations limited his playing time early in the season, when Douby nonetheless exhibited the ability to score in bunches. In the absence of Wooten, Douby was the offensive spark off the bench. But Douby also displayed the inconsistency so typical of a freshman. After the Scarlet Knights stumbled into – and immediately out of – the Big East Tournament, Waters moved Douby into the starting lineup in the NIT. Douby blossomed. He enters this with a secure starting spot as one of two primary scoring options.
What can be expected: perimeter shooting and dribble penetration.
Needed development: mid-range game, better passing off dribble penetration, better shot selection, stronger play, better defense, and better rebounding.
Jr PF Adrian Hill
Hill was a very late addition to Waters' first recruiting class, which is usually a red flag. However, Hill developed into a reliable reserve. Last season, Adrian averaged 21.1 minutes (seventh), 4.7 rebounds (t-third), 6.4 points (fifth), 1.0 blocks (third), 0.5 steals (seventh), and 1.0 TOs (seventh). Hill emerged as a more substantial contributor as the season progressed. He showed limited low post skills but became a finisher around the basket – on both putbacks and dishes off dribble penetration. The departure of Lamizana and Hill was going to put a heavy burden on Hill this season. However, Adrian suffered a severe knee injury (two torn ligaments, including the ACL, and torn cartilage) in the late spring. He may not play this season, leaving a gaping hole in the frontcourt at least early in the season. If Hill does return, it may not be until January and his effectiveness as uncertain.
What can be expected: nothing, given the severity of his injury. Any contribution is gravy.
Needed development: diligent rehabilitation, full recovery, return in January, minutes, defense, and rebounding.
Sr PG Juel Wiggan
Wiggan arrived at Rutgers as a role player and really should have been a career reserve. He provides defensive intensity, satisfactory ballhandling, and limited scoring. Last season, Juel averaged 21.8 minutes (sixth), 2.7 assists (second), 4.7 points (seventh), 2.2 rebounds (sixth), 0.8 steals (sixth), and 1.8 TOs (fifth). Wiggan entered the starting lineup in January as Waters belatedly realized that the offense functioned better with Lamizana at PF rather than SF. Juel started 13 games as a non-shooting SG until Waters replaced him with Douby in the NIT. Wiggan's performance decreased as the season progressed and he was ineffective during the NIT. He enters this season with a well-defined role that fits his abilities – defensive reserve.
What can be expected: effort, intensity, unselfishness, defense, and poor shooting.
Needed development: improved perimeter shooting, improved defense, and acceptance of his role.
So C Byron Joynes
Joynes was a late addition to Waters' second full recruiting class. Another very late signee, he met the low expectations associated with a project. He averaged 8.4 minutes (eighth), 1.7 points (eighth), 1.8 rebounds (eighth), and 0.6 TOs (eighth). He played in every game, but became a non-factor down the stretch after Waters switched to a three-guard lineup. Joynes was severely overweight last season and it adversely affected his performance. He lacked the stamina to play significant minutes. And his lack of agility resulted in frequent, quick foul trouble. Joynes reportedly lost about 60 pounds during the offseason. With the injury to Hill, Joynes enters the season as only experienced frontcourt player on the roster. While he undoubtedly will be more agile this year, will he still maintain the poor defensive habits of an overweight player?
What can be expected: opportunity, better conditioning, interior defense, and rebounding.
Needed development: much improved defense, less fouling, minutes, improved post scoring, and improved FT shooting,
Fr PF Ollie Bailey
Bailey is the marquee recruit in a solid but inadequate recruiting class. Waters desperately needed frontcourt help and Bailey is the only obvious reinforcement. Bailey reportedly is an undersized inside player. He apparently lacks a low post game and relies upon power and quickness to get to the basket. Based upon descriptions that I have read, he may be comparable to Providence's Ryan Gomes (as a freshman). Gomes was an extraordinary garbage man who, through sheer hustle, determination, aggressiveness, and athleticism, outworked his opponents for points and rebounds on his way to Big East Rookie of the Year honors.
What can be expected: opportunity, rebounding, and garbage points.
What is needed: minutes, interior defense, rebounding, and inside scoring.
Fr SG Manny Quezada
Quezada, the only guard in Waters' second recruiting class, is a combo guard. Not the PG that Waters desperately needed after failing to recruit a PG in his first class. When asked to describe Quezada, one source compared him to Marquis Webb. Webb arrived with a reputation as a scorer, not a shooter. But Quezada is smaller than Webb and perhaps possesses more range. Will he demonstrate Webb's defensive prowess? That certainly will be a key to extended playing time.
What can be expected: opportunity and scoring.
What is needed: reliable scoring off the bench and adequate defense to keep him on the floor.
Fr PF Dan Waterstradt
Waterstradt is a willowy 6-10 and 225 pounds. He likely is not ready for meaningful playing time in the Big East. However, frontcourt depth concerns may supercede expediency. When asked to compare Waterstradt to West Virginia' Kevin Pittsnogle (as a freshman), one source replied, "less athletic and less range". Now, Pittsnogle will not impress anybody with his athleticism. But he has 3-point range. I have been told that Waterstradt can reliably make a 15- to 18-foot jump shot. There's a place on the floor for somebody with that ability. However, Dan's strength to handle himself on the defensive end of the floor is suspect.
What can be expected: opportunity and mid-range shooting.
What is needed: minutes, rebounding, interior defense, and defense on the fullcourt press.
RS Jr C Jimmy Inglis
Waters desperately needed to sign, during the spring recruiting period, a legitimate JUCO big man who could contribute immediately. Later in the spring signing period, reports emerged that the staff had recruited Inglis. I have never seen a player loaded with more questions that Inglis. He's a JUCO, with the potential baggage that implies (academics, attitude, etc). Rutgers was his fourth school in four years. Inglis never enrolled at Louisiana-Lafayette after signing a letter of intent and ULL apparently hadn't yet released Inglis from his letter of intent. He missed a year of school and, as such, has not played in a year. He was rehabilitating a back injury without the training facilities of a college athletic department as his disposal. He was overweight. He lacked a visa to stay in the country. Inglis was not exactly a good fit for the immediate need in the frontcourt. As such, expectations were negligible. Inglis beat the odds and actually enrolled at Rutgers in September. Although his back is reportedly fully recovered, he is severely overweight. His name was conspicuously absent from virtually all Media Day articles that appeared in the Jersey press.
What can be expected: nothing.
What is needed: minutes, interior defense, low post scoring, and rebounding,
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