Top 10: 2004 Countdown

As households rapidly prepare the bubbly and sparkling wines (technically, it's not champagne unless it's bottled in a particular region of France, and hence the American moniker of sparkling wine) in anticipation for the festivities and upcoming celebrations of the oncoming of 2005, we will take a walk down memory lane and look back at what 2004 had to offer the Rutgers faithful.

Rutgers fans were treated to quite the roller-coaster ride in 2004. Both the football team and men's and women's basketball squads had their share of ups and downs, highs and lows, taking fans to inspiring heights all while, seemingly at the same time, painstakingly knocking them over the head with a reality check the size of a 2 by 4.

For the next several paragraphs and during the next few days, into the new year, we'll relive and rehash back to the sites, sounds and scripts of yesterday as we remember the best of Rutgers 2004 athletics.

 

No. 10

Given what has transpired in recent months and the disappointing conclusion to Rutgers' football season, it may be somewhat refreshing to see what some folks were writing February 4th of 2004, National Letter of Intent Day, as Greg Schiano unveiled his 2004 recruiting class.

Tom Luicci, Sportswriter, Newark Star Ledger

I think that this is his best class yet. Not only is it his best class but he met some important needs on the offensive line. His first couple of years he had nothing to sell and still recruited. Now that he has some big east wins and the promise of a bowl next year, he is really taking advantage of it. He did a good job both in state and in Florida. Overall, he did a great job.

Bill Hodge, recruiting analyst for ESPN

A promising class should provide help for the improving Rutgers program and coach Greg Schiano.

The star of the incoming freshmen is one of the nation's best in fullback/running back Dwayne Jones of Lakewood, NJ., who picked the Scarlet Knights over Boston College and Virginia Tech. Keeping Jones in-state was a masterpiece and should bode well for the future.

As always, Schiano's recruiting trail also covered Florida, but the prospects rated highest are from New Jersey. Running back Jean Beljour of Hackensack, NJ., athlete Anthony Miller of Edison, NJ., offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah of Edison, NJ., and linebacker Chenry Lewis of Paterson, NJ., were sought by many.

Frank Colabella, Head Athletic Trainer and Strength and Speed coach for Plainfield High School

Most people don't understand the work, hours, and sacrifice these coaches make to bring the best talent to Rutgers. By working at a school that has a lot of talent I have the luxury to see from the inside, how hard the Rutgers staff works at in recruiting.

You can't always base the recruiting results on ratings of these players. It comes down to good old fashion coaching which is what they bring.

 

No. 9

Offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah became the 6th best player to ever commit to the Scarlet Knights by shocking Ohio State and many of his other suitors when he decided to stay in his home state and continue his education and football career at Rutgers.  Immediately after his announcement became public Zuttah went as public as public can be:

One of just a few recruits who have posted on the Insiders Rutgers site, I asked Jeremy why he decided to post? "I thought it would be a cool way to thank all of the fans for their support of my decision to attend Rutgers." Jeremy said he was also "blown away" by the more than 50 responses that he received from fans in just a few short hours after his post.

Jeremy Zuttah

"Thanks.  Hope you guys come to watch us do something special. I wanted to thank you guys for the support."  Source: Art Stein

No. 8

On March 24th the Rutgers men's basketball team defeated the Villanova Wildcats and advanced to the National Invitation Tournament Semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York.  The trip would mark the 3rd time in RU history that the Scarlet Knights would advance to the NIT's semis.

After Villanova raced to an early 6-1 advantage, behind a pair of Allan Ray treys, Rutgers settled down, took their first lead at the 10:01 mark behind a Ricky Shields trey, and went on a 16-5 burst from that point on to lead 43-31 at the half.

Rutgers would lead by as many as 19 points as the Wildcats would never threaten.  Ricky Shields and Rutgers would next be in action against Iowa State's Cyclones, on ESPN2. 

Ricky Shields, Bob Mulcahy, and Gary Waters celebrate Rutgers NIT Quarterfinal win. Courtesy of ScarletKnights.com

 

Ricky Shields driving baseline en route to a game high 21 points.  RU defeated Villanova 72-60. Courtesy of ScarletKnights.com

 

Sean Axani battling in the post.  Courtesy of ScarletKnights.com

Adrian Hill with a rim-rattling dunk.  Courtesy of ScarletKnights.com

 

No. 7

On June 5th Gerald "J.R." Inman, the local basketball product out of St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale New Jersey, decided to end his recruitment and give Rutgers Head Coach Gary Waters his biggest in-state commit to date.  Inman, selected Rutgers over several other impressive offers, including N.C. State, Boston College, St. Joe's, West Virginia, and others.

J.R. Inman has a specific vision on where he hopes to take the Scarlet Knights.  In an interview with Scout.com immediately after going public with his commitment, Inman stated that he hoped to make Rutgers basketball as widely successful as "the Dukes and North Carolinas of the world.  I want us to be making the tournament, whether it's by getting at-large bids or not, with the same type of regularity."  

On July 12th Anthony Farmer, who later in the summer led the NJ All-Stars to a Showcase Title in Florida, decided to join his friends J.R. Inman and Jaron Griffin as Scarlet Knight commitments.  Relatively unknown at the time, Farmer's stock began to soar during the summer, as his leadership and ability to direct an efficient offense were on display against some of the better national competition in the Showcase.  Those that hadn't heard of Anthony Farmer until then, were no longer left in the dark, and Gary Waters had all of a sudden ended any doubt to whether he could land New Jersey's top recruits to Rutgers.

Anthony Farmer

Anthony Farmer

J.R. Inman

Gerald "J.R." Inman

 

No. 6

Perhaps the most unheralded story out of 2004 was the recruiting performance by RU Women's Basketball Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer.  Perhaps because 3 of the 4 signed recruits were announced in November of last year, but perhaps because Rutgers women's basketball, led by one of the all-time greatest basketball minds, Vivian Stringer, does not receive the attention it readily deserves.

Two of the most-heavily recruited players in New Jersey ... heck ... in America, signed LOIs to continue their education and careers at Rutgers.

Essence Carson, a 5-11 guard-forward from Paterson's Eastside High, and Matee Ajavon, a 5-8 point guard from Newark's Shabazz High, were both 2004 McDonalds All-Americans.  And they both chose Coach Stringer and Rutgers.  Coach Stringer managed to land 2 of the 12 prospects on the entire East team.

 

Courtesy of McDonalds All-Americans Scout.com

MATEE AJAVON
Malcolm X Shabazz High School - Newark, NJ
Point Guard - 5'8 - 163 Pounds
Rutgers University

Courtesy of McDonalds All-Americans Scout.com

ESSENCE CARSON
Eastside High School - Paterson, NJ
Guard - 6'0 - 155 Pounds
Rutgers University

 

 

Stay tuned as we continue our countdown. 

In the meantime, what are your Top 10 Rutgers athletics memories of 2004?  Feel free to visit our message board and voice your opinion.


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