The Missing Link for Rutgers

Exciting times on the Banks of the Raritan as Rutgers is off to its best start in years. Watching each game packed to capacity, one can't help getting excited with thoughts of Rutgers becoming a potential top 25 team in the very near future.

A quick glance of the morning box-scores would have the casual fan saying "Wow, Rutgers is hanging tough with some formidable opponents."

Close game with Pitt, overtime with Villanova.

The reality is that Rutgers players must now accept the responsibility of individual development. Many times when watching Rutgers games one can't help but notice the inability of Rutgers to make the big plays at crucial times in the game. Against top-notch talent making clutch plays at crucial points of the game is a must.

In my opinion, this is the one thing that can prevent Rutgers from becoming one of the upper echelon teams of the Big East. As a result I am challenging each and every Rutgers player to put in the extra time to become a complete player.

Post players need to develop an offensive repertoire that will lessen the scoring burden of the guards and increase the likelihood of high percentage shots down the stretch of ball-games.

Guards must work to become better one-on-one players with an increased ability to get to the basket and finish late in ball games, as well as knocking down pressure jump-shots at critical junctures of the game.

Many will argue that it's the coach's job to develop the players, but that's only if you have never played at a high level of basketball.

Those of us who have been in the trenches realize that individual development is not the responsibility of the coach; it's a personal choice that all truly great players gladly accept. Yes there is practice time, and skill sessions and off-season programs. That's not enough if you are still coming up short in the games. Ask any player who has shown significant improvements in their game and they will tell you "I had to put the extra time and work in to get better."

Rutgers is right there competing with the better teams of the Big East, something many didn't expect coming into the season. As well as Rutgers has played this year just imagine if the Scarlet Knights knock down a couple more shots, or don't turn the ball over during crucial points of the game.

This is not meant to be a sweeping indictment of Rutgers' players in any way. It's more of a friendly reminder of exactly what it's going to take to become a top 25 team.

There's a whole lot of season left and Rutgers will have plenty of chances to win some big games. I'm hoping that the players will take that extra time to focus on their individual development so that Rutgers can turn the corner and become the top 25 team it has all the potential to become.

Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. It is the accumulative weight of our disciplines and our judgments that leads us to either fortune or failure.

Daryl L. Smith is a regular contributor to the A former player for the Scarlet Knights, Smith was a member of the 1988-89 and 1990-91 squads that advanced to the NCAA tournament. Fans should look forward to Smith's breakdown of New Jersey's Top High School basketball players and commentary on Rutgers basketball.

In the meantime, if you would like to discuss any aspect of Rutgers athletics with other Rutgers fans, please visit our message boards.

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