The Mike Davis saga is over. RU Head Coach Fred Hill declined to offer a scholarship to the Brooklyn native, who wanted very much to become a Scarlet Knight, and as a result, Davis will instead play for Rutgers' arch-rival, Seton Hall. Davis would have seemed to fill an area of need. However, it was not to be as the Knights decided to go in another direction. What are Rutgers fans to make of this?
In some circles, it was believed that when Craig Carter was hired as an assistant coach at Rutgers one year ago, becoming the last piece in Fred Hill's coaching staff, Seton Hall's head man Bobby Gonzalez told Brett Carter, Craig's brother and Mike Davis' de facto guardian, "Congrats to Craig, great hire for Rutgers - and I guess Mike is going to Rutgers now". Instead, Mike Davis will be a Seton Hall Pirate. It played out to the very end, but in the end, Fred Hill declined to offer Mike Davis a scholarship. What does this all mean?
The brief chapter in Rutgers basketball history was played out until the bitter end or, in this case, the very last day of the spring signing period before officially declining an offer to Davis. One might surmise that Fred Hill was perhaps ultimately more concerned with keeping Davis from signing with Seton Hall than anything else. However, whatever concerns Hill may have had about Davis playing for SHU, they were still not enough to cause him to exercise the one option that would've prevented that - offering him a scholarship. Davis would have instantly accepted, as Rutgers was apparently where he wanted to be.
The Mike Davis saga clearly illustrates just how difficult a job Fred Hill has in trying to rebuild Rutgers basketball fortunes. Tough decisions have to be made, and it's hard to imagine Hill ever being confronted a more difficult situation in his tenure at RU. With four players signed for the fall, and three scholarships available for '08, and two for '09 (providing no one is ruled ineligible or transfers, etc), he's obviously made a choice to save those three 'ships for the '08 class.
There are four names in the '08 class that he must feel he's in an extremely good position with: Quintrell Thomas, Christian Morris, Devin Ebanks, and Samardo Samuels. On the one hand, if he and his staff know something about where these young men might end up at that most of us are unaware of, it is understandable why he might've passed on Davis. (Davis is a little older than the '08 kids, and the feeling might be that his upside is not nearly as great as theirs). Landing any two of these four will cause whatever bewilderment many RU fans have experienced over this decision to rapidly fade away -especially if it's Ebanks and Samuels.
The feeling here is that Hill will need to secure verbal commitments from them in November, and not April, in order to kick off the new season with plenty of positive momentum. That would also send just the right message to '09 recruits like Dexter Strickland - namely that RU is going to become a winner, so come and join us. Once again, the fact that the decision was made to withhold the offer from Davis can only logically be interpreted as Hill and Co. feeling quite positive about where they feel they stand with these young men.
It's also worth mentioning that Rutgers has secured a verbal from '08 recruit and St Anthony's product Mike Rosario. Rosario is the first recruit from Bob Hurley Sr's storied program in over 20 years to commit to RU. The fact that St Anthony's players are now possible RU recruits is a positive development whose significance can't be overstated. No doubt there is a feeling then that like father, like son, and that Danny Hurley, coaching at St. Benedict's, will emulate his father and give the same blessings to his charges.
Of course, there is that tricky matter of having to play the upcoming season, and of having to face Seton Hall and Mike Davis. There is no doubt that the four recruits RU has coming in - Corey Chandler, Mike Coburn, Earl Pettis, and Justin Sofman - will help RU tremendously. Last year the Scarlet Knights were a pitiful shooting team, scoring less than 60 points in games 16 times. These additions will clearly remedy that; the Knights have added scoring and passing, in addition to making their backcourt much quicker.
However, there is understandable concern about the frontcourt - thus the puzzlement over declining Davis. A healthy return of Byron Joynes will impact the team probably more than any other player, but should he or JR Inman sustain any kind of an injury, and the upcoming season will potentially become another long one. Then there is the matter of Davis playing for SHU. Having him make the All Big East Rookie Team in a Seton Hall uniform will not look good. Actually anything positive he does for them can't look good for RU.
Here's to hoping that this November the results Fred Hill and Co. are waiting for come to fruition.