New York's Westchester County has become prime recruiting ground for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The football team features three members from there, all from New Rochelle: reserve defensive back Glen Lee, starting safety and Nagurski Trophy candidate Courtney Greene, and last but not least, record-setting running back Ray Rice. The basketball team, meanwhile, will unveil later on this year prized freshman point guard Mike Coburn, who was a four-year starter and All-State performer for Mt. Vernon.
So it's only fitting then that on a night when Courtney Greene had a key interception and Ray Rice became the all-time leading rusher in RU history, taking it all in were two coveted basketball recruits, both from Westchester County: Peekskill's Mookie Jones, and former Coburn teammate and Mt. Vernon's latest star, Kevin Jones. SOR spoke once again with both Gerard Jones, Kevin's brother, and Mookie's coach at Peekskill, Lou Panzanaro, to get their thoughts about their visits.
"It went great", said Gerard. "Kevin loved it. He really enjoyed himself a lot". Gerard said that the RU staff did a fantastic job as hosts, and while once again having high praise for Head Coach Fred Hill and Assistant Coach Darren Savino, he also many good things to say about another RU assistant coach, Craig Carter, who has since joined in on the efforts for both Jones's. "Coach Carter is a very personable and down to earth guy", said Gerard. "He keeps it real and is very genuine. I have a lot of respect for him".
Gerard also singled out Mike Rosario, a key member of the Knights '08 recruiting class, for high praise as well. "Kevin respects the heck out of Mike Rosario", he said. But with Bob Huggins from West Virginia and Travis Ford from UMass already having paid in-home visits, and with Jamie Dixon (Pitt) scheduled for last night, and Norm Roberts (St. John's) and Thad Matta (Ohio St.) coming in soon, RU fans might be wondering if the Scarlet Knights are still an option for Kevin the way Gerard said they were when we last spoke with him.
"RU is doing a phenomenal job of recruiting Kevin, and their status hasn't changed", insisted Gerard. "I'd say they're even more of an option for Kevin now with the possibility that Mookie might go there". As for Mookie, Coch Panzanaro said, "Mookie thinks a great deal of Kevin. They've played on the same AAU team, the Westchester Hawks, for the past three years". However, Panzanaro felt that the possibility of the two continuing on as teammates at RU would not play a role in Mookie's decision: "I don't think what Kevin might eventually do will have any effect on what Mookie does", he said.
As for the Navy game, Panzanaro said that, "Mookie really enjoyed it. It was definitely a great atmosphere, and a really nice all-around experience. Mookie had a chance to spend time and talk with the other recruits at the game". Both Mookie and Kevin also spoke with Westchester's biggest star these days, Ray Rice, afterwards. Since Ray also played basketball at New Rochelle, Kevin actually played against him. Peekskill, however, didn't play Mt Vernon, but Panzanaro said he and Mookie do know each other.
Panzanaro said the staff also did a terrific job with the in-house visit they made recently: "They did a great job. We sent out about 15-20 questions to all the coaches recruiting Mookie, and the RU staff came prepared. They explained everything from what the school is like to academic support to what their coaching philosophy is. They said not just how much they wanted him, but how much they needed him". (Gerard Jones, btw, said that RU's in-house visit with Kevin was still in the process of being set up, but will happen soon, probably in the next week or so).
But Panzanaro added that, "It's tough to make a decision. At this level, all the coaches really do their homework. It's hard to sort through everything. It's flattering, but it's still tough. I believe Mookie wishes he could get it over with". (These sentiments were somewhat similar to what Gerard Jones said about how Kevin's experience has been going). Panzanaro said that tonight Syracuse is coming in, St John's will be visiting on Monday (obviously they're back in it as a player for his services), and Marquette will be in on Thursday.
At this point, both Jones's still have a ways to go in their recruiting process.
Neither has taken an official visit to RU yet, and neither has named a favorite,
nor even given an indication of where they may be leaning. The only thing that
can then matter to RU fans is that Rutgers is still very much in it, and remains
a very real possibility for both Kevin and Mookie Jones.