Ebanks may provide the ignition at RU

Where Devin Ebanks will play his college basketball is still undetermined. However, one thing seems far less uncertain: should Rutgers win this recruiting battle, the impact that Ebanks will have on the Scarlet Knights will be monumental. His arrival would completely transform the already-changing shape of the program, and serve as the springboard to potential basketball greatness.

There's a precedent for the sort of thing Rutgers finds itself facing if Devin Ebanks comes to RU. Most Rutgers fans are aware of it, as it's happened before to other programs. Although no situation is exactly the same, there have been other teams in the past that have seen their fortunes and their directions completely changed by the arrival of just one player.

That player has never done it alone; he's always had help. Often that player has gone on to play in the NBA - but not always. However, the one similarity that all these players shared is the immediate impact they had on their programs. They were the catapult, the springboard, which enabled their teams to reach new heights and achieve successes that would have otherwise taken much longer to attain - if at all.

One other thing to keep in mind: each situation involves a struggling program and a relatively new head coach

Probably the most famous example, the one that most college basketball fans would think of, is Johnny Dawkins and Duke. In 1982, Mike Krzyzewski was in his second year in Durham, coming off a 10-17 season that included a 75-70 loss to Appalachian St. Dawkins was the jewel of Krzyzewski's recruiting class (which included Jay Bilas and Mark Alarie), a player the new coach said "was our first big time recruit. He could take the tough shots, win the tough games we had not been winning".

Indeed he did, throughout his career in Durham. The Blue Devils continued to struggle the following year as the freshman learned under fire, going 11-17. However the following year they completely turned it around, posting a 23-8 mark, and the year after went 23-8. Both seasons saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Dawkins' final season is regarded as perhaps the most significant in Duke history; the Blue Devils went 37-3 and played in the NCAA championship game.

Closer to home for Rutgers fans is the example of Mark Bryant and Seton Hall. PJ Carlesimo's first year as Pirate head coach was truly a nightmarish one, as Seton Hall went 6-23. However, it was in that off-season that he was able to lure Bryant, a Maplewood native, to South Orange. The turnaround for the Pirates was slower, as Bryant arrived there with less help than Dawkins did at Duke, but by Bryant's senior year, Seton Hall went 22-13 and made their first-ever NCAA appearance.


Bryant's impact on the Pirates program was without question just as significant as Dawkins was at Duke, and he also helped Seton Hall make it to the championship game of the NCAA tournament - it just happened the year after he left. Seton Hall went 31-7 the following year, just barely losing to Michigan for the title in 1989. It's no coincidence that Bryant's arrival coincided with the Pirates turnaround, and he is regarded as arguably the single most important recruit in modern Seton Hall history.

Less auspicious is the example of Jim McCoy and the University of Massachusetts. Unlike Duke and Seton Hall, which play the ACC and the Big East respectively, the Minutemen play in the A-10 - not a league of patsies by any means, but certainly not a league considered as strong as the other two. Also, until UMass became the A-10's preeminent program in the 1990's, Temple was only team in the A-10 that was any sort of national power.

Thus, achieving national prominence and becoming a powerhouse program in a slightly lesser league was difficult - especially if the program was as down as UMass was in the 1980's. The team had not had a winning season in ten years, and their only fairly recent claim to fame was that Julius Erving had played his two seasons of college ball in Amherst in the early 1970's.

So Jim McCoy would be unlike Johnny Dawkins and Mark Bryant, and not go on to play in the NBA. Dawkins in fact might possibly have flirted with the NBA Hall of Fame had it not been for a torn ACL, while Bryant played in the league for 15 years. However, the impact that McCoy had on UMass was just as substantial and just as dramatic. He would go on to become UMass's all-time leading scorer and gain first team All Atlantic10 honors in each of his last three seasons.

He was the first recruit for the new young coach at UMass, the key guy who started it all and quickly got it rolling - which then was taken to the next level by Lou Roe and Marcus Camby, all the way to the Final Four. That young coach was of course John Calipari, who's now down in Memphis trying to get Devin Ebanks to come down there too.

There's no ball for Devin to get rolling down in Memphis, however. With Tyreke Evans there may not be enough to go around anyway, and if Devin goes there, he's unlikely to even start. The situation may be only slightly less crowded in West Virginia, and if Joe Alexander returns, which it seems like he will, it's not much less at all. There's no ball to get rolling over there, either (neither is the assurance of being a starter there as well).

At Rutgers, adding Devin Ebanks in with Corey Chandler, Mike Rosario, Greg Echenique, Christian Morris, Pat Jackson, and Dane Miller requires a different analogy. It's more like a fuse that's been stuck deep in dynamite. All that's needed now is the fire to light it - and Devin Ebanks would provide an ignition that will cause a deafening boom.


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