Prized Class Might Result In Renewed Play

PISCATAWAY, N.J. –Fred Hill wasted little time before he expressed much praise for the incoming recruiting class.

"Like we talked about, we are really excited," Hill, Rutgers Men's Basketball's third year coach, told reporters Tuesday at the annual RU media day at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. "There's no denying that. We're going to be a much better basketball team."

While last year's roster comprised of only one senior, Byron Joynes, who has since graduated, this year's program has gained an edge in experience.

"When you look at the Big East this year; when you look at the depth and the quality and experience, we've got some experience," Hill said. "We've got four upperclassmen in our program so you can say we got experience."

Hill alluded to seniors J.R. Inman, Jaron Griffin and Anthony Farmer and junior Hamady N'Diaye, all strong contributors to the Scarlet Knights' success thus far.

However, 10 freshmen and sophomores, many of whom enter with high expectations, comprise the vast majority of the roster.

"The rest of our program is freshmen and sophomores," Hill said. "There's that blend that we still have and you have to take those talented young players and let them play."

Some of the gifted athletes include guards Corey Chandler and Mike Rosario, Rutgers' first-ever McDonald's All-American recruit.

Hill plans on mixing the experienced with the unseasoned.

"That's what we're going to do," he said. "We're going to mix them all together."

That mix will have to wait though; over the summer, Hill announced the indefinite suspensions of Inman, the Knights' leading scorer last season (12.2), and Griffin for violating team policy.

"There's no timetable," Hill said. "It's when I feel that they've appropriately done all the parameters that we've put on them, we'll bring them back."

Although Inman and Griffin will continue to practice, they will not dress for games. Regardless, their efforts have impressed Hill.

"As of this moment, they've been outstanding," Hill said. "They've been great leaders. They handle their business the way they're supposed to. They've been terrific in the preseason, ever since the suspensions. And I'll make that decision by evaluating it on a daily basis, and when we're ready to make that decision, we'll announce that they're back in terms of playing."

In the meantime, Hill expects everyone else to improve and become leaders.

"It's been terrific; we've had everybody step up," Hill said, "which is what you hope for as a coach."

Last season, Rutgers finished 11-20, only 3-15 in the Big East. With Rosario and Chandler complementing Farmer, Hill wants to improve his team's speed.

"We have the depth to do some of the things we've always liked to have done," Hill said. "We want to push the tempo; we want to get up and down the floor. Certainly, we're looking for easy baskets at the other end."

On the other end, N'Diaye's development as a shot blocker (3.0 per game in '07) and the addition of 6-foot-9 260-pound freshman Greg Echenique allow Rutgers guards to attack their opponents' ball handlers.

"Defensively, we play multiple defenses, but we also have depth now so we can play more pressure up the floor in the backcourt than we have the last two years," Hill said. "We aren't going to play one of these pressing teams. It's not our style but we are going to be able to put much more pressure than we've seen in the past."

That Echenique and Rosario will experience D-I basketball for the first time does not displease Hill.

"We're going to throw them into the fire and see what happens," Hill said. "We're not going to know until they're game-tested." With 10 days until an exhibition against Caldwell, Hill's test will soon be resolved.

At least, initially.

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