THE FUTURE IS NOW
The 2002-2003 basketball season essentially ended with a thud in an aggravating 52-46 loss to West Virginia on Sunday at the RAC. The group that continues to insist that there is a "me" in "teme" showed exactly how much selfishness and stupidity will buy you against an opponent who is less talented, less athletic, less deep, and less experienced. A team that overlooked a terrible LaSalle team in an overtime loss at home lost another home game to a team with 7 scholarship players that includes three freshmen and two sophomores in the starting linuep. The gang that couldn't shoot straight took inept down to a whole other level in scoring 31 points over the final 30 minutes of the game, playing as if they had never seen a zone defense before.
Don't delude yourself. Rutgers isn't winning another game this season. A team that can't beat LaSalle or West Virignia at home certainly won't beat Top 15 Notre Dame or surging Seton Hall. And a team that can't win on the road won't win games at Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Syracuse, or St. Johns. Rutgers presently holds a tiebreaker with Georgetown on the basis of a victory over division-leading Syracuse. Georgetown will have to match Rutgers' level of futility to enable the Scarlet Knights to back into the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. With home games against Providence and Notre Dame, for whom the Hoyas pose matchup problems, plus road games at Miami and West Virginia, Georgetown is almost assured of winning one more game, quite possibly two. Rutgers' odds of qualifying the BET are very slim. Downright anorexic.
So, what remains of the season? Gary Waters must write off the rest of the season and start building for next year. Waters must cut back the playing time of Sr SG Jerome Coleman, Sr C Kareem Wright, and Jr PG Mike Sherrod. Waters must increase the playing time of Fr CG Calvin Wooten and Fr PF Adrian Hill.
Waters handed Coleman the keys to the Rutgers bus last fall and Coleman has proceeded to steer the bus right off a cliff. It started with an abysmal 2 of 18 shooting effort against North Carolina wherein Coleman singlehandedly shot Rutgers out of a game it had won. It has continued right up to a dreadful 5 of 14 performance against undermanned West Virginia. Coleman's play typifies the selfishness and stupidity that defines this team. This team has gone where Jerome has led it. Now, Jerome must answer for his uhhhhh, leadership. It is time for Coleman to accept a reduced role as Waters begins to groom his returning players for the future.
Kareem Wright has always been a team player since he first arrived on campus as an overweight, raw behemoth. Kareem has consistently gotten the short end of the stick in terms of development and playing time. Yet Wright has always put the team first. He has been a shining example in a sea of selfishness. Gary Waters told Kareem last spring what he needed to accomplish to earn playing time this season. Kareem dropped 50 pounds. He worked with assistant coach Garland Mance and improved his low post offense. He did everything that was asked of him. He provided a team that lacked an inside presence with an suprisingly effective inside presence. One that was neglected more often than not. His teammates passed the ball so often to Kareem against a physically mismatched Mountaineer team that Wright attempted only four field goals, one of which was on a putback of an offensive rebound. It is time for Kareem to pass to the torch to the younger and more talented Hill. It is time for the ultimate team player to sacrafice himself yet again for the good of the program.
Mike Sherrod averaged 7 points and 3 assists per game as a freshman PG under deposed coach Kevin Bannon. As a junior, with three seasons under his belt as a starter, Sherrod is averaging 5 points and 4 asssists per game. While Sherrod has developed into an outstanding defender, he is a bigger liability on the offensive end than he was a true freshmen. Sherrod is selfish for a player who doesn't shoot much. Too many of the few shots he attempts are badly forced and often taken at the expense of open teammates. Sherrod's notoriously horrible perimeter shooting was supposed to be improved this season. No. He penetrates the opposing defense less frequently than he used to and rarely uses such attempts to setup open teammates. Sherrod's selfish, along with that of his buddy Coleman, has poisoned the chemistry of a team that needed teamwork to overcome its obvious but surmountable limitations. Teams look to their PGs to establish their identity. The identity that Sherrod has established for this team is selfishness. Hardly an aspiring image. It is time for Sherrod to yield leadership of the team to somebody who better understands the meaing of "team".
Calvin Wooten was the most highlyt-touted of Waters' most recent group of recruits. Wooten was a sleeper who emerged in the spring recruiting season after a sensational season as a HS senior. Wooten has seen more action and made more contributions than the rest of Waters somewhat discredited first recruiting class combined. Wooten has averaged 15 minutes and 6 points per game. His defense has improved but he still commits too many TOs. Wooten's confidence has grown in recent weeks with increased playing time and some solid Big East peformances. Waters has already designated Wooten as the heir apparent to Coleman. Next year, Wooten will be asked to pick up the scoring slack from Coleman's departure. It's time to start that transition a little early and get Wooten accustomed to playing a more vital role in the offense.
Adrian Hill brings a warrior's mentality to a an otherwise soft frontcourt unit that has greatly missed the presence of departed PF Rashod Kent. Hill is fierce and athletic in his rebounding, something noticeably lacking without Kent. Hill's development was stunted by an unfortunate fight with former teammate Harry Good, which resulted in a broken hand that cost Hill a month that straddled the non-conference and Big East season. Hill missed games against Delaware State, Prarie View A&M, and LaSalle -- the types of games that are crucial to the development of a young player has he builds his confidence. Therefore, Hill is behind the development curve for a typical freshman. Especially when one considers that he initially was a raw prospect. Big men must endure growing pains to get better. Especially on the offensive end. TOs are an inevitable part of the development process. A coach must be willing to eat that initial cost of producing a better player. Hill has missed much of this development process. Hill will be an integral part of the frontcourt next season alongside Herve Lamizana. Waters must use the remaining six games to get Hill accustomed to life inside in the Big East. It's time to play Hill at least 15 minutes per game. And it's time to start getting him the ball inside so that he can start making mistakes -- and hopefully learning from them.