Dominique Rutledge, who exhausted his junior college eligibility in the spring of 2010, was still short of the credits he needed to get that diploma, so he knew that he had to concentrate on getting that work done if he was to play in the limelight in 2011. So instead of resorting to a school close to his New Jersey home, or trying to get credits online, he instead chose to head to the southwest, where a coach awaited him that would push him both academically and athletically – even though he wouldn't be able to play in any games.
"He paid his own way to come down here, and paid his own tuition and everything," Western Texas head coach Jason Sautter said. "He heard about me, and decided that I was the kind of coach that could push him and make him better. Even though he couldn't play, he practiced with us every day, hit the weight room every day, and watched tape with us. He did everything – he wasn't just going to class. He knew I would coach him just like he was playing, and that I would stay on him to do his work and do everything right. He has done that, and he is on pace to graduate this spring and then come to West Virginia."
After completing his high school career at Edison Job Corps Academy, a prep school in New Jersey, Rutledge committed to St. Joseph's but did not have NCAA qualifying scores. He chose the junior college route, attending Hutchinson Community College and Miami Dade in two years before winding up at Western this year to finish his academic work. While such a checkered path might send up warning signs, Sautter said it actually showed a seriousness of purpose.
"I think it showed how committed he was to playing in the Big East and getting a scholarship," Sautter said. "He was very serious about wanting to be here and doing everything he needed to do. I coached him the same way I coached everyone else, and got on him when he needed it. He always took it the right way, and he'd come over and give me a pat and say, 'Thanks, coach.'"
Despite not playing this year, and missing half of last year with a broken wrist, Sautter believes Rutledge is ready for the rigors of the Big East.
"Every Big East game he watches, he sees buys he has played with and against," Sautter said. "These are guys he competed against in high school and in AAU. He fits West Virginia's style really well. He can run and jump, and he has a Big East body. He can guard from the three to the five, and he can probably guard the two if he needed to. He can drive and pass it, and he's good in the mid-range.
"I think Coach Huggins is a good fit for him too," Sautter continued. "He will push him, and the way West Virginia plays, I think he can help. With what West Virginia loses this year, I think he can fit right in."
Rutledge will have two years of eligibility at West Virginia.