PISCATAWAY N.J. — (October 24, 2012) – The Rutgers men’s basketball team hosted its annual media day on Wednesday Oct. 24 at the RAC. Head coach Mike Rice, entering his third season at the helm of the program, spoke to the media before players discussed the upcoming season.
“I know a couple of things — I know we’re stronger, I know we look different, I know we have bigger and better depth,” Rice said. “I know that this team is closer because they understand they need each other more than they did last year. Those are the strengths of this program right now, and experience is another strength. I like where we’re at right now.”
Coming of Age
The Scarlet Knights, who were among the youngest teams in the country last season, return their explosive starting backcourt in sophomores Eli Carter (Paterson, N.J.), Myles Mack (Paterson, N.J.) and Jerome Seagears (Silver Spring, Md.)
“One thing that comes to my mind is the Al McGuire quote, ‘The best thing about Frosh is they become Sophs,’” Rice said. “I think I am a big proponent of that quote.”
Carter and Mack, the team’s two leading scorers last season with 13.8 and 9.8 points per game, respectively, acknowledge the physical growth they were able to obtain during the offseason.
“Getting stronger in the weight room with Mike [Johansen has been my biggest improvement],” Carter said. “The weight room has helped my game tremendously. I would say that for our entire team. It’s helped us a lot.”
Carter and the rest of the backcourt also noted the experience they gained last season, as Carter, Seagears — who averaged 7.7 points per game — and Mack earned a combined 57 starts. All logged at least 25.8 minutes per game.
“It is very exciting. [Carter and Seagears] have gotten better and they make me better every day,” Mack said. “That’s what I like, for them to push me every day for me to get better and also for them to get better.”
Leading the Charge
Miller, who has been a staple of the Scarlet Knights program for the past three years, enters his final season in an RU uniform. A tenacious one-on-one defender, Miller is a force on both ends of the court, and averaged 7.9 points and 1.6 block shots per game last season.
“I’m more excited because of the offseason I’ve had,” Miller said. “To come out and finally show what I’ve been working on — how conditioned I am, how strong I’ve gotten, how explosive I’ve gotten. As far as the team goes, I can’t wait because everyone has gotten better.”
Worth the Wait
RU welcomes a pair of newcomers in 6-foot-9 redshirt junior Wally Judge (Washington, D.C.), who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, and 6-foot-5 junior college transfer Vincent Garret (Chicago, Ill.). Both figure to make impacts in their first seasons donning Scarlet, and both are excited for the opportunity to compete for a BIG EAST Championship.
Judge, a McDonald’s High School All-America selection, will see his first action since transferring from Kansas State following the 2010-11 season.
“Words can’t describe how important that first game is going to be to me,” Judge said. “I’m trying not to get overwhelmed thinking about it, but just to be out on the court and in front of the fans, it will mean so much to me, regardless of how my stat line looks.”
World of Experience
Other returning Scarlet Knights include sophomores Derrick Randall (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Malick Kone (Conakry, Guinea), Kadeem Jack (Queens, N.Y.) and Greg Lewis (Randallstown, Md.), junior Mike Poole (Rosedale, N.Y.), and senior Austin Johnson (Elkins Park, Pa.).
Johnson and Randall should see increased roles in the post this season, while Poole averaged 22.1 minutes and 6.5 points per game last season as the team’s first guard off the bench.
Jack and Lewis, both of whom are imposing 6-foot-9 forwards, also carry experience into the season after earning one start a piece and averaging 8.3 and 5.9 minutes per game, respectively, last season.
“I think that what this team accomplished and the experience they gained is all going to be a positive in the future and going forward this season,” Rice said.
The Scarlet Knights finished 14-18 — 6-12 in the BIG EAST — last season, and were pitted to finish 11th in the conference’s preseason coaches’ poll, released last week.
RU hosts an exhibition against Holy Family on Sunday, Nov. 4 before opening the 2012-13 season at the RAC against St. Peter’s on Friday, Nov 9 at 7 p.m.
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