With a legitimate rebounding power forward with the athleticism to play Rutgers coach Mike Rice’s up-tempo, high-energy style, Wally Judge is another upgrade in physical talent who further close the talent gap between the Scarlet Knights and the Big East’s best teams.
Judge, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound transfer from Kansas State, sent his scholarship papers to Rutgers on Wednesday, making him Rice’s 10th recruit to sign with the Scarlet Knights since he was hired 54 weeks ago.
“To win the Big East you can’t play with one, and sometimes two, players,” Rice said. “You need three, four five different players to combat some of the talent at Pittsburgh or West Virginia or Syracuse has, so I think we’re finally catching up to some of the top tier programs as far as athleticism, talent and potential talent.
“Certainly, the system I’m going to play, with nine and 10 players, we won’t drop off, hopefully because of the talent we accumulated.”
Judge is a huge piece of that puzzle.
He was a McDonald’s all-American out of Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) and a high-profile recruit to Kansas State.
“It’s a very exciting day around here,” Rice said. “First, the potential that he brings to our program is kind of off the charts, and it goes along with a lot of the younger type of talent that we have coming in. I’m very excited about his future, and trying to bring that potential to performance.”
Although Judge struggled in 1½ seasons to find his place with the Wildcats, Rice never wavered in his desire to land Judge once Kansas State granted a scholarship release last month.
“I think his strength is with his versatility, to be honest with you,” Rice said. “He’s always been a tremendous rebounder, both offensively and defensively. He was a more versatile athlete in high school, and (Kansas State) had him in a roll that maybe he didn’t embrace, so we have to kind of find out what he is, what he does well, and what he needs to work on.
“We’re going to use this year to do that, and improve some of his weaknesses.”
Judge will have plenty of time to work on his game.
Under NCAA transfer rules, Judge must sit out a year. It means he will not be eligible to play until 2012-13, but he can work out and practice with the Scarlet Knights.
“It gives him year to re-invent himself,” Rice said. “He certainly didn’t think he played up to his expectation, and in the end neither did the Kansas State fan base. He has a year to re-invent himself and find passion and the potential he had coming into college. It’s very important to him.”
Judge didn’t have a strong relationship with Kansas State coach Frank Martin, which is one of the primary reasons he left the team in late January and announced he would transfer.
And Rice’s personality is one of the reasons Judge chose Rutgers last week, and it helps when Rice was at Pittsburgh, he recruited Judge as a freshman and sophomore in high school.
“I know him and watched him, and was comfortable with understanding some of the frustrations he had,” Rice said, “and some of the things he wasn’t doing himself. I was comfortable with that.”
Judge averaged 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in 17 games as a sophomore at Kansas State, but Rice doesn’t believe it was indicative of the type of player the Scarlet Knights are getting.
“He is a big time athlete who can put the ball on the floor and also shoot it from 15 to 17 feet,” Rice said. “Defensively, he has the ability to guard three positions. We are confident Wally will realize his tremendous potential here at Rutgers.”