PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Malick Kone was one of half a dozen Rutgers basketball players to request and receive his release during a tumultuous offseason. But unlike many of his teammates, Kone decided to give new head coach Eddie Jordan a chance and he is happy he did.
Kone received a release from interim head coach David Cox, but took his time in a decision and was rewarded by a coach with major NBA experience.
“I’m very happy,” the junior forward said on deciding to stay. “It feels good to get back here because coach Jordan is a great coach. My teammates are nice people and I know we’re going to have a great year this year. It’s going to be fun. I wasn’t sure [in the offseason], but I was when I met coach Jordan. He is a great coach. I’m glad to be back.”
The 6-foot-5 wing spend his first two years developing and learning the ropes of the college game. Kone averaged three points and two rebounds per game over his first two years, and projects to have a larger role under Jordan.
Guard and forward are both spots where Kone feels comfortable in the Jordan system.
“My role is to try to do everything,” he said. “I always try to do everything well. I play defense. I’ll grab rebounds and fight for them. I can guard from one to four or five. This year I’m playing guard and forward. I’ve been practicing guarding from Myles [Mack] to Wally [Judge]. I think that’s big time.”
Kone was quick to buy in to Jordan’s “defense first” game plan. Playing tough defense and showing versatility, he said, are his best ways to find playing time.
“I realize sometimes that people don’t like to play defense,” Kone said. “So I see that if I want to get on the court, I’m going to take that role and play defense. I’m trying to guard the best player and let me shot and my rebounds come.
“We’re about showing through our defense. Take care of the ball first and play good defense. Then the offense will be easy, so I think he really likes that.”
Playing tough defense is the best way to keep games close in Kone’s eyes. He said he understands why Rutgers is not being looked at as a favorite and playing an underdog role is fine with him.
“We take that like motivation,” he said. “I like it to be doubted. Whatever they’re saying on ESPN or in the paper, that’s just a piece of paper. When the season comes, we’ll see. Everyone will see.”
Rutgers is eight practices into its preseason training camp.
“Practice is very interesting,” Kone said. “It’s very fun and intense because of coach Jordan. Coach Jordan, especially with the system and the way we’re playing, is great. This is a system not for one guy. It’s for everybody. Everybody can be the scorer and run the floor. Everyone can be the shooter or the rebounder or the guy driving.”