With signed letters of intent now received from Mike Rosario, Christian Morris, and Pat Jackson, Rutgers fans longing for the schools first trip back to the NCAA tournament since 1991, and regular returns thereafter, should be feeling good. All three prospects are considered among the best in the country at their respective positions. This is Fred Hill's second full recruiting class (although this one is not finished), and when combined with his first class (Corey Chandler, Mike Coburn, Earl Pettis, and Justin Sofman), to go along with the one player that RU signed not long after Hill replaced Gary Waters (Hamady N'diaye), by now the results of the esteemed recruiter are beginning to take shape.
The areas on the team most impacted so far are the guards and wings. After this season RU will have one lone holdover from the Gary Waters days in the backcourt, and he is a good one, namely starting point guard Anthony Farmer. In fact, he's the only holdover there now, and when you add in Mike Rosario to go along with Farmer, Courtney Nelson, Mike Coburn, Corey Chandler, and Justin Sofman, RU would appear to have more talent and depth at the 1 and 2 guards than they have ever had before. The backcourt of Eddie Jordan and Mike Dabney back in RU's mid-70's glory days would probably rank as the best ever (Jim Valvano and Bob Lloyd weren't a bad combo either, but I never saw them), but whatever combination RU puts out there will probably end up giving them a strong run for their money.
In fact, the additions of Rosario and Patrick Jackson will begin to give Rutgers a potential embarrassment of riches at off guard and small forward. For example, keeping Mike Rosario out of the starting lineup even during his freshman year seems like a potentially difficult scenario to fathom. Rosario is the most highly regarded member of this class so far, and with his fine athleticism and supremely adroit shooting touch, combined with the fact that he's a St. Anthony's product who should come in knowing how to play defense, to picture him sitting on the bench for any extended period is difficult. Rosario enters into a mix that has Farmer starting, along with Corey Chandler, who as expected has started from day 1. Additionally, Mike Coburn is already averaging nearly 16 minutes of action through his first three games, and then there's the revitalized Courtney Nelson. (I can't even begin to contemplate how Justin Sofman will fit into this)
So you say just pair Rosario with Corey Chandler, and go with a three-guard offense. But then, what about Jaron Griffin, our starting small forward, who will be back for his senior year? Then there's Earl Pettis, who'll be just a sophomore - and then of course Pat Jackson will be in the mix as well. Although he won't be expected to start, Jackson seems too good of a shooter, too good of a slasher, too athletic - in short, too good of a fit for Fred Hill's system - to not see playing time as a true freshman. Thus Fred Hill will find himself in a rather pleasant dilemma as to how to distribute minutes to such a talented group of players - but recruiting the best players that you can get and then figuring out how to piece it all together is a very large part of what coaches get paid to do. The feeling here, by the way, is that he will do a masterful job of it.
Christian Morris however, unlike his two classmates so far, wil lnot be entering into an area on the team next year that will be overflowing with talent and experience. In fact, when one considers that the lone senior on this team is center Byron Joynes, it becomes apparent that of the three recruits, Christian Morris was the only one who could be deemed an absolute necessity. It will be very interesting next year to see how the duel for the starting center position between Morris and Hamady N'diaye unfolds. Hamady will be a junior then, but it may be worthwhile to remember that although Morris will be just a freshman, he will have been playing basketball longer than the still-developing N'diaye. Nevertheless, between the two, RU will have a potentially potent mix of size, power, and athleticism.
Of course, all has not gone perfectly on the recruiting trail. Samardo Samuels, Devin Ebanks, Quintrell Thomas, Lance Goulbourne, and Kevin and Mookie Jones have all gone elsewhere. Thus Rutgers finds itself still holding one scholarship and still in the hunt for frontcourt help. Dwight Miller is the apparent number one target, but that situation may not resolve itself until the spring. In the meantime, RU fans will simply have to wait. Waiting has become that much more difficult now since Fred Hill has been the coach, as RU fans have begun to get a taste of what he and his staff can bring in. That has indeed whetted the appetites of the RU faithful, who are now beginning to get accustomed to seeing blue-chip basketball players picking RU. And that, at long last, is most certainly a good thing
6-2, 170 / Guard
Jersey City, N.J. / St. Anthony's High School
6-9, 270 / Center
Bronx, N.Y. / South Kent (Conn.) School
6-7, 200 / Forward
Brooklyn. N.Y. / Boys & Girls