Rutgers basketball is on the rise, and in preparation for the 2019-20 campaign, they decided to catch some waves and hoops overseas.
During an 11-day trip, the team played four games against four different local squads, drumming its competition in each outing and getting its roster tons of valuable experience.
“Everyone played,” head coach Steve Pikiell told Aaron Breitman of On The Banks. “We had four different leading scorers and really passed the ball well. We showed signs of being a good basketball team.”
Fourteen players made the voyage, but none performed as well on the court as sophomore guard/forward Ron Harper Jr. and senior forward Shaq Carter. Both averaged more than 16 points per game and shot better than 53 percent from the field, plus nearly 10 rebounds per contest for Carter. These are encouraging signs for a Rutgers team that hopes to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since it was in the Atlantic-10 in 1991.
The team didn’t spend all of its time focusing solely on hoops, though. There was some sightseeing involved, including a trip to the world-famous Camp Nou, FC Barcelona’s home ground.
The team posted a roughly two-minute long video recapping the entire trip, showing some behind the scenes looks at what the trip was like for the players fortunate enough to experience the adventure. If nothing else, it will make you want to visit Spain.
The Spin on Rutgers
Pikiell is yet to have the Scarlet Knights finish a season above .500 in his three tries, but there is a notable improvement in the level of play in Piscataway. He has built a hard-nosed, physical team that is eager to play defense, and he has a good crop of returning talent.
Nearly every impact player from last year is back, with Geo Baker headlining the group as the team’s second-leading scorer and top guard from the 2018-19 campaign. When the Scarlet Knights needed a big shot, they went to Baker, and the then-sophomore often delivered. Now as a junior, he’s expected to take another step forward, along with Harper and Carter, making their performances in Spain that much more encouraging.
It has been a long time since Rutgers was in the NCAA Tournament, and losing Eugene Omoruyi, the team’s leading scorer last season, as a transfer to Oregon certainly doesn’t help its case. But Rutgers is no longer the pushover it was only a few years ago, and the expectations for this season should at least be an appearance in some postseason tournament, with a bid to the Big Dance not totally out of the question.