This is the only serious article I’ll ever write here.
But Rutgers Scarlet Knights Basketball has a story. It’s weird, ugly, sometimes uplifting, but there is only the one universal constant - change. Starting in 2000, I’d like to take a short drive down the Turnpike (Exit 4 FTW) on how we got to an NCAA Tournament birth (hopefully?).
The year is 2000. The Arizona Wildcats are preseason #1 with Gilbert Arenas, Luke Walton, and Michael Wright. The Big East was still a thing. Rutgers was in it. Some guy named Kevin Bannon was the head coach. It seems like forever ago - there are no good recruits, and the team is getting pasted by Notre Dame, Syracuse, WVU, Georgetown, and Pittsburgh.
Enter Gary Waters in 2001. Enter Quincy Douby (Dou-bee) in 2003. The most decorated, successful Rutgers basketball player that made it to the NBA. Drafted by Sacramento in 2006, Rutgers got three years of elite scoring from the Coney Island Guard. Rutgers didn’t find any team-based success (finishing in the middle/lower pack of the old Big East ‘03-’06), but Douby managed to lead the Big East in scoring in 2006. Outscoring Gerry McNamara, Kyle Lowry, Allan Ray, and Rudy Gay. I did attend Rutgers University during this time frame - and a basketball star with the last name of Douby? The jokes wrote themselves. It was a fun time.
Douby leaves, and Gary Waters is fired. Replaced with a “Fred Hill”. Enter four years of listless, bottom Big East finishes, and the highest rated recruit in Rutgers Basketball History - Mike Rosario. Mike’s talent is squandered and he transfers to Florida two years in.
Here’s the good part.
DEAR GOD - THAT’S MIKE RICE’S MUSIC!
He inherits a depleted roster but hits the trail hard. Bringing in Eli Carter, Myles Mack, Kadeem Jack, Jerome Seagears... a bunch of Freshman talent. That slow program building movement occurs. 10 wins, 13, then 17, Tournament appearances, cash, money, cars!
Wait. No it doesn’t. The three years Rice is the coach, Rutgers never finishes above 11th in the Big East. And he beat the shit out of the players. There’s a weird circumference to the Mike Rice story among Rutgersians that Mike Rice abused his players but at least got some results. What? in Rice’s last year they lost to Saint Peters. Get out of here, and good riddens.
Here’s where we start getting to the redemption story. The Eddie Jordan and Steve Pikiell years.
Eddie Jordan had a crappy job. Coming in after a scandal, being highly touted as a former player, AND managing the Big East to Big Ten transfer. He really delivered on the “crap” part of crappy job. Double postage and Rutgers Basketball had to sign for it. Two last place finishes in the Big Ten.
Now the part that you’ve all been reading for... the big man himself!
Coming from Florida, he was a great recruiting pickup by Eddie Jordan. He seamlessly provided the scoring engine to pair with Pikiell’s defensive scheme. Unfortunately, he never lived in the NCAA long enough to see out of the basement of the B1G. Pike’s first two years, and Sanders’ last two years, were spent taking Ls in the new conference until a recruiting base could form.
We know where the team is now. They’ve got pieces and are now recruiting four star talent to the program. Pike got Stony Brook and Rutgers to the dance, which is a feat, but there is a giant question out there. Can he bring the program into an elite status? Is there a Sweet Sixteen in the future? Can they make it to a B1G Tournament Championship? Can someone sneak into Iowa’s locker room and staple Luke Garza’s elbows down to his frame?
Is there another Quincy Douby out there...