September 21, 2010
For all the well-deserved publicity Steve Lavin has received for breathing life into the floundering St. John's program, one of his peers at a nearby Big East program has done just as good a job so far.
Ex-Robert Morris coach Mike Rice has made Rutgers an attractive destination for top East Coast recruits, landing four of Rivals.com's top 150 Class of 2011 prospects since August 1. The latest commitment came Tuesday from top-100 point guard Jerome Seagears of Flora MacDonald Academy in North Carolina.
If Rutgers fans are a bit hesitant to believe in their program's revival, perhaps it's because the Scarlet Knights have seen recruiting success fail to translate into winning seasons before. Top prospects Mike Rosario and Greg Echenique arrived in 2008 amid expectations that they would lead Rutgers to its first NCAA tournament bid since 1991, but both transferred without fulfilling their potential.
Nonetheless, there certainly is reason for cautious optimism that this recruiting class will produce better results. St. Anthony High guard Myles Mack and South Kent Prep stars Kadeem Jack and center Derrick Randall are each New York-area blue-chip prospects from established high school and club programs.
A fiery, energetic coach with deep recruiting ties in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Rice caught the attention of Rutgers after leading Robert Morris to three straight postseason appearances and a near first-round upset of Villanova last March. He inherits a threadbare Rutgers program that lost most of its key players from a team that went 5-13 in the Big East last year and finished an uninspiring 15-17.
Next season promises to be another dismal one for the talent-starved Scarlet Knights. Once Rice's first recruiting class arrives though, better days may be ahead.