PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Rutgers basketball coach Eddie Jordan admits this isn’t how he wanted his first year to end.
The Scarlet Knights posted a 12-21 record, won only one game on the road and finished the season with an embarrassing 61-point loss to Louisville in the second round of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
Still, Jordan is looking to the future.
“A lot of good things to look for. A lot of positives,” Jordan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “People thought we weren’t going to even have a season this time last year. People thought we wouldn’t win more than seven or eight games and we won 12.”
When Jordan took over in April, he knew the program, which had not been to the NCAA tournament since 1991, was at rock bottom. After the scandal that led to the firing of coach Mike Rice, he felt it would take at least three years to get it going again.
Players were leaving after Rice was fired following the release of videotapes showing him verbally and physically abusing his players. Jordan had just four players committed to playing.
A three-time NBA head coach, Jordan had to start recruiting late and get ready to coach on the college level for the first time in more than 20 years.
“Our kids - even though it was a tough year - were very coachable. It was fun coaching them … we had some difficulties, but in my mind, it was a process that needed to start the way it did. Didn’t like the way it ended, but I thought the process - and I said it before - the process was right on schedule.”
Picked to finish last in the 10-team AAC, Rutgers came in seventh and won a first-round tournament game against South Florida. Less than 24 hours later, the season ended with a 92-31 loss to the defending national champions.
“I thought the process is in the works at a good pace,” Jordan said. “Would we have liked to win more? Absolutely. Would we have not wanted to end the season like that against Louisville? Absolutely.”
Now, Jordan readies his program to enter the Big Ten, what he considers the best conference in the country.
Guard Myles Mack will be back after averaging a career-high 14.9 points, 4.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds. Kadeem Jack also returns after taking a big step- last season, averaging 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds.
J.J Moore and Wally Judge, the third and fourth- leading scorers, respectively, played their final games at Rutgers and backup guard Jerome Seagears, the fifth leading scorer, is looking to transfer.
Three players have committed to Rutgers for next season: guard Mike Williams from New York City; forward D.J. Foreman; and junior college transfer Bishop Daniels.
“We need to improve our leadership in the locker room,” Jordan said. “We just have to have guys that are willing to talk the talk and walk the walk and we’re hoping those two guys (Mack and Jack) can do it for us.”
Rutgers allowed 76.2 points per game last season. It’s one of many improvements the Scarlet Knights will have to make before their inaugural season in the Big Ten.
“It’s going to be a heck of a transition,” Jordan said. “It’s a great conference. I’ve watched them some of the year. They’re terrific gyms. Terrific enthusiasm and excitement from the student athletes and the fans. Every gym is filled and they’re jumping around and I’m hoping that our place is going to be just like that.”
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