Last season saw Rutger’s basketball streak come to an end as Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. both played their final games as Scarlet Knights. Harper is trying to make a home in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors as a rookie free agent, while Baker has moved on to ventures outside of basketball.
“You’re going to miss some things with Joe and Ron, but I think we’re going to be a little bit different,” head coach Steve Pickle said last week. “Defensively we are different in some ways and we are attacking. So I’m excited about this. I was thankful that Ron came back last year because he had good feedback from the NBA.
With Harper and Baker gone, more minutes will be available, especially for a core of young players.
“The new guys were really good at picking things up,” Pickle said. “They’ve been taking our defensive vitamins; the different things we’ve been doing defensively. It’s been a great team to work with.”
Baker’s replacement could come in freshman guard Derrick Simpson, who wore Baker’s old No. 0 jersey.
He’s one of the most athletic guards we’ve had since Corey Sanders.” Pickle said of Simpson. “He’s over the edge. He hits the ball effortlessly. He has a great feel for the game. Now, he’s learning our defense and what we want him to do. But the ceiling is amazing and it was very coachable.
One returning player to kick off the event will be senior point guard Paul Mulchay.
“I’ve had leadership built into me since I was a sophomore, so it’s nothing new,” Mulcahy said. “We have a lot of guys who are coaches and really love basketball so it’s easy. …Many comrades have been working hard for a long time. We have a lot of hungry dudes ready to play,” he said.
This upcoming season should feature more cliffhanger Omoruyi. Last season, the center made a big jump from averaging 3.8 points per game to 11.9 points per game. And this is likely to rise further this season.
“It’s going to be a new look because I’m going to let him hit the ball this year,” Pique said. “He can really shoot the ball. Even last year I was encouraging him to hit the ball. He will be a tough guy to compete in this league.
Caleb McConnell also gives Harper and Baker more shots without the crease. And as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, he will be an integral part of this Rutgers team. However, there is much debate that Harper will leave a big gap as he averages 15.8 points per game. His replacement could be a team effort in the form of Cam Spencer, Andrew Hyatt and Matt Mag.
“It’s definitely a big role for me,” Hyatt told Scarlet Nation. “I’m taking it one day at a time and trying to get better. I pay attention to detail and close every day. “