Rutgers has a new head coach (Steve Pikiell) and new hope for the basketball program. Corey Sanders, Deshawn Freeman and Mike Williams, the Scarlet Knights’s top three scorers, are all back. However, one has to wonder how much of a positive that is when you realize that they’re all back off of a 7-25 season (1-17 in the Big Ten). The hope is that Pikiell brings a renewed energy to a program that has looked lackluster, particularly last year.
Overall, the Scarlet Knights need stability and talent. Last season Rutgers suffered quite a few blowouts, losing by 20 ten times in Big Ten play. So Rutgers keeps much of its offensive production from last year and it has a new coach, but who are they losing and what could it mean for 2016-17?
Daniels is arguably the most significant loss for Rutgers. Daniels started his career at the University of Miami (FL), then to a junior college, and finally transferred to Rutgers for two seasons.
A foot injury cut his freshman season short at Miami and he dealt with a nagging hip flexor injury, but didn’t miss any time last season. Daniels averaged 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
He played a good minutes for the Scarlet Knights, but Rutgers is looking to redirect the program. Daniels wasn’t necessarily a part of the problem but his time simply ran out before he could be a part of the solution.
Grier was another Scarlet Knight who came in the program from another school (transferred from Bradley). He used the graduate transfer rule, and played immediately last season.
The senior guard shot 40 percent from three in 21 minutes per game. Daniels had two 20-point games and averaged 7.6 points per game for the season. Rutgers could miss his shooting, but more than likely the younger talent on the roster will cover his void on the perimeter.
While he contributed, Grier, much like Daniels, simply didn’t have enough time to be a part of the Rutgers turnaround.
Lewis weathered a tumultuous career at Rutgers. He stuck with the program through the Mike Rice scandal when he could’ve left and played last season as a fifth-year graduate student. During his four years playing for Rutgers there were certainly more valleys than peaks. The team went a combined 44-84 overall, 13-59 in conference play throughout his career.
Not only did Lewis deal with a coaching scandal, injuries and a struggling program, Rutgers also switched conferences twice during his career. In 2012-13 the Scarlet Knights participated in the Big East conference, then moved to the American the following year and finally landed in the Big Ten, creating a rapidly changing environment.
All that said, the 6’9” forward endured a great deal of upheaval in the program and Lewis stuck it out through injuries and legitimate opportunities to leave.
Those leaving the program this season aren’t gigantic losses for the Scarlet Knights. At this point Rutgers is more about young talent and a better course for the future, so focusing their rebuild on their younger talent would make sense anyway.
The roster was/is thin and could be multiple years away from contention if recruiting/development falls in Pikiell’s direction. With a new coach, the program has a new course forward and Rutgers fans would probably rather forget the last four years and look forward with hope. Because of this there likely won’t be much emphasis on the key personnel losses for the Scarlet Knights heading into the upcoming season.