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Can Rutgers Basketball Overcome Departures to Improve In 2017-18?

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NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Northwestern vs Rutgers Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers finished at the bottom of the Big Ten last season with a 15-18 mark, including a 3-15 record amongst conference foes. While the Knights return three of their four leading scorers from a year ago, including co-captains Deshawn Freeman and Mike Williams, the Knights lost three players to transfer and two to graduation. Rutgers does return Corey Sanders, who led the Scarlet Knights with 12.8 points per game as a sophomore.

Nigel Johnson

Perhaps the biggest loss for Rutgers comes from the transfer of Nigel Johnson — the Scarlet Knights’ second-leading scorer from a year ago. Johnson, who transferred into Rutgers from Kansas State after the 2014-15 season, will move onto Virginia after averaging 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 26.2 minutes. He’ll be a valuable asset for the Cavaliers after losing three players to transfer. Johnson appeared in 32 games with 13 starts for Rutgers. Johnson shot 57 percent from three-point range in the final seven games of last season, which included back-to-back 21-point efforts in the Big Ten Tournament.

C.J. Gettys

The 7-footer started all 33 games for the Knights and provided Rutgers with 7.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game — good for second on the team. He also ranked second with a 54.4 field-goal percentage in his lone season in a Scarlet Knights uniform. Gettys was a grad transfer after spending the first four years of his career at UNC-Wilmington, which included helping the Seahawks to a NCAA Tournament Berth where they eventually fell to Duke.

Jonathan Laurent

Another key loss for the Knights is forward Jonathan Laurent. Laurent, who appeared in 58 contests with the Knights over the course of the last two years, transferred to the UMass. He started 11 of 31 games last year averaging 3.0 points and 2.4 rebounds. As a freshman, he played in 27 games with 12 starts and finished the year averaging 8.1 points, 5.1 rebounds with 23 assists. However, he will have to sit out the 2017-18 season for the Minutemen because of transfer rules.

Overall

I expect Rutgers to improve slightly from last year with Deshawn Freeman, Corey Sanders and Mike Williams all returning. By how much will be the real question, however. The Knight’s non-conference schedule doesn’t feature many high profile teams, but Rutgers will face Minnesota and Michigan State back-to-back in early December and will start out 2018 with Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State, which won’t be the kind of start to conference play many teams would hope for.