Rutgers Underclassmen Will Determine Improvement

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 12th, 2015

When a team drops 15 games in a row to close out a season followed by the loss of three of its best players, you can approach things a couple different ways. If you take the glass half full side of it, you might say that losing three of your best players from a team so awful could be a blessing of sorts — perhaps an opportunity for a new start. But if you go the other way and look at things as half empty, you might say that Rutgers appears to be an even worse team than it was when it suffered through that brutal skid. Regardless of which side you take, the onus is on the Scarlet Knights’ underclassmen to have a big year if this team is going to improve this season.

DJ Foreman and others who played supporting roles last season now must step up (Matthew O'Haren, USA Today).

DJ Foreman and others who played supporting roles last season must now step up (Photo: Matthew O’Haren, USA Today).

Put simply, Rutgers could not score last year. It ended the season shooting a woeful 43.3 percent inside the arc and 29.5 percent from behind the three-point line. To make matters worse, the Scarlet Knights managed to make only 65.3 percent of their attempts from the free throw line as well. In each of these areas of shooting, more than 300 other Division I basketball teams performed better than Rutgers. Mike Williams wasn’t a primary scoring option as a freshman in large part because he logged an effective field goal percentage of just 37.9 percent last season. He must develop more confidence in his shot if he is to develop into the perimeter threat of which he was touted as a New York City prep star. Another sophomore expected to have a large stake in the outcome of the Scarlet Knights’ season is DJ Foreman. At 6’8″ and 230 pounds, this athletic forward can guard both wings and post players. Will his role become that of the defensive stopper/glue guy? Head coach Eddie Jordan must hope so, because Foreman really didn’t exhibit anything special on the other end of the court last season (3.8 PPG; 85.1 offensive rating; 21.5 percent turnover rate). The last sophomore who will be looked upon to increase his production is Shaquille Doorson. The 6’11” Doorson needs to provide quality minutes, and lots of them, off the bench. Senior Greg Lewis supplied decent production up front at times last season, but he needs help patrolling the paint on both ends. Doorson has the body to become a factor, but he’s still extremely raw. Not that there’s really any choice here: If Rutgers is to find any sort of respectability this year, all the sophomores need to improve by leaps and bounds.

Incoming guard Corey Sanders is probably the most important player on the Scarlet Knights’ roster. The freshman was a four-star recruit according to ESPN and will be expected to do many of the things that Myles Mack did for Rutgers a season ago. We’ve seen freshmen guards make an immediate impact in this league before, and if Sanders can fall somewhere in between D’Angelo Russell and Bryant McIntosh in terms of instant production, Rutgers will have to feel a lot better about both its present and future. More depth on the interior will come from redshirt freshman Ibrahima Diallo. The 6’10” post player from North Carolina by way of Senegal is more highly regarded than either Foreman or Williams were when they arrived, and he gives Jordan another active shot-blocker and big body to utilize in the post.

Rutgers wasn’t a terrible defensive team last season and the pieces are certainly there for further improvement on that end. The offense, however, is really where they team must improve. The Knights need Bishop Daniels and many others to take huge strides in putting the ball in the hole, or it could be another very long season for Rutgers at the bottom of the Big Ten.

Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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