Judge provides leadership in final season
It was the middle of last season when new Rutgers men’s basketball transfer J.J. Moore got his first taste of then-junior forward Wally Judge.
Moore, then with Pittsburgh, faced the 6-foot-9 Judge in the post at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.
Off of a Scarlet Knights’ shot, Judge pushed the forward to the side to corral the offensive rebound and put it back up for the score.
The two still reminisce about it, but in a good way.
“We always talk about it,” Moore said. “At one point he kind of did a little cheap shot on me and we talk about it to this day. So it’s good to have somebody on the team who I can always relate to on the team from back in the day.”
Judge will hold more responsibilities this season than boxing out defenders.
Head coach Eddie Jordan said Judge has been one of the Knights’ preseason leaders.
While one of Rutgers’ other head players, junior guard Myles Mack, has led more by his actions on the floor, Jordan said Judge’s leadership resonates from his vocal cords.
“He says the right things at the right times,” Jordan said. “Wally is a verbal leader.”
It was not always like that for Judge.
He said he had time to develop in that regard during his time with Kansas State and when he sat out a year after transferring to Rutgers during his junior season.
“I just sat back and watched and I kind of learned how to communicate,” Judge said. “The main part of being a leader is getting your part across. It’s just getting your part across whether it’s by the actions you show, whether it’s about the actions you show on the court or whether it’s pulling someone to the side.”
Judge did a lot of pulling to the side after the fallout from Mike Rice’s firing, when players left the program left and right.
Though guards Eli Carter and Mike Poole and forwards Derrick Randall and Vince Garret found other homes, the Knights were able to secure a full roster for Jordan’s first year.
Junior guard Jerome Seagears, who transferred to Auburn but came back to Rutgers a month later, said Judge was part of the reason he returned.
With the season less than a month away, being the guy everyone looks up to was exactly what Judge wanted.
“I think it was easy from my part is because I wanted to do it,” Judge said. “The thing about getting something done is that you have to want to do it. A lot of the guys like Myles have backed me up. [Junior forward] Kadeem [Jack] has backed me up, the guys who stuck around have not only listened, but have also become a great supporting cast and whenever I have to challenge somebody or whenever I have to say something, I know guys have my back.”
Jordan said Mack will play both guard positions for the Knights, which Jordan said are identical in his offense.
“We don’t really number our players,” Jordan said. “We have two guards, two forwards and a center. That’s how we look at basketball and that’s how I look at basketball. I think that’s conducive to our talent.”
Jordan said Mack could play both on and off the ball, as the Paterson, N.J., native displayed the ability to score off screens and back door cuts.
With the Princeton offense Rutgers will now use, Jordan said it would not be a surprise to see 10 guys rotate regularly to begin the season.
“With this team, I see us with solid depth,” Jordan said. “On both ends, to get our pressure up, we can utilize everyone, I like to say, at 100 percent energy.”
Rutgers has 11 scholarship players cleared for its opener Nov. 8 against Florida A&M.
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