Kadeem Jack, Myles Mack struggle in front of NBA scouts
Despite the prospects of an eighth-straight defeat, the Rutgers men’s basketball team returned to the court Sunday evening at the Louis Brown Athletic Center with the backing of a sell-out crowd.
Among the 8,003 in attendance were 22 NBA scouts, all gathered in Piscataway for one reason.
D’Angelo Russell and No. 20 Ohio State were in town and given the guard’s 6-foot-5 frame and ability to make eye-popping plays, scouts wanted to see for themselves if he was worth the hype.
But when scouts gather to analyze one player, the stage is set for others to display their skills to the professional level’s talent evaluators.
That was the case for the Scarlet Knights’ star duo in guard Myles Mack and forward Kadeem Jack — both have been considered as possible second-round NBA picks.
Unfortunately for the senior pair, only Russell made a lasting impression.
The No. 3 overall prospect on Chad Ford’s big board on espn.com had a career night. He scored a game-high 23 points with a combination of quick drives to the paint and a soft jumper. Russell also dished out 11 assists and collected 11 rebounds for the first triple-double of his college career.
Meanwhile, Mack and Jack combined for just 17 points which included a poor first half where they were held to 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
Though Jack did manage 5 points after the break, he played just five minutes in the second half.
“I just thought the guys played harder when he was on the bench,” said head coach Eddie Jordan on his decision to bench Jack. “As a team we played harder.”
Mack finished the game with 8 points on 3-of-10 shooting which included going 0-of-4 from three-point land. It was a disappointing performance given his form the last couple games where he combined for 40 points, but the 5-foot-9 St. Anthony (N.J.) high school product said he wasn’t worried about the potential impact it could have on his draft value.
“Yea [Jordan] brought it up to us, but I just play my game,” Mack said on the scouts in attendance. “Whatever happens, happens. You can’t play good every game, so I just didn’t have a good game today, but I’m looking past that. Whatever happens is going to happen. I just look forward and take the positives out of it.”
Although Russell’s dazzling performance played its part in extending Rutgers’ woes in Big Ten play, poor shooting from beyond the arc once again made a difference.
The Knights shot an atrocious 4-of-23 from 3 which included going 0-of-10 in the first half. Ohio State did not make a single 3-point shot in the second half but managed six in the first half, led by forward Keita Bates-Diop who scored 12 of his 14 points from the three-point line.
While the Buckeyes were without their top long-range shooter in forward Marc Loving—the nation’s second best 3-point shooter at 53.2 percent — Bates Diop’s baskets were more than enough.
Ranking second to last in three-point percentage during Big Ten play entering the game, the struggles from deep were hardly surprising, but Rutgers believes creating shots hasn’t been the issue.
“That’s one thing that we can do, we can get the ball to the rack,” said junior guard Bishop Daniels who finished with a team-high 17 points. “We can shoot jumpers we can put up shots. There’s no way we can’t get our shots off. Our whole thing is we’re missing them. Just plain and simple, we’re just missing them and as players we have to get in the gym.”
If the Knights can salvage one positive from the game, the return of freshman guard Mike Williams is one of them.
After missing a little over two weeks with an ankle injury, Williams returned with 23 minutes off the bench.
His production was far from ideal, scoring three points on 1-of-10 shooting, but his return gives Rutgers some much needed depth in the backcourt.
“The ankle’s getting there,” Williams said with a chuckle on how he felt. “I am at 90 percent out of 100 [right now] but I should be fine.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow @SeanStewartRU and @TargumSports on Twitter.