Jack remains loyal to Rutgers in face of adversity
Long after Rutgers men’s basketball fans have filed out of the Louis Brown Athletic Center and the media has finished their postgame stories, senior forward Kadeem Jack can still be found working on his game.
Whether it’s shooting, running wind sprints or other basketball drills, Jack sometimes stays past midnight perfecting his craft on the RAC’s hardwood.
“I’ve known Kadeem since freshman year, and he is always in the gym here working night time,” senior guard Malick Kone said. “We all know what’s made him what he is right now.”
What he is right now is a 6-foot-9 forward with a polished postgame, smooth mid-range jump shot and as of last Thursday, the 41st player in Rutgers men’s hoops history to score 1,000 points.
The feat is more impressive when taking into account his freshman season, where he missed the opening 12 games recovering from right foot surgery and scored a total of 21 points in 18 games.
Yet, despite Jack’s unwavering devotion to his craft, it’s his devotion to the school that has been most valuable.
On April 3, 2013, the Scarlet Knights fired then-head basketball coach Mike Rice after a videotape surfaced showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players while using homophobic slurs.
Two days later, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, the main orchestrator for getting Rutgers into the Big Ten, resigned.
In the weeks and months that followed, only six Knights remained including Jack, Kone and fellow senior Myles Mack.
A decision to leave would have been an easy route for Jack, who had around 10 scholarship offers from other schools.
However, Jack declined and committed to a team with an uncertain future to finish what he started when he first began practicing with the program in December 2010.
“I’m not really a quitter,” Jack said on his decision to stay. “I definitely wanted to stay and figure out what could happen.”
It’s that commitment that head coach Eddie Jordan, who was introduced as the new coach on April 23, 2013, is also grateful for.
“It means a lot — loyalty to your school means a lot,” Jordan said. “You play with that sort of heart and soul, and that’s why (the seniors who stayed) have meant so much to us.”
Jack’s loyalty to Rutgers was immediately rewarded the following season.
In the Knights’ lone year as members of the American Athletic Conference, Jack burst onto the scene averaging 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while also shooting 50 percent from the floor.
Jack averaged only 5.7 points per game the year before.
His performances impressed so much that he was considered by some NBA personnel as a potential second round draft pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
But instead of bolting early to pursue a career in the pros, Jack remained loyal yet again with his sights set on leading Rutgers into the Big Ten Conference.
That loyalty has not been so rewarding the second time around.
Plagued by a thumb injury to start the season and inconsistent play, Jack’s season has disappointed with his numbers dropping along with his potential draft stock.
Rutgers is also in the midst of a 12-game losing skid, moving it into a three-way tie for the second-longest losing streak in program history.
Following the Knights’ most recent home game against Indiana Feb. 22, Jack stuck to his usual postgame routine staying on the court well after the game, but his wind sprints appeared to be geared towards punishment rather than improvement.
Jack scored 6 points on 2-of-7 shooting in the 30-point drubbing that night.
But it hasn’t been all bad for the former Rice High School (N.Y.) standout.
Against Penn State on Jan. 24, he played an instrumental part in helping Rutgers earn its first ever Big Ten victory with a double-double.
The following home game eight days later, Jack scored 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting to shock then-No. 4 Wisconsin for the biggest upset in program history.
Having been through every single up and down a senior could possibly experience in a college career, Jack said he has emerged a better man able to deal with adversity.
But while a win on Senior Night Tuesday night against No. 10 Maryland in his final act at the RAC would provide a perfect ending to a wild college career, Jack would rather steer clear of that narrative.
“I just want to win, last night or not,” Jack said. “Every night we go out there it’s to win a game, so that’s really what the focus is on.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow @SeanStewartRU and @TargumSports on Twitter.