Rutgers set for rebound season with new-look roster
With a bolstered roster full of transfers and experience, the Rutgers women's basketball team is looking to improve from last season’s disappointing 6-24 finish that head coach C. Vivian Stringer described as "gut-wrenching."
Stringer is entering her 23rd season at the helm of the Scarlet Knights and currently sits sixth all-time on the list of winningest women’s basketball coaches in the country, with 977 wins, just 23 shy of 1,000.
The storyline coming into this season has to be the talented group of transfers that Rutgers has, all of whom had to sit out last season due to NCAA rules.
These transfers include Kathleen Fitzpatrick, a 3-point specialist from St. Joseph's, Stasha Carey, a 6-foot-3-inch forward from Pitt, who in her sophomore season averaged 9.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, and Caitlin Jenkins, who averaged 12.2 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game in her freshman season at Southern Mississippi.
Of course, the Knights are returning some in-house players as well, and one such player has been a standout ever since her freshman season. Tyler Scaife, the leading scorer for Rutgers, is returning this season after taking a medical redshirt last season.
A three-year starter for the program, Scaife has been a standout scorer, averaging 15.5 points per game while also being the team’s top free-throw shooter.
“Tyler has worked extremely hard, doing everything she possibly can to get back on the court this year. I suspect by midseason she’ll be in true form,” Stringer said.
Fitzpatrick, who adds a much-needed element to the team as a 3-point shooter, may have one of the biggest impacts.
During her sophomore and junior seasons at St. Joe's, she led her team in 3-point shots made as well as in free throw percentage.
“We have some of the best fans in the country here at Rutgers, I can’t wait to play in a Big Ten environment,” she said.
Coming into this season, Stringer is optimistic about the level of talent the team has, but she also recognizes how it might be difficult to deal with so many transfers on the floor together.
“The only problem I think we’re going to have is gelling early on, this is a group who hasn’t played a lot together,” she said.
Out of Stringer’s 46 seasons as a head coach, she has never had a team with this many transfers on it.
And although the team has not played much together, they have been together for more than a year now, and Stringer views that as a huge positive.
“The difference with this group is that the transfers were all here together last season,” Stringer said.
That can go a long way for the team, as the team chemistry, which is crucial to its success, is already very good.
After last season’s disappointing six-win season, the Knights are sure to improve this season, and if one coach is best prepared to handle both the amount of talent and transfers that this team has, it has to be Stringer, the hall of fame coach
The team opens its season on the road on Nov. 10 at James Madison, a team it has considerable issues with in the past. Rutgers welcomed James Madison to Piscataway last season, where the Knights lost in double overtime, 82-76. Rutgers follows its season opener with matchups against Temple and Charlotte, before beginning its home slate against Wake Forest.
Big Ten play starts for the Knights on Dec. 28 at home versus Purdue.
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