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Team must keep crucial players despite abysmal coaching

Opinion Column: The Morant

Let's be honest, it has been a rough couple of decades for the Rutgers men's basketball team. It has now been 25 years since the team made the NCAA Tournament, also known as "March Madness."

Looking forward, it does not seem all that bright for the program. It may be quite some time before they even get back in the National Invitation Tournament.

Of late, things are beginning to look even bleaker because of the team’s performance in Big Ten play, as well as non-conference play this season.

Fans are quick to blame Eddie Jordan, as they should, due to how pathetic this team looks when it's on the court, as well as the lack of recruiting he has done.

Other than securing Corey Sanders, an ESPN Top 100 recruit, he has not done much in that department. Obviously, recruiting is what separates the good teams from the bad. After losing Kwe Parker to the University of Tennessee earlier this year, it has completely killed this year's class, which until last week had zero recruits.

While Rutgers does plan on upgrading facilities and building a practice facility, it will not start for a few more years and will not attract recruits in the immediate future. The saying, “If you build it, they will come,” applies here. When you look around the Big Ten and see all of the money the other schools spend on their athletic programs and facilities, and then compare it to the Louis Brown Athletic Center, it leaves little for the Rutgers fan to question. The difference is that big, and it is no wonder recruits prefer the nice and shiny arenas that actually fill up every game, no matter the opponent. This goes hand in hand with Rutgers failing to build a culture around its athletic programs.

Since arriving on the Banks after the Mike Rice incident in 2013, Jordan has led the Knights to a combined record of 28-56, including a 2-22 Big Ten conference record. There has not been too much to get excited about other than their upset of No. 4 Wisconsin last season, followed by 15 straight losses.

Jordan seems to be a shell of the man who coached in the National Basketball Association, specifically his tenure with the Washington Wizards from 2003 to 2009, where he made the playoffs in four straight seasons.

The hope was that he could bring that experience from the NBA level and translate it to his former school, but he has not yet been able to produce even decent results.

Sports Illustrated deemed Rutgers the worst men's basketball team in the country at the Bowl Championship Series level. This means that they are ranked behind 287 other schools at 288. In a conference so valued like the Big Ten, especially in basketball, this is unacceptable.

It's never a good thing when Monmouth University is basically 100 times more popular than the State University because of their bench and excellent play exceeding expectations this season.

This season, Rutgers basketball has been decimated by injuries. It's definitely a valid excuse when you are missing three of your five biggest bodies for most of the season.

Deshawn Freeman, arguably the team’s best player before he went down, is officially out for the year. Shaquille Doorson hasn't played a single game, and most likely will not for the rest of the season. Ibrahima Diallo is out indefinitely. Johnathan Laurent has not played in the last four games. The injuries have definitely hurt the team’s competitiveness this season. Couple the injuries with the fact that only two players, DJ Foreman and Greg Lewis, are taller than 6-feet-8 inches and have played consistently against tall competition, it is no wonder why the Knights have lost their last five games by more than 20 points, as well as a 50-point blowout at home against Purdue, the largest home defeat in program history.

As of now, with new Athletic Director Patrick Hobbs in charge, Jordan may only have one more year to try and turn around the program to show some promise, and if not he will be gone, with Hobbs bringing in his own guy.

If there is one positive to look at going forward, it will be a healthy trio of Corey Sanders, Kansas State University transfer Nigel Johnson and Deshawn Freeman next season to spark this team and show much more improvement under Jordan.

When, not if, Jordan is fired, it will be crucial to keep Corey Sanders at Rutgers. Because the day, if it were to come, that he transferred, the program would be set way back once again, and that is something it simply can't afford.

Ryan Moran is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and economics. His column, “The Morant,” runs on alternate Fridays.


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