Smith Center, Chapel Hill
7 p.m., ESPN (Mark Jones on play-by-play, Brad Daugherty on color).
The Scarlet Knights defeated Columbia 60-36 in the opening round of the Preseason NIT Monday ngiht. Senior guard Jerome Coleman scored a game-high 18 points as Rutgers forced Columbia into 27 turnovers (recap/box score). The game was such a mismatch that head coach Gary Waters said his team got little out of the win.
"There's one positive," Waters said. "I literally only did a few things, so Carolina couldn't see all the stuff we have. So that's good. So when we go down there, whatever we want to throw at them, we can."
This season, Rutgers is looking to continue the momentum that was forged in year one of the Gary Waters era when Rutgers fashioned an 18-13 record and earned a berth in the NIT. The Scarlet Knights, who return 75 percent of their scoring from a year ago and 60 percent of their rebounding, possess scoring punch on the perimeter and apply excellent defensive pressure in both the full and halfcourt.
"My teams put a lot of emphasis on defense," Waters said. "We want to be a 94-feet team and we didn't do a whole lot of that last year because we had a lot of half-court players. Now we've added more of what we're looking for."
Rashod Kent, a 6-6, 275-pound defensive force, who averaged 10.5 rebounds per game while earning second-team All-BIG EAST honors, will be hard to replace. Coleman was also an All-BIG EAST selection (honorable mention) last season and is RU's leading returning scorer at 16.8 ppg. One of the BIG EAST's top newcomers a year ago, Coleman led the BIG EAST in three-point field goals made (3.75/game).
"We knew he was a great shooter," Waters said. "What I didn't know that he provided for us was, he didn't give you a step on defense. He can defend. You mix that in there with scoring, it's hard to find a guy who can do both."
Joining Coleman in the backcourt is 6-2 junior point guard Mike Sherrod who is coming off a solid sophomore campaign where he averaged 8.6 ppg. and a team-best 4.0 assists per outing. An improving jump-shooter, Sherrod is one of the BIG EAST's top ball-handlers and is a terrific on-the-ball defender. Sophomore swingman Ricky Shields, a tremendous 6-4 athlete, averaged 11.5 ppg. last season and earned BIG EAST Rookie of the Week honors three times. Bolstering the Scarlet Knight backcourt is freshman Calvin Wooten, a smooth 6-1 guard who led the rugged Detroit Public School League in scoring as a senior, averaging 26.5 points per game.
Herve Lamizana, a multi-skilled 6-10, 215-pound forward, showed flashes of brilliance last season. Lamizana nearly had a triple-double in RU's exhibition win over The One-World All-Stars, with 16 points, 10 blocks and nine rebounds. Sean Axani, a 6-8 junior forward, started the final eight games of last season and gained 10 starts in all a year ago. RU also returns athletic 6-9 sophomore forward Jason McCoy. Supplying inside muscle on both ends of the court are senior Kareem Wright and freshman Adrian Hill. The 6-9, 270-pound Wright dropped 50 pounds while undergoing a rigorous strength and conditioning program this off-season.
"He's made a commitment and that's all it had to take," Waters said of Wright, who attended the prestigious Pete Newell camp this summer. "Now he sees himself as a lead player and he's worked to get ready for it."
Hill was an All-State choice at prep powerhouse McKinley HS in Canton, OH. Also looking to make an impact in the Scarlet Knight lineup are 6-7 freshman forward Cortez Davis, 6-3 sophomore guard Juel Wiggan, and 6-9 junior forward/center Harry Good.
Background Location: New Brunswick, N.J. Enrollment: 28,070 Conference: Big East Nickname: Scarlet Knights Colors: Scarlet & White Head Coach: Gary Waters Record at PSU: 18-13 Last year Record: 18-13 Conference record: 8-8, 5th West Postseason: Lost in NIT 1st round Key personnel losses: Rashod Kent (6-6 PF) – 10.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg Eugene Dabney (6-10 C) – 5.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg Probable Starting Lineup: Mike Sherrod (6-2, G, Jr.) – 8.6 ppg, 4.0 apg Jerome Coleman (6-2, G, Sr.) – 16.8 ppg Ricky Shields (6-4, G, So.) – 11.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg Herve Lamizana (6-10, F, Jr.) – 6.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.7 bpg Kareem Wright (6-9, C, Sr.) – 2.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg Key Reserves: Sean Axani (6-8, F, Jr.) – 3.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg Calvin Wooten (6-1, G, Fr.) – First season Jason McCoy (6-9, F, Fr.) – First season Juel Wiggan (6-3, G, So.) – 2.4 ppg, 2.0 rpgPhoto Gallery
Jerome Coleman ... Ricky Shields
Mike Sherrod ... Herve Lamizana
Kareem Wright ... Gary Waters
(Photos by Allsport and the AP. Rutgers Sports Info contributed to this report.)