WATCH NOW - Media Day Interview with Mike Coburn
The Big Picture: New coach Mike Rice takes over the Scarlet Knight program. Rice comes from Robert Morris where he led the Colonials to a 73-31 record in his three-year tenure there. He was named Northeast Conference Coach of the Year in two of those seasons. This past year, he led his team to the NCAA Championship where Robert Morris lost an overtime decision to Villanova in the first round. Rice will have only five scholarship players and not much size on his first Rutgers team. He has preached that defense will be a top priority as he builds the Rutgers program.
Who’s Back: Forward Jonathan Mitchell returns for his senior season after averaging 11.8 points and 6.1 rebounds. A transfer from Florida, he was the only Scarlet Knight to start all 32 games last season. Mitchell, who can score from the perimeter and be effective near the basket, also was the top RU player from the free throw line, making 89.4 percent. Forward Dane Miller was one of the BIG EAST’s top freshmen last season. He became a starter midway through the season and finished with a 9.2 scoring mark and a 5.9 rebounding average. He was a unanimous pick for the BIG EAST All-Rookie Team. Guards Mike Coburn and James Beatty, a pair of seniors, are back after part-time starting duty last year. Coburn, a combo guard, averaged 6.6 points and 3.3 assists. Beatty, whose playing time increased as the season progressed, is more of a true point guard. He averaged 5.5 points and 3.6 assists. Six-eight sophomore forward Austin Johnson averaged 2.6 points and 2.1 boards while playing 11.0 minutes per game. Guards Mike Kuhn and Charlie Rigoglioso, a transfer from Moravian, will provide depth in the backcourt.
Who’s Missing: The Scarlet Knights lost guard Mike Rosario, the team’s top scorer in each of the past two seasons, who transferred. Forward Gregory Echenique transferred at midseason after averaging 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds. Center Hamady Ndiaye was named Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. An NBA draft choice, he had a league-high 145 blocked shots while posting averages of 9.4 points and 7.1 rebounds. Reserve forward Patrick Jackson (2.4, 1.6) also transferred.
Storylines: With only five scholarship players on the roster, Rice will give four newcomers plenty of opportunities to contribute right away. Gilvydas Biruta is a 6-8 freshman with a reputation as a strong perimeter shooter. Freshman Austin Carroll will press for duty at shooting guard. Guard Tyree Graham is a high-scoring junior college transfer who began his career at Texas Tech. Swingman Mike Poole and forward Frank Mitchell bring all-around skills.