After seven months since college basketball was canceled due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), it is now time to kick off the 2020-2021 season. The Rutgers men’s basketball team is back and only a couple weeks from its opening game. This year will not be the same as others, but the Scarlet Knights have a new vision and goals for this season.
The team held a virtual Media Day for the public on Friday afternoon where head men's basketball coach Steve Pikiell and his players gave reporters a chance to ask them questions regarding the season, their vision and the social issues facing the nation.
The media day was started by Pikiell when he said, “I am very thankful for our guys that they’ve really done a great job sacrificing and keeping themselves healthy. I am going to miss seeing some of you guys at the RAC (Rutgers Athletic Center).”
Fans will not be allowed at Rutgers basketball games due to Gov. Murphy's (D-N.J.) executive order limiting the amount of people allowed at indoor sporting events.
The players then spoke on what the expectations for the season are and how they have tackled the pandemic and social issues. Senior point guard Geo Baker said, “We are getting all this love in preseason and what matters is what you do during the season. I just want to win so I don’t really care about all that (preseason),” according to The Knight Report.
Baker was selected to the watchlist for the Bob Cousy Award, an award given to the top point guard in college basketball.
Junior forward Ron Harper Jr. was another player who spoke to the media and gave his thoughts about the upcoming season.
“We are all hungry,” Harper Jr. said. "We have a lot of under recruited and underrated guys on this team.” Harper Jr. is entering his third season on the Banks and was selected to the Julius Erving Award Watch List, given to the top forward in college basketball.
One of Pikiell's focuses during the media day was the development of the freshman class through the teachings of the upperclassmen.
"We have a veteran group returning, guys that have logged a lot of minutes," Pikiell said. "We've also added a four-member freshman class, and all four are really exciting young players. We'll need our veterans to lead us through these times and those guys will be ready to do that."
Freshmen forwards Mawot Mag, Oskar Palmquist, Dean Reiber and freshman center Clifford Omoruyi are the four newcomers who look to contribute for the Knights this year. Rutgers had the 40th-ranked recruiting class in the nation, with Omoruyi being one of the top 50 recruits, according to 247Sports.com.
While Pikiell is focused on coaching the Knights this season, he is also working on the future of the program, as he secured the commitments of 2021 recruits Jaden Jones and Jalen Miller this week.
"I couldn't be more excited to get this season started," Pikiell said. "I'm looking forward to an action-packed season. The guys have been working hard and doing a great job navigating all the obstacles. We're getting ready to have an unbelievable season."
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