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Rutgers men's basketball hosts open summer practice

The Rutgers men's basketball team begins its road to the 2022-23 season with its first summer practice as the team looks to replace two program legends and get back to the NCAA Tournament. – Photo by Rutgers Basketball / Twitter

A little more than halfway through the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s summer practice, senior guard Paul Mulcahy called for a huddle. The noise of bouncing balls, clapping coaches, talking teammates and squeaking sneakers took a second of reprieve as teammates linked arms together to hear Mulcahy’s quick motivational speech. A minute or so later, hands were together, and the players broke the huddle to go shoot free throws.

“We're really connected right now, communicating on a high level," Mulcahy said. "This group really loves basketball." With former Scarlet Knights Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. leaving the program and fifth-year senior guard Caleb McConnell spending some time in his home of Jacksonville, Florida, Mulcahy has become the elder statesman in the locker room during these summer practices. 

While many fans might focus on the absences of Baker and Harper, the summer practice showcased a team that is versatile, hungry and ready to create a new identity to achieve success under head coach Steve Pikiell, who is entering his seventh season on the Banks.

One of the younger guys that showed out during practice was freshman guard Derek Simpson. Many have compared him to Baker as he plays the game similarly and even wears Baker’s number zero. “(The comparisons are) cool to have," Simpson said. "It's cool to get compared to a great that came out of here.”

A standout during practice was sophomore guard Jalen Miller. Early in practice, the 6-foot-2 Miller blew up a screen from junior center Clifford Omoruyi, toppling the big man in the process. A few minutes later on, in a one-on-one scoring drill, Miller chose to defend Mulcahy. Mulcahy tried a couple of moves to relieve the pressure from Miller before failing and deciding to go hard to the paint for a layup, getting blocked in the process.

Miller also hit consistent mid-range shots during Pikiell’s shooting drill, something he has admitted to working on over the offseason. “I really have been working on my shot just because I know how much my game can go to the next level just based on my ability to knock down open shots consistently,” Miller said.

“I felt like (we had) a real need for shooting the ball, and I knew he can do that at the highest level ... The more film I watched, the more I really liked him,” said Pikiell on new transfer senior guard Cam Spencer. Spencer showcased his shooting prowess in practice, barely missing any shots during Pikiell’s shooting drills.

On the fastbreak drills, Spencer played with great offensive intensity. “We're pretty motivated to not only get (to the NCAA Tournament) but advance as far as we can," Spencer said. "I'm a competitive guy. I want to help the team win in any way that I can.”

It's been a great group to work with,” Pikiell said about the team's offseason practice. "It gives us a chance to try some different things and learn a lot about our team."

For more updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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