Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
It appears possible that 6-9 St. Benedict’s big man Greg Echenique could suit up for Rutgers as early as this coming fall.
Echenique committed to Rutgers last month, initially planning on enrolling in the fall of 2009. Yet St. Benedict’s coach Danny Hurley recently learned that Echenique had completed a year of high school in Venezuela prior to coming to the U.S. That piece of information also came as news to Rutgers head coach Fred Hill. Thus, Echenique would be competing for the St. Benedict’s fifth-year prep team next season, not the varsity team which last year finished 24-1 and was ranked No. 2 in the nation in several polls.
Instead of doing that, Echenique, who averaged 11.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks, may simply enroll at Rutgers.
“There’s no truth to it,” Hurley said Friday by phone. “Greg plans on coming back for a fifth year.”
Yet we may not have heard the end of this saga. St. Benedict’s has five players committed to Division I schools: seniors Samardo Samuels (Louisville) and Scott Machado (Iona); juniors Echenique (Rutgers) and Tamir Jackson (UA; and sophomore Tristan Thompson (Texas). Yet the prep team is not as enticing an option.
And Hurley himself is a finalist for the Marist job.
If Echenique does come to Rutgers this fall, he would join a three-man recruiting class that includes McDonald’s All-American Mike Rosario of St. Anthony; 6-6 Brooklyn Boys & Girls SF Pat Jackson; and 6-8 South Kent (Conn.) center Christian Morris.
If the Scarlet Knights bring in Echenique and Morris to complement sophomore center Hamady N’Diaye and junior forward JR Inman, they would actually have some bulk, depth and skill in a frontcourt that was simply overmanned last season when Rutgers finished 11-19, 3-15 in the Big East.
In Rosario and Echenique, Rutgers would also be bringing in two players from the top two programs not only in the state, but in the nation as well. St. Anthony and St. Benedict’s finished 1-2 in several major national polls, including the USA Today Super 25 and the ESPN High Elite 25.
Echenique and his parents, Jose and Maria, decided on Rutgers after visiting in late March.
“Since I came to this country with my parents, I felt a connection with the coaching staff,” Echenique said then. “They were the first school to offer me a scholarship and they have been there watching me develop throughout my high school career.
“Coach Hill and Coach (Jimmy) Carr have always been there for me. They are people that I have been able to develop a great relationship with, and depend on as mentors. A big part of my decision was the belief that Coach Hill and his staff have in me to help them take the program to a higher level. The future is bright at Rutgers and I look forward to being a member of the school community.
“By going to St. Benedict’s Prep, New Jersey has become a second home to me. I want other players to believe in Rutgers the way I do. What has always impressed me about the RAC and the Rutgers fans is that they love the basketball team and are supportive whatever the circumstances. Coach Hill and his staff and have convinced me and my family that the balance of academics and athletics is a perfect fit for me. In the long run, what convinced me most was not the fact that they play in the Big East or the facilities, but it was the people who make up the program.”
Echenique is the first player from St. Benedict’s to pick Rutgers during Hurley’s seven-year tenure at the school.
“This is a big recruit because of the other schools involved with him, Duke, Maryland, Villanova,” recruiting analyst Tom Konchalski of the High School Basketball Insider said. “The symbolism of getting a Greg Echenique even exceeds his tangible contribution on the court. It shows that Rutgers can be successful within the state. This is a major recruit for them.”
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.