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Tuesday / August 21.
  • Rutgers’ Rice Excited About Carter, Young Guard Mix

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    **This story was updated on April 28 once Eli Carter signed his NLI**

    TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — Mike Rice and the Rutgers basketball program were dealt not one, but two harsh blows when they lost both Tyree Graham and Mike Taylor in recent weeks.

    Graham suffered an Achilles’ injury and Taylor is headed to prep school. It remains an open question whether either will ever suit up for Rutgers.

    “I’ve lost two guards in the lost month,” Rice said Tuesday night at the Haggerty Awards dinner at the Westchester Marriott.

    The good news for Rutgers — which finished 15-17, 5-13 in the Big East last season — is that Eli Carter signed his Letter of Intent Tuesday and the Scarlet Knights have a nice mix of talented young guards coming in.

    Along with Carter, the incoming Rutgers class includes Myles Mack, Jerome Seagears and Malick Kone, all of whom could contribute right away.

    “You have four or five players that are going to fight for playing time, very talented young players,” Rice said. “Are they alike? Yeah, and that’s why I think we’re going to win. They can all go off the dribble. They can all shoot. They can all pass. They can all defend. And so when you have that, you have luxuries, you have options and weapons.”

    Rice has always preferred using a group of similarly skilled guards who can space out the floor, dating back to his time at St. Joe’s, Pittsburgh and Robert Morris.

    “Before I got to St. Joe’s, there was Jameer [Nelson] and Delonte [West],” he said. “At Robert Morris, we played three guys under 6-foot, so I like playing with guys that have similar skills, that have good skills, so I think it’s a great problem to have when you have a lot of guys at that position.”

    In Carter, Rutgers gets a New Jersey native who won the biggest game of his career two years ago at the RAC when St. Anthony beat Paterson Catholic in the North Non-Public B final. Ironically, that win came against Mack and current St. Anthony junior Kyle Anderson. Carter has honed his skills this past season at prep powerhouse Brewster (N.H.) Academy under coach Jason Smith.

    “To add a versatile and play-making guard to our incoming class is a big plus for our program,” Rice said April 28. “Eli has the ability to make plays in the open floor. Having competed for Coach [Bob] Hurley at Saint Anthony, Eli fits our style of switching defenses very well. He also played at Brewster Academy with five other high major signees, so he knows when to give the ball up and when to take over. Just like the rest of our class, Eli is a competitor. He is used to winning and he will do what it takes to help Rutgers be successful.”

    “Sports University and I are very proud that Eli Carter is joining a great coach and program at the state University,” St. Anthony assistant and Sports U coach Eric Harrield said. “We know he will be pushed to the highest level both on and off the court.”

    Rice is also bringing in winners.

    Brewster went 31-3 this past season, and Mack and St. Anthony finished a perfect 33-0 to win the mythical national championship after knocking off previously unbeaten St. Patrick.

    “Even Jerome Seagears, this class has all won,” Rice said. “And so it’s exciting because hopefully they bring that same mentality into Rutgers…To break really the culture of losing, you bring some of these guys in who are just used to winning and doing whatever it takes to win.”

    Rutgers returns guards Austin Carroll and Mike Poole and wing Dane Miller, all of whom will be pushed and tested by the new guys. Rice said he’s looking for Miller to take a big leap in his junior season after averaging 9.2 points and 6.1 rebounds.

    “He needs to take more of a leadership role on and take more of an offensive role on at some points and times,” Rice said. “I think he’s improving his jump shot. He’s improving his handle and that’s the next process in his development. He’s certainly doing very well in our postseason workouts.”

    In the frontcourt, 6-10 Kadeem Jack has been on campus since January and will be joined by 6-9 forwards Greg Lewis and Derrick Randall.

    They figure to complement and compete with current freshmen Gilvydas Biruta and Austin Johnson.

    “It’s called competition, it’s called every day improving against somebody who you’re kind of competing with,” Rice said. “I was at Pitt. That’s how Pitt develops because every day the practices are more difficult than games. There’s certainly playing time for the new guys coming in, but as I told Austin and Gilvydas and Kadeem, as long as you do what you’re capable of doing, you’re going to play minutes.

    “And so I like it. In the Big East to win, you have to have depth. You have to have several options. And if somebody’s not doing it, you have to turn to somebody else.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, 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.