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.
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NEW YORK — The future Rutgers backcourt was on display Sunday in the iS8/Nike Spring Classic when Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears went head-to-head in the quarterfinals.
Down the stretch, Mack took the game over by driving and slicing to the basket for several critical layups as he led the Playaz back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to a 75-73 victory over the New York Panthers. He finished with 26 points on 11 of 17 shooting, 3 blocks and 1 assist.
Seagears, who was not on the floor during the game’s final minutes, ended with 10 points.
“We were talking a little but, but it can’t be too much conversation at the time because we’re going against each other,” Mack said. “When we [are] playing with each other, it’s all love. But for now I gotta go at his head like he’s a stranger.”
Next up for Mack and the Playaz is a semifinal date Saturday with a Real Scout team that could feature as many as four St. John’s signees. Maurice Harkless and JaKarr Sampson could be joined by Texas guard D’Angelo Harrison and California center Norvel Pelle.
The 5-foot-10 Mack and the 6-1 Seagears are part of an incoming Rutgers recruiting class ranked among the Top 15 nationally. Both play the point. Both are somewhat undersized. Yet both are tremendous competitors who come from winning programs.
They will be joined in the backcourt by Eli Carter, a 6-2 combo guard from New Jersey who signed during the late period.
“It’s going to be crazy,” said Mack, who led St. Anthony to the New Jersey Tournament of Champions title and a mythical national championship. “Me, him [Seagears], Eli, it’s going to be crazy next year. We just gotta wait and see what’s gonna happen.”
Rutgers coach Mike 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.
“You have four or five players that are going to fight for playing time, very talented young players,” Rice said last month, including incoming shooting guard Malick Kone in the group as well. “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.”
Added Mack: “We [Mack and Seagears] both can get in the lane, [we are] explosive. He can shoot, I can shoot. It’s very similar. Eli, he’s a combo guard that can get to the basket whenever he wants. He can shoot it, too.”
Playaz coach Jimmy Salmon has known Mack his entire life and got a chance to see him take on Seagears man-to-man.
“It was fun for both for them,” he said. “They chose to guard each other, which is not normal nowadays. Usually guys shy away from that. They’re both talented and I think Mike’s going to be blessed at the point guard spot for four years.”
Though Seagears was benched down the stretch because of some uneven offensive play, Salmon described him as an “excellent player, great IQ, really good shooter, strong. I think they’ve got some pieces there at Rutgers now.”
Seagears, a Washington, D.C., native, had beaten Mack in their only other meeting last summer in Arizona, but he’s looking forward to joining Mack at Rutgers.
He said both players shared “that competitiveness, a will to run the team, being unselfish and also being able to take over in spurts.”
Seagears also got a chance to speak with Carter Saturday at iS8.
Seagears said it’s good to have multiple point guards “so you can be strong at the one and the two position, so you can have depth. Definitely in the Big East, when you can have depth that’s a big plus.”
As for Rutgers’ future potential, Seagears called it “a quiet monster and it’s about to be arriving in these upcoming years.”
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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.