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.
Rutgers-St. John’s Set for Gavitt Tip-Off Battle on Thursday
At this stage, Rutgers and St. John’s have a lot in common.
Both are 2-0 on the season.
Both were picked to finish last in their respective conferences – Rutgers in the Big Ten and St. John’s in the Big East.
And both are now coached by legendary former alums who went on to play in the NBA and then were welcomed back by their alma maters as potential saviors.
Now Eddie Jordan and Chris Mullin will go toe-to-toe when the two schools meet Thursday night in a Gavitt Tip-Off Games contest at Carnesecca Arena.
“Eddie was a great player at Rutgers and came back to coach at his school,” Mullin said Wednesay. “He had a long career in the NBA so there are some similarities there [as far as coming back to coach at our alma maters].”
Both coaches are under pressure to restore glory to their alma maters.
Mullin is 2-0 in his first season back on campus, while Jordan is 24-43 in his third.
“I feel like it’s more of a responsibility [to bring the program back to prominence],” Mullin said. “When you are a player there is pressure, but what I did [to lessen that pressure] was get lost in the preparation. Each and every program is at different stages and we understand where we are [right now]. We’re realistic about that so we carved out our game plan to build it.”
One team will come out of the game at 3-0 and feeling pretty good, the other will have taken a hit at the hands of a local rival projected to finish last in its league.
On top of all that, league pride is on the line.
Entering Wednesday’s Illinois-Providence game, the Big Ten leads the Big East, 2-1, in the Gavitt Games, with three more tilts set for Thursday including this one.
“We have Rutgers coming in, a member of the Big Ten, obviously it’s an important game,” St. John’s graduate student Durand Johnsonsaid. “Like we did [in the past two games] to help us get to 2-0, we’re going to focus on the defensive end. [Tomorrow] will definitely be a good test before we head to Maui.”
FREE THROWSShamorie Ponds, St. John’s lone commit in the Class of 2016, signed his NLI on Monday but the school has yet to issue a press release announcing it, sources told SNY.tv. Rutgers is still awaiting its first 2016 commit after guard Kwe Parker decommitted.
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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 whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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.