How did newcomers Corey Sanders and Deshawn Freeman do at the RAC Friday? Video by Jerry Carino
Corey Sanders and Deshawn Freeman are learning to play together as pillars of Eddie Jordan's makeover.
PISCATAWAY This scene repeated over and over during the first Rutgers men’s basketball practice Friday: Corey Sanders driving, drawing a crowd and dishing to Deshawn Freeman.
Get used to it, because they are the pillars of the Scarlet Knights’ offseason makeover.
Sanders, a freshman, is taking the reins as Rutgers’ first true point guard in ages. Freeman, a junior college transfer, is penciled in to start at power forward. Head coach Eddie Jordan paired them for just about every full- and half-court run over the course of three hours.
“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”
Coming off a 10-22 season that ended in a 15-game tailspin, Rutgers has six new faces among its 12 scholarship players, plus a seventh player — forward Ibrahima Diallo — who was ineligible for games last winter.
This is a deeper, longer, more athletic group than Jordan had in his first two years. That should translate into an aggressive pressure defense, and although Jordan won’t commit to a steady diet of pressure yet, the Scarlet Knights spent most of the opening practice on defensive drills.
“Every day we’re defense, defense, defense first,” Sanders said. “You make a bad play on defense, he’s going to call it out. It’s heavy help and don’t let your man get past you — the fundamentals.”
Sanders is comfortable with the ball in his hands, but he had senior guard Bishop Daniels draped on him much of the afternoon. The two are developing some synergy as the prospective starting backcourt.
“Corey brings a lot of energy and he makes you compete,” Daniels said. “It seems like we have a lot more energy this year on both sides of the court.”
Daniels praised Freeman’s work ethic with the ultimate compliment.
“It’s like he’s a hustle man, but he’s not a hustle man because he’s better than that skill-wise,” Daniels said. “He has all the intangibles. He gets it done rebounding, put-backs, blocks, all that.”
Hustle will be key because this does not appear to be a good-shooting team. It wasn’t last year either, and the one marksman in the program — guard Myles Mack — graduated.
“If we could press the ball and get out on teams a lot more, we can score,” Daniels said. “We’re athletic and long. We’ve got the speed. But we’ve got a lot of younger cats so we’re trying to teach the fundamentals more right now.”
Welcome home: Former Rutgers star Quincy Douby was on hand. The All-Big East guard and first-round NBA Draft pick, who enjoyed a fine pro career in China, lives in Monmouth County and is coming off microfracture surgery. He said he’ll be hanging around practice this winter until he finalizes his next overseas gig.
The graduate: Fifth-year center Greg Lewis graduated last spring and is taking grad-level courses now. Although Jordan has not named captains yet, he’ll be one for sure. Along with Daniels he will represent Rutgers at Big Ten Media Day Oct. 15 in Chicago.
Staff writer Jerry Carino: firstname.lastname@example.org.