It is a very emotional day for me watching JR Inman play his last college game at the RAC this afternoon. Wow how time fly's. I still remember JR walking into the gym at The Richard Rodda Center in Teaneck, NJ as a 9th grader from St. Joe's of Montvalle. Shayle Keating Sr., Billy Gilbert (Ex NYC Star and SJU Player), Jon Cano, Allison Davis, and I greeted him with open arms along with other 9th graders including Antonio Pena who plays for Villanova.
JR walked in with huge baggy shorts and black dress socks. It was funny looking at his skinny legs in those black dress socks. I still remember Miles Orman, who went on to Marist dunking on him and the entire gym started laughing. I remember stopping the action to tell everyone including the parents in attendance that this kid, who was dunked on, would be special one day and would be recruited by multiple big name programs. Folks thought I was crazy! I knew what I was talking about based on past experience. Did he pick where Jon Cano and I thought he should go and develop? NO!! But that was his decision and he and his parents wanted him to play close to home for a family man who would provide family values as much as basketball development. I cannot argue with that because Gary Waters seemed to really work hard on establishing a Rutgers Basketball Family. Was I a huge GW fan? Not really although I did respect him and admired his tenacity in getting JR, Farmer, and Griffin, I also thought he was a very good coach! My problem was I just did not feel Rutgers was a basketball school where JR could slowly develop into a very good player based on strength and conditioning, facilities, and more. But JR wanted Rutgers and even reminded me of what I always preached to him and other young guys, "go where you are loved and not where you are just wanted."
Going back to his HS career I knew he had tremendous potential if he played for a coach that believed in him. JR is the type of kid that needs to know he is loved and appreciated or he could shut down. Saw him excel in HS outplaying even Gerald Henderson and Wayne Ellison in a HS game where he destroyed both guys and their team. Even they are stunned with what has happened to JR. But is all good and he will be fine once the season is over I am sure.
When Fred Hill was hired as Associate Head Coach at Rutgers It was a good day for me because I had known and REALLY LIKED Freddy for many years. He was a favorite of my entire family and many other families I know. When Gary Waters was fired, it was a good and bad day. I was very happy for Freddy, contrary to what some might think. But very upset at the way Gary Waters was treated by what I felt was a good ole boy network guy in the RU AD. I was pissed and felt that was not the way to get Fred a HC job. He, in my opinion needed to be with Gary Waters for at least 3 more years to fully understand what goes into being a head coach on the BE level while continuing Gary's Family atmosphere. Gary was treated wrongly and most know this and that put pressure on FHJ much more than it should have.
Will Fred be successful? Time will tell but one thing for sure is he needs to really work on management and player development as much as coaching. I would say in time he will be very good and he will learn from the mistakes he has made including the way he handled FIG and other upperclassmen. Every game he coaches he will be better than the game he coached the week before. He will not hold grudges and learn as a bigtime coach that folks will always have an opinion about you good or bad. He and his assistants will also learn that they need poker faces and need to watch what they say to players about ex coaches, advisors, etc. Those coaches will also watch what they say to AAU types, HS Coaches, and others because the circle is very small in NYC and NJ basketball. TRUST ME!
Well JR and his Sr. Teammates never imagined they would go through what they have this season. Not as much the record, but the lack of playing time and a feeling that they were not needed nor really wanted. Sad situation despite them often not playing up to expectations. Mike Brey at ND gets the most out of kids because he makes the
13th man feel special. I have watched him sit with walk-on's parents for 30 minutes prior to practice having a discussion. It is no secrete why people and players love him. JR and his friends probably never received that feeling and as I mentioned earlier, kids need to feel wanted, needed, and believed in.
So I say to JR and Farmer and Griffin, you guys are completing what you started and though you have not gone to the basketball promised land, you have done your best and most likely 85% of the RU fans appreciate you. And those who knock you are most likely guys who never even played Freshmen basketball in high school. I would bet a dollar to a nickel Gary Waters called or will call each of them prior to the game today. Lastly, after the last game you play in the BE Tournament, a new chapter in your lives start. Learn from your mistakes but focus on the future and put the past behind you. It will be the first day of the rest of your lives!