Key Losses: G Manny Quezada (2.8 ppg, 0.5 apg), G Ricky Shields (13.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.5 apg), G Juel Wiggan (6.2 ppg, 2.4 apg)
Millville, NJ/St. Augustine's Prep
Grand Blanc, MI/Grand Blanc Community
Manchester, NJ/Manchester Regional
Canton, OH/Medical Redshirt 2004-05
Pomona, NY/St. Joseph's(NJ) Regional
Fayetteville, NC/Transfer from Hampton
Inman, a lithe forward, looks to be the jewel in Waters‚ four-player freshman class, although he needs to bulk up. Farmer will see plenty of time in the backcourt after Rutgers lost three guards. For now, he's the only true point guard on the roster. Griffin adds athleticism to the frontcourt mix, while Gibson needs to hit the weight room before becoming a major contributor. Russell averaged 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds as a sophomore at Hampton in 2003-04.
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The most significant personnel move that fifth-year head coach Gary Waters made in the offseason didn't affect his roster. But it should in the years to come.
Frustrated by a last-place finish in the Big East last season and mediocre recruiting his first three seasons, Waters hired Fred Hill, one of the nation's top recruiters, as his associate head coach. Hill had been Jay Wright's top assistant at Villanova, where he helped the Wildcats land a class that was ranked in the top five nationally four years ago. That group led the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 last March.
Prior to that, Hill, while an assistant at Seton Hall, played a key role in the Pirates' top-rated recruiting class of 2000. "He knows where the talent is, and he knows how to get it," Waters says. "He has a track record of success."
Ironically, Waters managed to attract what looks to be his best class yet at Rutgers prior to Hill's arrival in the spring. Three of the four freshmen prepped in New Jersey, and all three are expected to play a significant role right away.
After scraping by with just four frontcourt players last year -- two of them freshmen, one a junior college transfer -- Waters will have some flexibility with his big men this year.
The most significant addition could be the return of junior Adrian Hill, an athletic forward who missed all of last season after having reconstructive knee surgery. Hill, who averaged 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds during the 2003-04 season, is expected back
"He gives us everything we were missing last year -- athleticism, rebounding, inside scoring and experience in the frontcourt," Waters says.
Slender freshman forward JR Inman, the most heralded recruit Waters has landed at Rutgers, is versatile enough, at 6-foot-9, to play inside or outside. He was rated a top 100 player nationally by most scouting services.
All four frontcourt players from last year return as well. Sophomore forward Ollie Bailey earned Big East All-Rookie honors despite tailing off at the end of the year because of a lack of supporting help. Center Byron Joynes, who struggled in a starting role last year, could be better off now that he won't have to log so many minutes. Joynes finished as Rutgers' top rebounder but was plagued by foul trouble and inconsistency on offense.
Frank Russell, a 6-11 transfer from Hampton, will help Joynes as a spot backup. Reserves Jimmie Inglis and Dan Waterstradt provide solid depth -- enough that Waters now has the option of redshirting 6-10, 215-pound freshman Zack Gibson.
Jaron Griffin, another freshman, will provide athleticism off the bench -- something the Knights sorely lacked last season.
The return of leading scorer Quincy Douby, after rumors swirled that he might transfer at the end of the season, gives Rutgers a bona fide scorer and 3-point shooter. He closed strong after slumping in January and February, averaging 18.3 points over the final six games. Forced to play the point last year, Douby will be able to slide back to shooting guard more often with the arrival of freshman point guard Anthony Farmer.
Waters makes no secret about the job being Farmer's for the taking.
"The door is open for him," Waters says. "He has the opportunity to start. It's up to him."
If Farmer does win the job, the dominoes would fall into place, with Douby at shooting guard and Marquis Webb at the swing position. Webb also was pressed into duty as a point guard last year in what was clearly an unnatural fit. At 6-5, he has proved to be one of the league's top defenders and is capable of guarding perimeter players of all sizes.
Depth will be a problem due to the loss of seniors Ricky Shields and Juel Wiggan and the premature departure of Manny Quezada, who transferred to the University of San Francisco.
With an infusion of promising talent and the addition of Hill, Rutgers will be a much better team this season. The problem is, the Big East has more depth and quality than ever before with the additions of Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, DePaul and South Florida. Reaching the Big East Tournament -- the top 12 finishers in the 16-team league qualify -- seems like a reasonable goal.