Rutgers’ jump on the competition may actually pay off

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Maybe there is hope for Rutgers basketball.

The school that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1991 and hasn’t won at the Big Dance since 1983 made strides in its first year under coach Mike Rice. The offense showed signs of life and the defense had its moments.

Still, the bottom-line wasn’t much different than the Fred Hill era. Rutgers was 15-17 overall and won just five Big East games.

So why might 2011-12 be any different? The heralded incoming class is getting a head start.

Six of Rutgers’ incoming recruits – Myles Mack, Jerome Seagears, Eli Carter, Greg Lewis, Derrick Randall and Malick Kone – are playing together in the Jersey Shore Basketball League. Also on the team are junior Austin Johnson, sophomore Austin Carroll and transfer Wally Judge, which means the Knights have nine guys learning each other’s strengths, weaknesses and styles months before most teams usually see the court.

(NCAA rules limit two players from the same team on the same summer team roster, but that doesn’t apply to freshmen.)

It’s all recapped here by Newark Star-Ledger reporter Brendan Prunty, who writes that despite the team’s non-winning ways (insert Rutgers joke here), the guys are loving every minute of the summer. Same with Rice.

“It was a no-brainer,” Rice told Prunty. “You don’t usually get this. To get all of them together and play against older guys and guys who have played Division 1 or overseas and know how to play. I knew they were going to take their bumps — especially in this league.”

The only downside is that incoming power forward Kadeem Jack, along with likely starters Dane Miller and Gilvydas Biruta aren’t with the group.

It’s probably too much to expect a significant bump in 2011-12. The next season seems more likely when guys like Mack, Jack and Seagears can make that sophomore leap and Miller will be the lone senior. Then we’ll see if Rutgers basketball can ever win again.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Florida Gulf Coast’s Demetris Morant out 3-4 months

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Florida Gulf Coast redshirt junior forward Demetris Morant is expected to miss the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery last week to repair a stress fracture in his right shin, the school announced on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 4.5 points, 4.4 blocks and 1.3 blocks per game in 33 appearances (18 starts) for the Eagles during the 2014-15 season.

“This is obviously an unfortunate setback for Demetris, but it was a procedure that needed to be done,” Florida Gulf Coast head coach Dooley said in a statement. “We decided it would be best to have it completed now to hopefully get him back for A-Sun play. It’s an opportunity now for other guys to step up in his absence, and I have confidence they’ll get the job done.”

The Eagles have the top frontline in the Atlantic Sun, one that returns Marc-Eddy Norelia and Filip Cvjeticanin, a 3-point shooter who missed all of last season recovering from back surgery. VCU transfer Antravious Simmons becomes eligible in the second semester.

Florida Gulf Coast begins the 2015-16 season on Nov. 14 against Ohio.

Bill Self on Cheick Diallo: ‘It may be a couple of more weeks’

2015 McDonald's All American Game
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Cheick Diallo is currently practicing with Kansas, but his eligibility still remains in question.

On Monday, Kansas head coach Bill Self appeared on “The Border Patrol” on WHB-AM 810 and was asked to update the status of his freshman big man.

“He’s been cleared to practice,” Self told hosts Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty. “(His status) is depending on what they find throughout from the information we submit to them whenever we get it all together.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it all be together?’ Well there’s a lot of reasons why. It’s because they told us recently some things that they just wanted. Instead of just throwing it to them piece by piece, they requested we to just submit it all together, so it may be a couple of more weeks before we’re able to submit everything when you’re talking about getting information from schools in Mali and everything like that.

“But we hope in two weeks, maybe three weeks, before we have a definite answer. But right now, Cheick is like everybody else. He’s practicing.”

Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward from Mali is allowed to practice with the Jayhawks, but has been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center despite enrolling in classes over the summer and earning six credits. Self anticipated this would be a long process, but has remained confident Diallo, the top-5 recruit in Class of 2015, will eventually be cleared to play this season.

For three years, Diallo attended Our Savior New American School in Centereach, New York, which is currently under NCAA review. In September, Pitt freshman Damon Wilson, Diallo’s teammate at OSNA, was cleared to play.

Kansas opens the season on Nov. 13 against Northern Colorado.