Kadeem Jack

Kadeem Jack, Myles Mack

Seniors Myles Mack, Kadeem Jack lead Rutgers past No. 4 Wisconsin

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Even with Frank Kaminsky ruled out for Sunday’s game at Rutgers, the general consensus was that No. 4 Wisconsin had enough to take care of business and remain undefeated in Big Ten play. And through 20 minutes that assumption looked to be accurate, with the Badgers taking a 35-23 lead into the half after shooting nearly 47 percent from the field and making six more field goals (15-9) than the Scarlet Knights.

During one stretch Wisconsin made five straight field goals, going on a 12-4 run to expand their lead to 12 points with 6:13 remaining in the half.

But things changes in the second half, with Rutgers seniors Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack taking over and the Badgers losing point guard Traevon Jackson to a right foot injury. Final score: Rutgers 67, Wisconsin 62 with the Badgers being the highest-ranked team the Scarlet Knights have ever beaten, surpassing Rutgers’ win over No. 6 West Virginia in 1982.

While many will point to the absence of Kaminsky and Jackson’s injury as the reasons why Rutgers won, thus meaning that this shouldn’t be considered an upset, keep in mind that Rutgers had already lost home games to Northwestern, Saint Francis (PA) and Saint Peter’s prior to Sunday. Eddie Jordan’s team did have a conference win under its belt, as they beat Penn State, but this is quite the boost for a program that truly needed it in their first season as a member of the Big Ten.

Mack, who shot 4-for-5 from three and scored 19 points in the second half, finished with 21 and Jack added 20 as he thoroughly outplayed Sam Dekker. Dekker finished the game with just four points and two rebounds, an outing the Badgers could not afford given how shorthanded they were. Nigel Hayes led the way with 15 points and ten rebounds, but as a team Wisconsin looked lost at times offensively with Jackson in the locker room being attended to.

But even with the impact of Jackson’s injury, Rutgers deserves credit for not allowing the visitors to get back into the groove they were in during the first half.

By comparison Rutgers shot 66.7% from the field in the second half, scoring 44 points in what represents the highest-scoring half the Badgers have allowed since No. 2 Duke scored 45 in the second half of their 80-70 win in Madison on December 3.

Being shorthanded certainly didn’t help Wisconsin’s cause Sunday night. But the same can be said for their inability to slow down Rutgers after keeping them in check (relatively speaking, as Rutgers shot 41 percent) for most of the first half. As a result, Eddie Jordan’s program has its first major win as a member of the Big Ten.

Rutgers’ Kadeem Jack scores 13 points in first action of the season

Kadeem Jack, Chris Hooper, Antonio Jenifer
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Last Sunday, Rutgers fell at home to George Washington in a game that went about as expected by many. The Colonials are coming off of a 2013-14 season in which they reached the NCAA tournament, and the Scarlet Knights are in the midst of a rebuilding project while also making the move to the Big Ten.

Also working against Rutgers that night was the fact that Kadeem Jack, who is the team’s best front court player, was out with a thumb injury. Jack made his 2014-15 regular season debut Sunday night and Rutgers needed him, as he accounted for 13 points, five rebounds and three assists in the Scarlet Knights’ 76-73 win over St. Francis-Brooklyn.

Jack was one of three Rutgers players to finish in double figures, with senior guard Myles Mack scoring 25 points to go along with eight steals and six rebounds to lead the way. The return of Mack helps the entire front court, as Junior Etou (12 points) and freshman D.J. Foreman can slide into supplementary roles on offense. Foreman, who played well in the loss to George Washington, scored eight points in 12 minutes off the bench Sunday night.

Rutgers doesn’t have the depth they would like, as two freshmen were declared partial qualifiers by the NCAA prior to the start of the season, and that will most likely be an issue in Big Ten play. That, along with the skill he provides, is what makes Kadeem Jack’s return so important for Rutgers moving forward.

Report: Rutgers junior forward suffers sprained thumb

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Kadeem Jack and Villanova Wildcats Mouphtaou Yarou battle for a rebound during their NCAA men's championship basketball game at the 2012 Big East Tournament in New York
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Rutgers received some bad news late this week when junior 6-foot-9 forward Kadeem Jack fell on his hand in practice and sprained his thumb, according to a report from Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press.

“We’re being very cautious with it,” Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said to Carino. “He’s mature. He understand the healing process and that he has to be disciplined.”

Jack has been one of the most productive power forwards the Scarlet Knights have seen in years as he averaged 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore. He’ll likely miss the Rutgers exhibition game, and he could take a bit to heal this injury. That might mean missing some time in the regular season.

In the meantime, Carino mentions in this story that Jack has still been working out at the RAC trying to make his left hand better, even though he’s in a cast.

The upperclassman clearly wants to be a difference-maker in the Big Ten after last season’s breakthrough in the American.

Kadeem Jack, DI’s most underappreciated junior?

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It hasn’t been a successful first season for Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan. Wins against Canisius and Temple have been off-set by a 4-10 conference record (10-17 overall), and the Scarlet Knights haven’t been able to post consecutive victories since the New Year. However, the team’s struggles shouldn’t detract from the play of Kadeem Jack, the team’s sole bright spot and arguably the nation’s most underappreciated junior.

To recap how the forward ended up in Piscataway: Jack wasn’t highly-regarded on the recruiting trail until the summer before his senior year at Rice High School, when high-majors like Arizona and North Carolina began to recruit the 6-foot-9 Jack. Rather than venture far from his NYC-based home, Jack committed to Rutgers. A redshirt his first season, Jack was a solid role player the next two years, and while he remained a Scarlet Knight following the firing of Mike Rice (and Jordan’s subsequent hiring), his outbursts this season was very much unexpected.

What’s accounted for Jack’s surprising play? Being more efficient at the rim. Athleticism has never plagued Jack — the forward can play above the rim — but Jack often couldn’t finish around the bucket. As a sophomore, 53 percent of Jack’s shots were in the paint, but he only converted 52 percent of those attempts. His percentage of takes has decreased (to 40 percent), but Jack is now connecting on a whopping 69 percent of those shots (per Hoop-Math.com). The result of this aggressiveness is more free throw attempts: a trip to the line for Jack used to incite heart palpitations for the Rutgers’ faithful, but Jack — whose taken 125 free throws in 2014, as compared 54 a season ago — is nearly converting 70 percent of his free throws. Jack is the Scarlet Knights’ most efficient offensive player, one whom Jordan has noted will have to carry the team if RU is going to make a push in the AAC tournament. As well as Jack has already played this year, a recent shift in Rutgers’ lineup could enable Jack to score more frequently — Jordan has said he would like to play Jack at center, noting the advantages (specifically, speed) he has versus opposing 5s. During the recent loss to Memphis, Jack started the second half at center and scored 18 points in the final twenty minutes.

One to watch: Rutgers forward Kadeem Jack

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Kadeem Jack and Villanova Wildcats Mouphtaou Yarou battle for a rebound during their NCAA men's championship basketball game at the 2012 Big East Tournament in New York
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Kadeem Jack was one of Mike Rice’s first big recruiting triumphs at Rutgers. The top-rated forward out of Queens was coveted by the likes of Arizona, Kentucky and UNC, but chose to play close to home for a coach who was a relative unknown. Quite aside from his obvious talent, Jack’s commitment signaled that the Scarlet Knights could become a force to be reckoned with on the local recruiting scene — dipping into the thriving talent pool in the five boroughs.

Jack, a relatively slender 6’8″ specimen, took a redshirt season and appeared to be ready to start his career last year. Then the injury bug bit, putting him on the shelf for several months while recovering from foot surgery. When Jack got back on the floor, just in time for Big East play, he was rusty and ineffective, averaging just eight minutes per game, and barely registering in terms of points and rebounds.

According to an interview with the New Jersey Hoops Haven blog, head coach Mike Rice expects this season’s results to be markedly different.

“Kadeem (Jack) and Derrick (Randall) have improved,” he told the blog. “They had a longer way to go, but if you ask me who has improved the most since last year, I would say Kadeem and Derrick. Their bodies have completely changed. Their understanding, their decision-making have gotten better). Really they all improved. This group had a tremendous offseason in the gym.”

So, Jack is bigger and better, which is a plus. More importantly, the addition of former K-Stater Wally Judge will allow Jack to exploit matchups more suitable to his abilities. Rice again:

“When I watched the film of last year’s games, a lot of nights we were getting manhandled. We would work hard, scratch and claw, but sometimes we were just overmatched. With Wally there, Kadeem will not have to defend the biggest guy (on the other team) and that should help him.”

What helps Jack should help the team. We’ll watch the Scarlet Knights with interest this season.