BY DANNY BRESLAUER
When a person turns 18 years old, they’re considered legal. They can drive a car without supervision and even order products off the infomercials on television.
When the first week of March 2009 rolls around, it will have been 18 years since the Rutgers men’s basketball team made the NCAA Tournament.
Rutgers started its drought in the latter stages of the Bob Wenzel years, which brought little in the form of success, and then moved on to a slick, New Jersey-connected Kevin Bannon before the 1997-1998 campaign. His recruiting paid dividends as Dahntay Jones and Todd Billet flocked to the Banks.
When the duo transferred to Duke and Virginia respectively within a year of each other, warning signs were evident. When 2000 rolled around a naked free-throw shooting scandal hit the papers. Bannon was on his way out and the RU program’s perception was tattered.
Enter Gary Waters of Kent St., the clean-cut coach the school was looking for. Despite five years of relative mediocrity, Rutgers saw the RAC become a home-court advantage again, a star in Quincy Douby display his endless talent and a 2004 NIT runner-up finish.
After what appeared to be a “force-out” of Waters, highly-regarded recruiter and New Jersey product Fred Hill was hired. Two 10-win seasons later and Scarlet Nation is begging for a return to at least the mediocrity of the late 90s.
When RU opens up the 2008-2009 season on Nov. 14 against Marist, the excitement to see the squad will be at a high. With All-American freshman guard Mike Rosario and young talents in freshman center Greg Echenique, sophomore guard Corey Chandler and junior center Hamady N’Diaye, one can expect an improved Scarlet Knights team.
How long will it be until RU hears its name called on CBS again in March? Scarlet Knights fans hope the drought doesn’t reach any more age milestones.