There are many ways to describe what Earl Pettis provides to the Rutgers men’s basketball team. He is a jack of all trades, a stat-line stuffer, a renaissance man on the basketball court.
With a reputation like that it’s difficult to figure out what Pettis does best, even by his own account. Even Pettis says his strength is his versatility.
“A little bit of everything,” Pettis replies when asked about the backbone of his game.
Just as many ways as there are to classify Pettis, that’s how many ways he finds to contribute on the court.
His season averages of 4.8 points per game and 2.5 rebounds are deceiving because Pettis’ playing time has vacillated as the Scarlet Knights have struggled to find a defined rotation. But when Pettis gets the chance, he produces.
In his last four games – all but one he started – Pettis is putting up 11 ppg, 5.2 rpg and an impressive 2.25 steals.
Pettis has two goals when he gets in the game.
“I try to do what the team needs me to do to win,” says Pettis. “And whatever coach [Fred] Hill needs me to do to win that day.
That’s sometimes easier said then done. It’s not always about following directions, Pettis has to do some cognitive work of his own in figuring out what the team needs.
“I just go out there with my instincts and when I see the team struggling in an area I try to go out there and help the team in that area,” said Pettis of his mindset upon hitting the floor.
Along with the tangibles he provides defense and often wins hustle points. Because of his all-around game and altruism, Pettis has emerged as a glue guy for Rutgers. Not coincidentally, the team has played better of late even though the wins haven’t been there to back it up.
“He’s out there and last two games he’s been stepping up big for us,” said Mike Coburn of his teammate. “I know his confidence is up and he’s playing well and it’s helping us as a team and we’re looking for more of that.”
Pettis has taken over that role this year from Coburn. Last year’s Coburn’s was the key to the Knights’ mid-season rejuvenation. He keyed wins over ranked Villanova and Pittsburgh and was awarded the Big East Rookie of the Week.
This year has been a different story for the sophomore. Coburn came in with elevated expectations but saw them deflated as he struggled to gain playing time and his play suffered accordingly.
“Yeah I believe so,” said Coburn, blaming his poor play on not seeing the floor consistently. “Not knowing when you’re going to be out there sometimes. How long you’re going to be out there. It definitely messes with your confidence and you’re game overall. It played a toll on me.”
Then given the chance to start Saturday night against Providence due to Mike Rosario’s injury troubles, Coburn delivered with a season-best 14 points.
Coincidentally it came right in time for RU’s lone meeting with Villanova. Driven by his desire to prove that last year was no fluke and coming off his best game of the year, Coburn has something to prove tonight.
” Yea go out there and I just want to build on this,” said Coburn. “I’m just going out there to hopefully get a win and help my team.”