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Rutgers Basketball

The definitive history...

The first Rutgers basketball team was formed in 1906 under coach Frank Gorton. Enthusiasm for the sport waned after a couple of seasons, and the school did not field another hoops squad until 1913. In 1915, Frank Hill became the head coach and led the team to a record of 223-162 in his 28 seasons at the helm. Hill came from Seton Hall, and actually coach both the Rutgers and Seton Hall varsity teams from 1915–16 through 1929–30. His 28-year tenure remains the longest in the history of Rutgers men's basketball. Rutgers fielded several excellent teams during the 1920s and 1930s—including three that had winning percentages above .800. The school’s most notable player during its early years was Ed Benzoni, whose 693 career points remained a record through World War II.

After struggling through the 1950s, Rutgers began to improve with the hiring of head coach Bill Foster in 1963. With standout performances from the backcourt duo of Bobby Lloyd (below) and Jim Valvano, Rutgers achieved a record of 17-7 in the 1965-1966 season and went 22–7 a year later—which resulted in an NIT Tournament bid (the first postseason appearance in team history). The Scarlet Knights scored narrow victories over Utah State and New Mexico before falling to Walt Frazier’s Southern Illinois squad in the semifinals, 79–70. Lloyd, who led the nation in free throw shooting—and once hit 60 straight free throws—became the school’s first First-Team All-American in 1966–67. He still Lloydholds the school single-season and career scoring records. Lloyd stayed local after graduation, playing pro ball for the ABA New Jersey Americans. His #14 was the first jersey retired by the Rutgers basketball program. Valvano would gain fame after coaching North Carolina State to a national championship in 1983. Coach Foster would go on to lead Utah to the NIT championship game in 1974 and Duke to the NCAA championship game in 1978.

During the 1970s, Rutgers continued to recruit top players. Phil Sellers, Mike Dabney, Eddie Jordan, Hollis Copeland, Abdel Anderson and James Bailey thrust the team into the national spotlight during the 1975–76 season, playing suffocating defense and running opponents off the court on offense. Great talent and a favorable schedule enabled coach Tom Young’s team to rack rutgers7576up 31 victories without a defeat, sweeping through the ECAC Tournament and the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The success of the team generated sellout crowds at the College Avenue Gymnasium. When standing room only space was filled to capacity, students would sneak in and sit on the floor with their feet almost over the boundary lines. The Scarlet Knights' play produced roaring crowds that rocked the arena to the point that paint chips fell from the ceiling.

The team’s magical season ended in the Final Four against Michigan—a mirror-image team—by a score of 86–70. The legacy of this team still resonates on campus and in the record books. Eddie Jordan ranks first in Rutgers history in steals and assists. His speedy playing style earned him the nickname "Fast Eddie". Phil Sellers, a tough and talented all-around player from Brooklyn, tops the charts in field goals made, free throws made and rebounds. In his 12 years leading the Scarlet Knights, Tom Young amassed a record of 239-117 with 4 NCAA Tournament appearances.

Due to the success of the program and the dilapidated state of the College Ave. Gym, Rutgers moved into a new arena in 1977. The Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC), later renamed Louis Brown Athletic Center, has been the home of Rutgers basketball ever since. From 1977-1981, the New Jersey Nets played there while waiting for Brendan Byrne Arena to be completed. Hinson

During the 1980s, the top players for Rutgers were Roy Hinson (right), a multitalented shot-blocking forward, and John Battle, a high-scoring guard. They led the Knights to a 1983 NCAA Tournament berth, where the team lost in the second round to powerhouse St. John’s.

In 1988, Rutgers alum Bob Wenzel ascended to the head coaching job and led the team to another NCAA Tournament after an Atlantic 10 title-winning season. The Scarlet Knights returned to the NCAA Tournament in 1991. This marked the last time Rutgers men's basketball has experienced March Madness. In 1995, Rutgers moved to the Big East Conference. In 2004, scoring machine Quincy Douby led the Knights to the NIT final, where Rutgers lost to Michigan. Douby would go on to be drafted with the 19th pick of the first round in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. The selection was announced by NBA Commissioner (and Rutgers alum) David Stern.

In 2013, Rutgers men’s basketball made headlines again, but not for a good reason. Video surfaced of head coach Mike Rice verbally and physically abusing his players during practice. The incident brought national media to the Rutgers campus and resulted in Rice being fired and athletic director Tim Pernetti resigning. Looking to return to their glory days, Rutgers replaced Rice at head coach with Eddie Jordan.

—Andrew Feldman


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