Honor Loyalty with Mawot Mag, Dean Reiber

PISCATAWAY — Rutgers was the only high-profile basketball program to offer Mawot Mag a scholarship.

He has not forgotten.

The 6ft 7in forward showed his potential as a second year last season, and when the transfer portal started buzzing, he turned it off.

“It suits me just fine,” Mag said. “It is easy to enter the portal and run away from the challenges. Coach (Steve) Pikiell really wanted me from the start, when I was in high school, and nobody else wanted me like that. So I want to see this to the end. »

Now the junior appears to be on the verge of a breakout season. In Friday’s media day practice, he attacked the rim, dished out several assists and connected on shots from mid-range with impressive fluidity.

“His mid-range game is legit,” senior guard Paul Mulcahy said.

Mag was already known as a versatile defender, and he’s finally healthy after a series of injuries and facial surgeries (he underwent eye surgery last month and had his last dental implant over the summer).

“I feel good, knock on wood,” he said.

Dean Reber

‘That doesn’t feel right to me’

Dean Reiber’s only other major scholarship offer was from Penn State. His composite recruiting ranking in the Class of 2020 was 398.

Now, the 6-foot-10 forward is the Scarlet Knights’ top candidate to start at power forward. As a freshman last year, he opened more than a few eyes with an ability to hit from 3-pointers and a real bounce in his step.

“Athletically, he’s the only guy in the gym that can outplay me,” said Rutgers center Cliff Omoruyi, a preseason All-Big Ten selection known for his superior athleticism. “Sometimes when he gets the ball back, I step aside because I don’t want to get soaked.”

Last spring, when the transfer portal called, Reiber’s phone was off.

“Leaving everything you know and starting over doesn’t feel right to me, unless the situation you’re in is bad,” he said.

Steve Pikiell at the 2022 Rutgers Basketball Media Day

Pikiell’s method works

Much has been made of how the end of the transfer sit-out, coupled with the incentive for college kids to be able to make money using their name, image and likeness (NIL), is creating a Wild West of free agency in college basketball. — and how Rutgers is at a disadvantage compared to its peers doling out tons of cash through alumni collectives.

Pikiell made sure to remind everyone that Rutgers is one of the few programs that didn’t lose a player to the portal last spring – and it wasn’t due to a lack of interest.

“I was just happy that the guys all felt valued and stayed,” he said at team media day on Friday. “It’s going to be a tough thing going forward. It’s not like that anymore, but I wish it stayed that way here at Rutgers.

Pikiell’s methods are old school, but he is convinced that they still have their place in today’s landscape.

“I always try to recruit great kids from great families,” he said. “I said this to the NBA people: Ron Harper – high school, AAU program, college. Paul Mulcahy too. These guys stayed. The past is an indication of the future. I also think it’s an indication of how we treat our guys, how upfront we are with people from the start.

Pikiell does not promise starting points or a specific number of shots to rookies. It promises to reward hard work. After last season, to the surprise of some observers, it only reached the portal for one player – precision goalkeeper Cam Spencer. He did not attempt to recruit on Mag and Reiber. He has bet on their continued development, and they intend to see it pay off.

And while he won’t say it out loud, you can be sure his current players are aware that the three guys who transferred in the spring of 2020 didn’t exactly step into the NBA, whereas Harper has signed a two-way deal with the Toronto Raptors.

“There’s a lot of opportunity now and there’s always someone in their ear to tell them the grass is greener,” Pikiell said. “The grass is just different in every place. It’s not always greener.

For this year, at least, the message got through.

“It’s the definition of culture,” Mulcahy said. “If I came here, it’s because of the people. The reason I’m still here is because of the people.

FIVE OBSERVATIONS

1-Sweet shooter

Spencer was on fire Friday, sweeping away just about everything he saw. He mostly does damage with the ball, but his release is quick enough that he shouldn’t need much space this winter to make defenses pay. He also closed out the practice by making 15 of 16 free throw attempts, remaining after everyone was gone.

2. Good ball movement

The Scarlet Knights passed the ball at a high level, especially the inside passes. During 5-on-5, most possessions featured three or more players touching the rock, and guys often let a good look slip for the best of a teammate.

“We’re more of a passing team this season,” Reiber said. “Our overtaking has improved a lot.”

3. Injury Report

Postgraduate goaltender Caleb McConnell (knee) and freshman forward Antonio Chol (ankle) sat down with what Pikiell called “adjustments.” Chol said he would be back in a day or two. McConnell did not attend the media day because he was being checked, but the injury appears not to be serious.

Friday’s practice only lasted 90 minutes because the team is going hard on Saturday, intra-squad scrum with Big Ten officials at the whistle.

4. The rotation becomes sharp

It was Reiber’s first practice in a few weeks. He recovered from a bone bruise on his foot and Pikiell immediately moved him with the first unit alongside Omoruyi. Mag replaced McConnell, with Mulcahy and Spencer in the backcourt. They’re the top six guys in the rotation.

5. Funny Story

Chol, who turned heads with his skill level, had a bit of a rude awakening with college-level strength and conditioning.

“The first day Antonio Chol lifted weights with (strength coach) Dave VanDyke, the next day he couldn’t lift his arms,” ​​Pikiell said.

Chol confirms it.

“I had never really lifted weights like that,” he said. ” I was sick. It’s true – I could barely raise my hands. Quite difficult the first two weeks, but I adapted at this stage.

Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and college basketball since 2003. He is an Associated Press Top 25 Voters. Contact him at [email protected].

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