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September 22, 2010

Ask the Experts: Secret to Mike Rice's success?

Rivals.com basketball recruiting analysts Jerry Meyer and Eric Bossi weigh in on four current topics.

Why has Rutgers coach Mike Rice been so successful in landing commitments?

Meyer: Coach Rice has brought an incredible amount of energy to the Rutgers basketball program. He also brought a smart approach to recruiting. Rutgers has targeted primarily regional players who they have a great shot at landing. All five prospects in the 2011 class are from the Atlantic seaboard with three of them being from the Northeast. All but one is a Rivals150 prospect with none being five-stars. Coach Rice also has amassed a quality coaching staff. Most pivotal to the recruiting effort is former Georgetown assistant David Cox who has strong connections along the east coast.

Bossi: For one thing, Rice was already pretty well known in the region and he hired assistant coaches with good reputations. In particular, the strong bond David Cox has been able to develop with kids from the D.C. area and some of the summer programs there has allowed them to get some guys who aren't NYC/NJ guys and it's helped supplement their talent while they build. At the end of the day, though, I think it's just a team effort by Rice and his staff and they look to be hard working, aggressive and honest. Usually, that's a pretty good combination.

Has he done the best job so far of all the first-year coaches?

Meyer: I definitely think Rice is doing the best job recruiting out of the first-year coaches. His class is a potential top 10 class and that has been unheard of for Rutgers. I love what some of the second-year coaches such as Arizona's Sean Miller, Alabama's Anthony Grant and Mark Fox at Georgia are doing on the recruiting front as well.

Bossi: Well, he certainly has to be up at the top of a small list of guys. The other guy who is really entering into the conversation and who is still likely to get some highly related recruits is Steve Lavin. Landing Jakarr Sampson and Maurice Harkless is a pretty good start.

Is getting top recruit Austin Rivers most critical to Duke, North Carolina or Kansas?

Meyer: I don't know that getting Rivers is really more critical to any of these three programs. All three have talented perimeter players and would also benefit by landing Rivers. Perhaps it is more critical to Duke in that they have spent the most time and effort recruiting Rivers and have been considered the frontrunner to land him.

Bossi: Depends how somebody wants to look at it, really. On one hand, no one recruit has ever made or broken any of those programs. But, this is a highly publicized guy and clearly he's a very important recruit. Kansas would really like a high level point and they are scrambling a little after losing out on Josiah Turner and Rivers certainly handles well enough to play plenty of point for them. Duke is likely going to need somebody to replace Kyrie Irving and UNC doesn't really have a dynamic, off-the-dribble scorer in its backcourt. Duke is Rivers' stated leader, so the only thing that is for sure is that both Duke and UNC would rather see Rivers go to Kansas if he's not going to commit to either of them.

How rare is it for an East Coast school to go shopping on the West Coast, as Boston College has done well recently?

Meyer: It isn't common but it isn't unheard for an East Coast school to recruit the West Coast. Ironically enough, Boston College is the first school to come to mind. Former Boston College coach Al Skinner was known for successfully recruiting the West Coast. In fact some of his top players were diamonds in the rough that he recruited out of California. Also, expect Steve Lavin to tap into his west coast connections and lure some top west coast prospects to St. John's.

Bossi: I don't think it's something that you will see happen a lot. Normally when a school hires a coach you can kind of expect which areas the new staff will be strong in, and nobody was really talking about BC being a place that was suddenly going to have a California pipeline. What's interesting is that maybe two of the best players during the Al Skinner days - Craig Smith and Jared Dudley -- were both California kids.


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