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Thursday, September 2, 2010
Rutgers, St. John's start landing recruits

By Eamonn Brennan

When you're rebuilding, you need recruits. Rutgers and St. John's are both very much programs mired in protracted rebuilds. So it's probably a good thing they're landing recruits.

First, Rutgers. After the losses of Mike Rosario, Greg Echenique and Hamady Ndiaye, new coach Mike Rice has a lot of roster-building to do if he wants the Scarlet Knights to be even remotely competitive in the coming years. Rice was hired too late to truly give the 2010 class a run, but he's making up for it in 2011.

First, Rice got a verbal commitment from 6-foot-8 power forward Kadeem Jack, who is outside the ESPNU 100 but is rated as highly as No. 33 overall in the class by some other recruiting services. Then, a day later, Rice landed Myles Mack, the No. 16-ranked point guard in the country and one of New Jersey's top 2011 prospects. Both players are local kids; Mack hails from Bob Hurley's storied St. Anthony's program in Paterson, N.J., and Jack comes from Manhattan Rice high school in New York.

St. John's coach Steve Lavin has a similar recruiting goal -- keep local talent local -- and got his first big-time commitment to that effect this week, too. Small forward Maurice Harkless, the No. 19-ranked small forward (and No. 81-ranked overall prospect) in the 2011 class committed to St. John's on Tuesday in a ceremony in front of Madison Square Garden. The Garden is perhaps Lavin's biggest recruiting tool; don't be surprised if every new St. John's commitment gets some sort of MSG-related ceremony. That's just smart salesmanship.

In any case, both schools are still years away from competing with the best of the Big East, and a few local recruits here and there aren't going to change that. But if this becomes a pattern, Rice and Lavin won't just be competing on the floor. They'll be competing for the hearts and minds of New York and New Jersey's high school talent. That's a place both coaches want -- and need -- to be.