CONNECTICUT - Things weren’t looking too good on the Banks Of The Old Raritan. UConn and Tennessee were bringing in the big recruits. Star recruiter Jolette Law had left the program to take over the head job at Illinois.
Former star Tasha Pointer had been brought in to recruit. She had been at Xavier but was young. There were questions. Was Rutgers too involved in off-season stuff?
Had the Don Imus controversy hurt? Were other programs passing Rutgers? What would Rutgers do after Matee Ajavon and Essence Carson graduated? They needed a five-player class. Studs. Players to keep up with other top programs.
Geno Auriemma had not been to the Final Four in a while. UConn was losing recruits. Then he brought in three straight National Players of the Year. Enough said.
Pat Summitt continued her steady recruiting. She still lost a number of players to UConn but was doing well. LSU was a player on the block. They had a new coach, a new vision and new ideas.
Gail Goestenkors was at Texas from Duke and was expected to make an immediate impact.
Well, head coach Vivian C. Stringer would have none of it. Neither would assistants Carlene Mitchell or Pointer. They worked endless hours. Pointer did not even know her address.
That is how involved she was at work.
Rutgers brought in that five player class. They chose Rutgers over schools like UConn, LSU, Texas, etc. They were from all over the country. Stringer even got kids from California.
Parade All-American Jasmine Dixon was a good example. The 6-foot-1 Dixon averaged 14.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.7 steals on her way to helping Long Beach Poly win a Division I state championship. She was also selected to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State first team and was named its junior player of the year.
Rutgers will have one of the best freshman classes in the country. It could possibly be better than any class since UConn brought in Sue Bird, Keirsten Walters, Asjha Jones, Tamika Williams and Swin Cash which won a bunch of National Championships.
What was it? Maybe the opportunity to play against Tennessee and UConn. After all, UConn had dropped Tennessee. Rutgers would play them along with Duke and Stanford.
Maybe it was the coaching of Stringer. She had just placed Cappie Pondexter in the WNBA and Pondexter will be one of the best of them all.
Who knows what these kids really think. We do know that they want to play with other kids who are going to win championships and Rutgers got them.
Only time will tell because these are really just high school kids and it will take time to mold them, especially into Stringer’s system. But it is safe to say that Rutgers will be a highly ranked team for years to come.
That is what Stringer wants.