By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – As Rutgers entered the basketball season, the backcourt was supposed to be the strength of the team thanks to a trio of talented sophomores.
Myles Mack and Eli Carter have been doing their part, scoring 14.8 and 16.7 points a game, respectively. Then there’s Jerome Seagears, who hasn’t quite found his groove yet.
Seagers’ numbers are down across the board from his freshman campaign this season and he’s averaging just four points a game.
“No reason,” Seagears said of his slow start. “I don’t know. If I could tell you I would tell you, but I don’t know.”
His head coach on the other hand feels there’s a reason behind Seagears’ sluggish start.
“I think he got a little complacent with thinking he was just going to have the same role and not being focused every day,” Mike Rice said, adding, “but I think if he’s locked in he’s a really good basketball player.
“Right now he’s concerned with too many outside distractions – too many other things are distracting him and taking his mind off of what he should be focused on and that’s just playing great defense and leading the team.”
Some of those distractions are warranted. Like school. Seagears had a five page and 10 page paper due this past week.
“He has a lot of academic stuff that he’s taking care of,” Rice said. “Sometimes as coaches we forget about that.”
But it’s something Rice realizes.
“He’s got his mind on other things,” Rice said. “And sometimes it’s harder for other student athletes to lock in just to basketball or lock into academics.”
However, slow starts are nothing knew for the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder. The same thing happened to Seagears last year, and he didn’t really come on until the last third of the season.
So it’s at least something Seagears is used to. And why he’s not as surprised as outsiders are by his first six games of the season.
“Everybody has a bad day,” Seagears said. “I’m just having a bad session right now. I’ll pick it back up though.”
And so, his confidence hasn’t waivered despite the early struggles. And the reason for that is simple.
“I know what type of player I am. I got confidence in myself and I know that it can’t be like this the whole season,” Seageras said. If it does, then I’m playing the wrong sport.”
He’s not. And it won’t last the whole season.
In fact, it probably won’t last much longer. Rice thinks Seagears is a play or two away from being the player everyone expected him to be this season.
“I think he’s two possessions away,” Rice said. “It was very close with UNC Greensboro and I even liked the compete he had at Ole Miss. It’s just not that same confidence. Not that same swagger. The last two months of last season with Jerome were as consistent as I’ve seen him, so we’re going to get there.”
And Saturday night against Iona at Madison Square Garden in the Holiday Festival could be a good opportunity. The Gaels are a guard-driven team that likes to spread the floor.
“The way they play there’s going to be some space on the floor. And he likes to get up and down and we certainly want to get up and down,” Rice said. “But having a purpose and playing the right way and paying attention to detail – especially on defense – are important to him.”