Fighting A Losing Battle In Hoops

By Richard Kent
Updated: December 29, 2008

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — He stood there quite pensive, looking to come up with the right answer. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, probably one if not the most legendary coach in college basketball history was at the podium at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

His Blue Devils had just beaten No. 7 Xavier 82-64. He was asked why his team was playing Xavier at the Meadowlands. He went through the litany of how important it was for his team to play a top intersectional foe on a neutral court to simulate an NCAA atmosphere.

The real issue at hand was why Duke was playing Xavier and not a more local school like St. John’s, Seton Hall or Rutgers. Krzyzewski was careful in his answer and noted that he might have preferred to play a more local team but at the moment Xavier was a bit stronger.

He did everything in his answer to not denigrate those three aforementioned schools but it was clear that none of them were currently up to the task of being a strong intersectional foe for Duke.

So what has happened in the metropolitan area since Louie Carneseca patrolled the sidelines at St. John’s? Well in a word — recruiting. Yes, recruiting. That old adversary of college coaches in the metropolitan area still holds true.

Most of the top players in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia travel to such exotic places as Louisville, Memphis and North Carolina rather than staying at home.

St. John’s has a big advantage in that it plays at Madison Square Garden.

Yet in a recent loss to Virginia Tech, they only drew approximately 2,900 fans.

Seton Hall has some talent but many of the players are Jucos and fans have difficulty developing familiarity with jucos. Rutgers recruiting has improved of late and they actually got a great player in Mike Rosario from St. Anthony’s in Jersey City and Bob Hurley Sr., but the talent level is still not there to play a Duke on national television.

Will things change locally? It is not an easy question nor is it an easy answer.

Three excellent recruiting coaches are in place but it is still a jump to get players to stay at home when most if not all of the top programs nationally are well outside of the metropolitan area.

The next three years will be critical from a recruiting prospective as it relates to whether or not a Duke would be willing to come to the Northeast to play a more local school than Xavier.