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January 17, 2013
As the 2012-13 season loomed closer, Rutgers sophomore forward Kadeem Jack had numerous conversations with head coach Mike Rice and the rest of the coaching staff regarding their expectations for him.
As a freshman, Jack got a late start due to a fractured foot. When he did return to the court, he showed flashes of the form that made him a Top-50 recruit coming out of Rice (N.Y.) High School in 2010, but struggled to find his niche and perform at a high level consistently.
He finished the season averaging just 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per game.
So when he spoke with his coaches this off-season, Jack heard a message that was consistent and direct: if Rutgers wanted to make the requisite strides in a crucial year in Rice's tenure, Jack had to play a significant role.
"They wanted me to bring everything that they thought I could do," Jack said. "I would say it's a lot of pressure, but at the same time, they just wanted me to take a more mature approach to the game and understand that I need to step up, because I can make big changes and have a big impact on the game.
"They just wanted me to understand how big of an impact I could make on Rutgers basketball."
Through 15 games this year, Jack has yet to reach his full potential, but he's shown glimpses of the effects Rice and company were talking about. He's producing 5.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in nearly double the amount of playing time (16.3 minutes per game).
"He's still inconsistent with it, but the second half of Cincinnati was a perfect example [of what he can do]," said Rice. "He took coaching and responded well. He was a touch soft in some of the things that he did and in the Big East you can't be. His mentality was right and if he does that consistently, you're looking at a basketball player who is going to really be good and really help this program."
By his own admission, Jack is not yet a finished product. He still goes through mental lapses, and doesn't always dent the stats columns like you might expect.
All part of the process, he says.
"I'm just trying to get acclimated to all college basketball has to offer," Jack said. "Some games I might go out there and a have real stellar game and then the next game it seems like I'm lost out there. I'm trying to gain a consistency."
His offensive game is still a work in progress--though Jack has shown a newfound willingness to take and sometimes make a face-up jump shot--but the biggest improvement Jack has made has been finding ways to contribute doing what he does best: rebounding, blocking shots, adding length and athleticism to the lineup.
"That's why I feel I've been successful. They [the coaches] say 'do what you can do; do your job, basically,'" Jack said. "That helps, because you go out there and do what you know is within your game, within your range."