After breaking his right foot last October, forward Kadeem Jack met a steep learning curve when he was thrust into regular season play on Dec 29 in Rutgers' home non-conference win over Florida. Then a redshirt freshman, the 6-foot-9 Jack didn't have the physical stamina or basketball acumen to match up with his athleticism, and he struggled to adjust to life at the Division I level, particularly in BIG EAST play.
"It took a while for me to adjust," Jack admitted at this afternoon's men's basketball media day inside the RAC. "I don't think I really probably adjusted until the last three games of the season, where I actually started feeling comfortable in my skin to do certain things."
In those final three games, Jack began to flash some potential, playing nearly 14 minutes per contest and producing career-highs in points (4) and rebounds (7) in the season-finale against St. John's. As things began to click for him, he started playing more freely.
According to Jack, acclimating himself to the daily rigors of BIG EAST competition was the hardest thing he had to do last season.
"I didn't know how to be consistent in the league. There's just a difference in coming from high school to practice and then the injury. There's a lot of things," Jack said. "I just wasn't sure how to be consistent on a day-to-day basis in the BIG EAST. Those last three games, I started feeling comfortable with myself, with what I had to do on a daily basis to prepare for games."
Interestingly, Jack said he his foot did not fully feel normal until Now heading into a pivotal season for he and the program, Jack recognizes he must build on some of the consistency he felt he gained at the end of the last year. Otherwise, he won't make the requisite strides as a sophomore.
"[Coach] Mike Rice , he talks about that [consistency] a lot with me. He thinks that I'm not as consistent," Jack said. "He thinks that I can go hard for this possession and take off the next possession. That's what I tried to work on a lot."
Jack also went to work in the weight room and at the training table. Estimating that he played at 209 pounds one year ago, Jack says he has gained "around 17, 18 pounds" this off-season through a combination of an intense lifting regimen and a diet that most middle schoolers would enjoy.
"I just ate a lot, every second. Mike Johansen, our strength and conditioning trainer, had something where he said 'Every time I see you, you should be eating something.' It's hard for me to put on weight. I had a lot of PB & J's (peanut butter and jelly). I ate before I went to bed and as soon as I woke up. I just knew in the BIG EAST, experiencing what I experienced last year, that I needed to gain more weigh and be more physical or I wouldn't last long."