Rutgers, NIT, Scarlet Knights, Derek Simpson
(Photo by Vinnie Lucia - JSN)

An Emotional Ending for Rutgers Men's Basketball

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights (19-15) didn’t conclude their season how they intended, however the message and impact of this team far outweigh the game of basketball. The Knights were rewarded a home postseason game in the NIT tournament on Tuesday night. They suited up against Hofstra University (25-9) in an absolute thriller of a matchup.

In spite of this game nearly going into double overtime, the Pride prevailed by defeating Rutgers, 88-86.

Rutgers, Caleb McConnell, Scarlet Knights

After a loss to Hofstra, Rutgers players thank the student section for their support. (Photo by Vinnie Lucia - JSN)

After the game, Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell, along with seniors Caleb McConnell and Paul Mulcahy entered the press conference and the energy drastically shifted. Upon arrival, both McConnell and Mulcahy were visibly tearing up, and red around their faces. Naturally, this forced coach Pikiell to get emotional while giving an explanation about his seniors.

“I’d like to thank you guys for the entire season [media],” Pikiell expressed emotionally after the game. “I really would like to talk about my four seniors. These guys came to our program when we didn’t have a winning season and there weren’t any sellouts or practice facilities. In the four seasons, they’ve been here, all we’ve done is win. In fact, we’ve received four post-season bids.”

Rutgers HC Pickell Gives Flowers to McConnell and Mulcahy

Throughout the press conference, it was as if it was an unspoken rule to discuss the game. However, Pikiell appeared to be so compelling and genuine that nobody seemed to challenge it. Thankfully, it allowed Pikiell to truly open up about McConnell and Mulcahy and his other senior tenures at Rutgers. 

“When McConnell came to me he wasn’t sure of himself and now he’s the National Defensive Player of the Year,” Pikiell said. “ … I’ve been around a lot of quality people and athletes but in my years of coaching, nobody has ever done what Mulcahy’s done. Giving out certificates to the band, managers, and staff. Overall, I’m just thankful for this team and all of the community surrounding it.”

Later, Pikiell discussed the impact on the future generations to come through Rutgers being affected positively by the foundation these seniors laid down. He also appeared to be extremely impressed by the growth and accomplishments they were able to obtain. 

“It speaks for itself, this program is left in great hands,” Rutgers SG McConnell expressed when asked about the future of the organization. “I know he’s going to get more great kids that are ready to play. I’m excited to see what this program is going to be like it.”

In conclusion, this team’s impact is far greater than the game of basketball. Although the Knights couldn’t execute the poetic finish they hoped for, they managed to touch thousands of hearts around the program. Not to mention, help bring expectations to a program four years ago had none. There’s no secret that this was a unique and special group that’s graduating. Ideally, the returning players can build on the foundation that was built by the seniors.

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