About a month ago, as Junior Etou tried whittling down his handful of Division 1 offers, Rutgers wasn’t too high on the O’Connell senior forward’s list — and understandably so considering the firestorm surrounding Mike Rice’s dismissal as coach.
But that all changed last week when the Scarlet Knights hired Eddie Jordan, the same coach who guided Etou’s DC Assault team on the AAU circuit last year. That connection, along with this week’s official visit sealed the deal for Etou, who committed to Rutgers on Wednesday before leaving the Newark campus.
“I wanted to be with Coach Jordan,” Etou said in a Wednesday phone interview. “He coached me last summer and I’m excited to play for him again. He helped me with my defense and rebounding.”
Etou also held offers from Boston College, Clemson, Miami, Washington and Xavier, taking official visits to the latter during the past month. With the addition of the 6-foot-7, 220-pounder, the Scarlet Knights gain a capable rebounder and shot blocker who can also knock down jumpers outside the paint.
“The number one thing Junior brings is great presence to the court,” O’Connell Coach Joe Wootten said. “He plays physical and he’s a tough competitor. He’s also a tremendous shot blocker who has a knack for timing blocks at the right point. Plus, he can guard players at multiple positions.”
Wootten said that Jordan was also impressed with the heart that Etou displays, an attribute that the former Washington Wizards coach believes will aid the senior’s continued development in college.
Following his transfer from Arlington Country Day (Fla.), Etou averaged 14.8 points and 10.1 rebounds for O’Connell this past winter. Along with earning third-team All-Met honors, Etou helped lead the Knights to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and Alhambra Invitational titles.
Questions arose during the season regarding Etou’s age and eligbility following a Deadspin.com report, but the Congo Republic native was cleared by the WCAC to play in all 37 of the Knights’ games.
Etou’s commitment to Rutgers could signal the beginning of a new pipeline between the Scarlet Knights basketball program and D.C. area recruits. Not only does Jordan have strong local ties from his days with the Wizards and DC Assault, but he also spent the 2011-12 season coaching the Archbishop Carroll freshman basketball team.
“Coach Jordan is a very classy guy and he’s built a great relationship with coaches and players in the area from his time coaching here,” Wootten said. “With his NBA experience, I’m sure a lot of players will be drawn to him now that he’s at Rutgers.”
Recruit Watch: Offers, commitments and signings