Monday, August 15, 2016
Rutty Culminates Fifth Pro Year With Gratitude
Assessing his game at the culmination of his fifth season as an overseas professional, Justin Rutty is quick to note that he's more of an evolved product. He's added new tools to his arsenal that we never witnessed at Quinnipiac, where Rutty helped pilot the Bobcats to a berth in the 2010 Northeast Conference Championship.
Quinnipiac's all-time leading rebounder (1,032), Rutty averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 boards for Avenir Basket Berck of France's NM1 League. Assimilating to the European game, Rutty says, has allowed him to become more multi-layered.
"I'm not only a back to the basket guy like I was at QU," said Rutty, who was named MVP of Switzerland's Elite League after bulldozing his way to 20.7 points and 11.8 boards per game during the 2012-13 campaign.
"Now I'm facing up, I lead fast breaks. I've just transformed certain areas of my game. A lot of hard work, that's what I attribute it all to."
Rutty's identity as a scorer has also changed with a reliable mid-range game. The 6-foot-7 power forward has incorporated a unique, cock-back slingshot (which he's now extending to 18-20 feet) to his offensive toolbox.
Workmanlike and relentless, Rutty's game is still predicated purely on interior grit. This blue collar mentality of Rutty's ultimately helped alter the perception of Quinnipiac. The Bobcats were very aggressive in building up the basketball program at the time of Rutty's arrival in 2007-08, which was current head coach Tom Moore's rookie year with the program.
Flanked by bullish and legendary guard DeMario Anderson his freshman year, Rutty continued to grow with the help of high-scoring guards such as James Feldeine and James Johnson. He had help on the glass with gritty 6-foot-3 guard and certifiable defensive pest Jeremy Baker.
"What I miss most about Quinnipiac was playing in the TD Bank Sports Center," Rutty said. "That was a special place to play. There are just so many memories, too many to narrow down to just one."
Rutty shied away from divulging information regarding his salary, though he did say his MVP season in Switzerland would bolster his stock on the overseas market considerably.
"The MVP year in Switzerland, it helped my career because it established me as a player in Europe. It showed the European coaches that I'm capable of playing this style of basketball just as well as any."
Rutty, who starred as a Division-I prospect in both football and basketball at Newburgh Free Academy in upstate New York, found his way to the Bobcats in quick-hit fashion. He was lightly recruited out of NFA, as programs feared a 6-foot-7 forward/center could be a risk.
He penned his letter of intent during the summer of 2007, when Moore supplanted Joe DeSantis as head coach. During a wild dash to reel in a big man and fill the void left by Victor Akinyanju in the paint, Quinnipiac scooped up Rutty mid-way through the summer.
At the time, as Tom Moore recalls, they had a number of scholarships to fill.
"We were casting a pretty wide net," Moore said. "My assistant, Eric Eaton, is such a hard worker and he was out there leaving no stone unturned. So he uncovered Justin and began to make contact with him and get his academic stuff."
While Eaton was just beginning to "make contact" with Rutty, the assistant rarely left the humble and quiet big alone during the ensuing four years. Eaton constantly held Rutty to a high standard, pushing his development with relentlessness.
"Coach Eaton, he pushed me and pushed me and pushed me like no other," Rutty said. "Coach Moore as well. They were the ones who really made it happen for me."
Rutty hasn't been to a game since he graduated in 2011, but he occasionally keeps tabs on the box scores and keeps afloat. He still feels a sense of loyalty to the program that helped launch his professional career.
"Oh yeah, I'm a Bobcat for life," he said. "For life."