Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Workmanlike Rutty Still Pursuing Dream Overseas

Justin Rutty arrived at Quinnipiac University as an unsung, unheralded recruit out of Newburgh Free Academy, where Rutty became a Division-I prospect in both football and basketball. Opting to pursue his hardwood dreams over football, Rutty floated under the radar.

As a 6-foot-7 forward/center, Rutty's lack of post height prevented him from attaining mid to high major offers.

As a shot blocking presence and interior threat, Rutty soon registered his presence as a major figure during a new coaching regime and very much a new era at a once-ailing Northeast Conference program soon transitioning to the MAAC.

 The Bobcats were then piloted by bullish high-scoring guard DeMario Anderson, the lone highly-decorated veteran in a bevy of freshman and transfers.

Rutty helped usher in a new era under then-rookie head coach Tom Moore, rapidly evolving into a freakish freshman who could finish down low and provide much-needed rim protection. The unknown, unproven freshman filled an immediate void in the post.

Previous graduation had claimed another undersized forward in 6-foot-5 Victor Akinyanju. Akinyanju left his stamp at Quinnipiac  with a 20+ point, 20+ rebounding performance forever embedded in program history.

And so at the time, his absence created a major gap. 

Rutty opened up his sophomore year with a monstrous 30-point outburst against Rhode Island, a portent of things to come for the forward/center.

An arsenal of post moves, authoritative finishes, and the sheer ability to guard multiple bigs catapulted Rutty into the face of the program.

His sophomore campaign saw Rutty ascend the ranks of the Northeast Conference's elite.

 Though not equated with the same value as high-major bigs, Rutty soon became emblematic of the blue collar toughness that defined undersized forwards of this ilk.

Becoming more adept as a one-dribble, attack the rim threat, Rutty had suddenly morphed into a mobile and high-scoring threat capable of shouldering not only the dirty work but the role of game-changer.

A man of a few words, Rutty gained an identity as a quiet assassin. Unassuming, humble and workmanlike, Rutty's game soon became predicated on interior grit and a nose for the basketball.

As a junior, Rutty reached an unprecedented level of program success by earning Northeast Conference Player of the Year.

He bulldozed his way to 15.3 points and an NEC-best 10.9 boards per game, earning plaudits throughout the conference.

His stock heightened, as Rutty became one of 20 players in the country to average a double-double, a feat underscored by a whopping 17 double doubles and 1, 158 career points during the culmination of the 2009-10 season.

As Rutty's game ballooned, Quinnipiac grew in both relevance and fanfare. A hockey hotbed which had been striving to plant the basketball seed, Quinnipiac now had a basketball culture with an ardent following.

Playing before 3,500 fans, Rutty became the team's focal point. He added new aspects to his game, developing a dependable short-range jumper and extending his shot beyond 15 feet.

For the first time in recent memory and for the first time in Rutty's career, the Bobcats earned a berth in the NEC championship.

Following the NEC's theme of gritty scoring guards, the Bobcats possessed a stacked backcourt with high-scoring guard James Johnson, sharpshooting two-guard James Feldeine, and lockdown specialist Jeremy Baker providing constant contagious energy.

They ultimately fell to a Robert Morris team which had capped off its illustrious third straight title. At the culmination of Rutty's career, he received minimal NBA interest.

 Once again, his lack of height at the forward/center position held him back. Rather than internalize adversity, rather than let the odds stacked against him dictate his destiny, Rutty weighed his professional stock.

Now, at 27, Rutty has taken the unlikely path to the pro ranks.

Despite his obscurity at a smaller Division-I school, despite the massive odds he faced as an undersized forward/center, Rutty has culminated his fifth career year of an overseas professional career.

Rutty was named MVP of Switzerland's Elite league, Natioanale de Basketball A, following a 20.7 PPG and 11.8 RPG season in 2013.

 Still just 27, he culminated the 2015-16 campaign with Avenir Basket Berck of the NM1 League. Now more of a threat from mid-range and beyond, Rutty averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 boards, establishing some credibility to the American game in the process.

 Few could have envisioned a kid from rough-and-tumble Newburgh sustaining this type of prosperity.

 A rugged forward built on hustle and discipline, Rutty's story is one of determination. Rather than internalizing adversity, Rutty eliminated all traces of doubt en route to his professional hoops journey.