BELMAR – As Rutgers' promising young team went through their growing pains last season, Wally Judge was merely a bystander.
Sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules, the only help the junior could provide his team was on the practice court.
Between Kadeem Jack’s injury and Greg Lewis and Derrick Randall still being raw, Rutgers' frontcourt struggled. And all Judge could do was give advice.
“It was tough at first,” Judge said. “Going through the practices and then on game day not even being able to dress.”
Without games to play, Judge became a gym rat. While his teammates rested the night before a game, the 6-foot-9, 245 pounder would put up shots in the RAC in the middle of the night. When the team was on the road, Judge was in the gym.
For a team that flourished in transition, Judge was the missing piece. A high energy big man that can get out and run, Judge can jump out of the gym to finish with a highlight reel dunk.
“That’s been my game all my life. A big guy that can run and jump,” Judge said. ”But what made this year so important is that I learned to slow things down and be more effective in the half court.”
In turn, he’s a more complete player.
Now he needs to gel with his teammates after spending a season competing against them on the scout team. And there’s no one more important for Judge to build chemistry with than his point guard.
So it’s no coincidence that he was paired with Myles Mack in the Jersey Shore Basketball League. Due to NCAA rules, only two players on the same college team can be on a roster. So Judge and Mack playing together on Ned Steven’s Gutter Cleaning team was an obvious choice.
“It’s important because all the other positions are kind of interchangeable, but with a big man and a point guard you always have to be on the same page,” Judge said. “But even from day one me and Myles have pretty much been on the same page. He knows where I’m at. He trusts me and I trust him. This is only adding to it.”
And Mack enjoys being able to get more acclimated with the power forward he’ll be dishing it off a lot to if Rutgers is going to be successful next year.
“It’s been a very good experience,” Mack said. “Before anybody I get to play with him to see how he reacts to certain situations.”
While Judge is expected to have a major impact this upcoming season, he knows one thing he can’t do is force the issue. That’s something the former McDonald’s High School All-American learned his freshman year at Kansas State from teammate Denis Clemente who had transferred from Miami.
“Just be patient,” Judge said was Clemente’s advice. “Most people want to come back and show people that their decision was the right one and try to average 20 points and do all the spectacular things, but he just said be patient. Let things come to you. Learn how to fit in and then you can begin to elevate your game after."
But Judge doesn’t care about his stat line or personal accolades anyway.
“Winning. That’s it,” Judge said when asked about his expectations for himself for the season. “That’s all I’m focused on. I just want to win.”