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Cambria Heights’ Jack commits to Rutgers

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Rutgers’ future got brighter at 6 p.m. Aug. 31 by 6 feet, 9 inches.

That’s when Kadeem Jack, the former Rice standout, chose the Scarlet Knights over West Virginia, Arkansas and Miami, becoming the second New York City basketball player in five months — Mike Poole is the other — to join new Coach Mike Rice’s program.

Jack drew interest from countless Division I programs, from Arizona to North Carolina to St. John’s. Yet he chose a school with a dubious recent history and a new coaching staff, led by the fiery Rice who reached the NCAA Tournament the last two years with Robert Morris and nearly upset Villanova last March with a group of scrappy overachievers.

“He just seems really passionate about everything that he wants Rutgers to do, so I just felt like I should be a part of that process,” Jack, who is currently in Turkey with a group of New York City all-stars during the FIBA World Championships, told MSG Varsity in a taped segment. “I think the red wave is the way to go. Mike Rice [is] trying to start new things”

Ranked as the eighth-best power forward in the class of 2011 by scout.com, Jack led Rice to the CHSAA Class AA intersectional semifinals last season and is headed to South Kent (Conn.) with recent Rutgers commit Derrick Randall and St. John’s prospect Maurice Harkless for a postgraduate year.

Jack has come a long way in a few years. He was raised in Trinidad and moved to New York at the age of 12, but didn’t start playing basketball until the eighth-grade, when he was spotted by mentor Damian Leslie walking through a Cambria Heights park. He quickly took to the game and was integral to Rice’s city and state titles two years ago.

He has improved even more lately, adding offensive moves to go with his more advanced shot-blocking and rebounding. One Division I assistant coach, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Jack will help the Scarlet Knights on the defensive end immediately.

“He’s a hard worker, I’m sure he’ll do what is required of him,” the coach said. “He’ll be a nice piece to the puzzle.”

Coming from a winning program, Jack hopes to continue that trend. But he knows it will take time in Piscataway, N.J.

“I just felt like I should go to Rutgers, start from the ground up and like maybe 50 years from now people will start saying Kadeem Jack was that guy that helped Rutgers back to glory,” he said.

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