OPINION THE BEST BOBCAT EVER By Jordan Katz @jordankatz11 Many who have followed the Quinnipiac men’s basketball program for years often refer to Justin Rutty as one of the best players to ever wear the blue and gold. Throughout the course of his career at Quinnipiac, Ike Azotam often drew comparisons to Rutty, both in style of play and in impact. However, as his successor, Azotam may not only be better, but he may be the best ever. First let’s start with the similarities. Rutty dominated the rebound department of every game he played in. Azotam has done that just as well. In fact, Azotam outrebounded Rutty for his career with 1,043 compared to Rutty’s 1,032. Azotam has also anchored a team that was consistently in the top three in rebounds per game every season. Rutty was a double-double machine, compiling 41 in his career, a total Azotam surpassed in his career at Quinnipiac with 44. That may be where the similarities end. What separates Azotam from Rutty is that Azotam developed a complete offensive game, which is something Rutty never had. This season was the culmination of Azotam’s improved game, as he averaged over 16 points per game and shot 48 percent from the field. He showed an ability to hit mid range jump shots, post up defenders, pass out of a double team, score against said double team, and even handle the ball and push the tempo, Blake Griffin style. Rutty could never do those things. Azotam is not just better than Justin Rutty; he’s the best Division I player this program has had. Some may argue James “Bo” Johnson, but there are a number of flaws to that argument. As good as “Bo” was, he never
shot a great percentage from the field for a guard (38 and 39 percent in his last two seasons at Quinnipiac), where as Azotam’s 45-48 percent was solid for his position. Azotam also averaged nearly as many points per game as Johnson in each of their final two seasons at the Q, which you wouldn’t expect considering Johnson is regarded as one of the best scorers to play at the school. The big knock on “Bo” is that he struggled to carry the team late in meaningful games when it was his team. Velton Jones and Robert Morris got the better of Johnson’s Bobcats, as well as Rutty’s Bobcats, multiple times in the Northeast Conference postseason. In Quinnipiac’s first year in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Bobcats were picked to finish seventh. Azotam took his team to the MAAC semifinal and perhaps with a healthy roster, may have taken his team to the NCAA tournament. Then there’s James Feldeine, one of the most prolific scorers in the school’s history. Feldeine’s squad in 2009-10, which had both Rutty and Johnson on it, hosted the NEC championship, and lost, to who else but Robert Morris, 52-50. The issue with Feldeine is that he was never the complete player that Azotam was. It’s true that it’s harder to be a complete player in the way Azotam is if you’re a guard, however just watching the two of them play you can tell that minus scoring, Azotam is a more complete player. Maybe where Azotam separates himself is in the impact he’s had on the future of the program. He has helped lead the Bobcats in facing better competition. Rutty,
AZOTAM MAY NOT ONLY BE BETTER, BUT HE MAY BE THE BEST EVER.
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Johnson, Feldeine, Quinnipiac’s “up-and-coming” school status and the addition of the TD Bank Sports Center certainly all played a factor; however, Azotam turned a team this year that was supposed to struggle into one of the better teams in the MAAC. The impact that can have on recruits and transfers is very high. Rutty, Feldeine and Johnson never got the chance to have that impact playing in the NEC. Azotam’s play took pressure off Ousmane Drame and allowed him to develop his own game. Drame has become a dominant post player in his own right and will anchor the team next year along with Zaid Hearst. Azotam helped
put Quinnipiac on the map in the MAAC and considering the step up in competition, should help provide recruits better than this school has ever seen. Azotam is not only the best Division I player in the program’s history, but he may be the one who made most impact. Having said that, his impact may be exceeded as early as next season. If Hearst and Drame can lead Quinnipiac to an NCAA tournament berth, in a year where Manhattan, Iona and Canisus are all losing major talent, Azotam’s impact on the program may be surpassed. One thing is for sure though. Right now, Ike Azotam is one of the best players to ever wear a Quinnipiac uniform.
April 23, 2014