By Tom Ballato
Nick Rutherford began his career at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). In two years, he started in all of the 63 games he played, but Florida Atlantic finished with a record of 8-25 and 10-20 in those two seasons.
In his two seasons at FAU, he established himself as a defensive-minded playmaker. Rutherford averaged 8.1 points and 3.9 assists while amassing 88 steals in two seasons for FAU. During his freshman year, Rutherford had 49 steals, which were the highest single-season total by an FAU player in more than a decade. Rutherford was playing well, but the losses were piling up.
Rutherford transferred to Monmouth University. He sat out the 2017-2018 season as per NCAA rules. In 2018-2019 Monmouth began the season 0-12. They were one of the worst teams in the nation, but the team got it together and finished 14-21 on the season. Monmouth made a run in the MAAC Conference Tournament and lost to Iona in the finals.
After being unhappy in his situation, Rutherford decided to go the graduate transfer route. “To be honest with you, the grad transfer idea was from my family. I was ready to end my career after Monmouth because I was going to get my degree, and I would have done four years already. I was ready to call it quits, and they (his family) encouraged me to see what other opportunities were out there. St. John’s was there, so I went and took it.”
Rutherford learned a lot about himself in terms of being resilient from his time at FAU and Monmouth. He continued to work hard even as the losses piled up. That was the first time where he lost that much in his life. “Losing like that shows a lot about you. People are laughing at you, people will tell you, you suck, but you need to put your head down and keep grinding. Keep going to the gym and try to win.”
St. John’s named Mike Anderson, their head coach, and Rutherford filled a void that the team needed at point guard with the departure of Shamorie Ponds.
For St. John’s and Nick Rutherford, it was the perfect match. Rutherford instantly became the teams’ starting point guard due to Rasheem Dunn’s ineligibility status to begin the season.
In his one season in Queens, New York, Rutherford averaged 5.5 points and 3.1 assists per contest. He established himself as a defensive presence in the Big East and brought energy and heart on and off the court for a young St. John’s team.
It was challenging, but a great experience to play for Mike Anderson. When talking about playing for coach Anderson, Rutherford claimed, “I loved it because he allowed me to showcase more of my defensive capabilities. I loved being able to play fast-paced and speeding up teams because it showcased my skill-set. I am really grateful he took a chance on me.”
Rutherford loved his time at St. John’s, and fans saw that by the smile he always had on his face. “This is the most fun I’ve had on a team in my life. All my teammates and coaches brought a lot of great memories.”
As far as playing up a level, Rutherford didn’t see much of a difference between the Big East and the previous two conferences he played in. What was different was the magnitude of the games in the Big East, media coverage, and the fans.
St. John’s season ended due to the Big East Tournament cancelation because of coronavirus. This ended Rutherford’s collegiate career. According to Rutherford, it was a bittersweet ending because he and his teammates thought they could win the Big East Tournament the way the team was playing.
The night before St. John’s beat Georgetown in their opening game of the Big East Tournament, finishing the game on a 23-0 run. Rutherford had six points and two assists. The team was clicking at the right time, and Marcellus Earlington made big shots for the team.
The Big East Tournament was canceled at halftime of the St. John’s-Creighton game. The players heard from the coaches during the game that it could be canceled. The team prepared that morning just like any other game, Rutherford and his teammates had no idea that they were the only conference not to cancel their tournament.
After all, the losses early on in his career, Nick Rutherford finished his collegiate career as a winner at St. John’s.
When St. John’s looks back in a few years, they will look back at this past season as the foundation that Rutherford and his teammates built. With Mike Anderson at the helm, Rutherford said, “I think the sky’s the limit, and I think people got a glimpse of what he can do. Consider the fact that he got a whole bunch of guys that have never played together before on the same page, changed a culture, and tried to win in the toughest conference in college basketball. Once he lays that foundation I think the sky’s the limit.”
“No one wants to play us because of the style of basketball that we play.” – Nick Rutherford
Right now, he is at home with his wife, daughter, and family in Indiana, waiting for what’s next in his career.
A year ago Rutherford was ready to graduate and call it a career, but now he has aspirations to play professionally after a successful season at St. John’s. As far as that route, he doesn’t know what it will look like, but he is staying patient and trusting the process.
Rutherford leaves St. John’s with some memories he will never forget. He loved his teammates and coaches and made the most of his graduate transfer.