After Rutgers’ basketball practice ended on Friday, head coach Steve Pikiell called the team together to watch a movie.
Aiden Terry, the walk-in goalie who runs the program’s scout team, expected the video of Nebraska, which the Scarlet Knights face on Saturday, to appear on the big screen.
Instead, he showed two familiar faces: those of his father Norm and older brother Austin.
âMy dad and brother were talking, and it was just a little general, saying how much they love Rutgers and how everyone back home in Kentucky is a huge Rutgers fan right now,â Terry said. âThen the video stopped and I thought, ‘Oh, that was good. “”
Then came the kicker.
âThe video came back and my dad said, ‘By the way, you have a full scholarship now,’â said Terry.
It was news not only for Terry, but for all of his teammates.
âEveryone was panicking a bit,â he said of the reaction. â(I was expecting this) was the last thing I thought about. It was a total shock, to be honest.
The second year scholarship is retroactive to include the fall semester as well as this spring.
Rutgers already had 13 scholarship players, but postgraduate goaltender Geo Baker’s does not count towards the 13-player limit as he uses the fifth year of eligibility offered by the NCAA due to the pandemic.
This is the third time Pikiell has upgraded a Rutgers walk-on to stock exchange status. He did so with guard Joey Downes in 2019 and with center Luke Nathan, a Randolph High School graduate, in the last offseason.
During the announcement, Nathan âcongratulated me and told me he loved me,â Terry said.
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As Downes did, Terry leads the scout team, studying and imitating the opposing top guard’s tendencies on the next opponent.
âThese kids are working hard,â Pikiell said of his walk-ons. âI never expected to have another Joey Downes one day. Aiden is doing a great job. Everyone loves him.”
The gesture was particularly touching given the difficulty of 2021 for the Terry family. Aiden’s mother, Tammi Terry, died suddenly in May of a brain aneurysm. She was 54 years old and was known throughout the community for her kindness and generosity.
Thusday, Terry announced the launch of the Tammi Terry âCrusade for Kindness Classicâ, a double hoop program in her hometown that will help raise money for a scholarship fund established in her mother’s name.
âWe wanted to give back to the local high school kids when they graduate,â Terry said. âShe definitely had a big impact on our community, just being nice to everyone. We wanted this to continue, to continue to spread kindness. “
In that sense, Friday’s announcement was a looping gesture.
“I’m super grateful,” said Terry. âIt’s crazy, like my dreams are coming true. I feel like the goal of every walk-on is not just to be happy to be there, but to try to do more. To see this happen, I am super blessed.
A gift for Dickie V
If anyone needed more proof of the culture Pikiell created at Rutgers, it was all over social media earlier on Friday, when acclaimed college hoops commentator Dick Vitale posted a photo of him holding a retro jersey of the Scarlet Knights.
âOh what a nice surprise,â Vitale tweeted.
The jersey, signed by everyone in the Rutgers program, was a gesture of recovery for Vitale, who is fighting lymphoma very publicly. The 82-year-old Passaic native was a high school coach in Bergen County when Rutgers head coach Dick Lloyd hired him as an assistant in 1971.
At the top of the jersey was a handwritten message from Pikiell.
âDickie V – keep fighting,â Pikiell wrote. âWe are all with you. “
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and the pace of college basketball since 2003. He is among the Associated Press’s Top 25 Voters. Contact him at [email protected]