Trio Represents Rutgers Basketball at Asbury Park March
When it comes to sports, the Rutgers Men's Basketball Team could run a seminar on injustice.
With almost all things sports on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, three of its players came out Friday to support the PeaceByU March to protest against actual injustice.
Outgoing graduate senior Akwasi Yeboah, rising junior Ron Harper Jr. and rising red-shirt junior Luke Nathan made the trip Friday to Asbury Park to support PeaceByU founder and former Ranney School star Scottie Lewis - with whom Harper is friends.
"Scottie hit me up," Harper Jr. said. "I see all the protests going around and I've seen a lot of rioting and looting. Scottie hit me up and he told me to come to this protest and I brought my teammates because I know Scottie promotes a positive message. I know Scottie's always going to do things the right way and share the right message."
Rutgers is coming off its best men's basketball season in more than four decades and was on track to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991. The Scarlet Knights' drought between tournament appearances, however, is now 30 years after the NCAA Tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Scarlet Knights finished 2019-20 20-11 overall, 11-9 in the Big Ten and 18-1 inside their home confines at the RAC.
Over the past several weeks, team captain Geo Baker has been outspoken on social media on the issues of racial injustice and police brutality and his three teammates said their captain's words have been a reflection of the team's overall sentiment.
"Geo's very active on social media with stating his opinion and that's very important," Harper Jr. said. "I think Geo can speak for all of us - everybody on the Rutgers basketball team, we're all on the same page. Everybody in the program, we're all on the same page. They love that we're out here today and they're upset that they couldn't make it."
Harper, Yeboah and Nathan also have their own unique perspectives to offer. Nathan is white, a preferred walk-on and a native of Randolph, N.J. Harper Jr. is a Don Bosco Prep grad and the son of five-time NBA champion Ron Harper. Yeboah was born in Ghana, grew up in the United Kingdom and came to the U.S. to play basketball at Stony Brook University before transferring to Rutgers for his final year of eligibility.
"All three of us are from different backgrounds," Harper Jr. said. "I'm a black male, Luke's a white male, Kwas is from Great Britain. We all come from different backgrounds and our team is very diverse and we take pride in that."
Harper Jr. was the leading scorer on the Scarlet Knights during his sophomore season at 12.1 points per game while Yeboah finished third at 9.8 behind Baker (10.9) in his only season at Rutgers.
"All of this happens all over the world," Yeboah said. "You see a lot of systematic racism and injustice in different parts of the world, including England. I just want to be part of a cause greater than myself and help spread positivity and change and hopefully we see a difference all over the world - not only for black lives but all types of people."
While the trio represented the state university's basketball program, Freehold native and Mater Dei Prep graduate Elijah Barnes represented New Jersey's Ivy League School. The rising senior at Princeton spoke for 14 minutes to the crowd after the march stopped at the Asbury Park Police Station, with his friendly rivals from Rutgers watching from near the front of the crowd.