PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- As one of the top available point guards on the market last spring, James Beatty received a lot of love from colleges across the nation.
Coaches from Kentucky, Baylor, Cincinnati, UConn and Rutgers pursued the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Miami Dade College floor general.
"It was really a tough choice for me because so many schools were after me. With a lot of point guards going to the NBA early, my phone just never stopped ringing," recalled Beatty, a Wilmington, N.C., native.
But almost every time Beatty spoke to a coach, he was inextricably linked to another North Carolina player.
John Wall, a 6-4 point guard out of Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God Academy, was the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2010 and many schools saw Beatty as a backup plan in case they couldn't land Wall, who ultimately chose Kentucky.
"Mostly every school that was recruiting him was recruiting me. I felt like if they didn't get him then that's when I was the next best choice," Beatty said.
Knowing that Wall was likely one-and-done before heading to the NBA, Kentucky, in particular, "thought about bringing both of us in," Beatty said. But Miami Dade coach Matt Eisele said the Wildcats never offered Beatty a scholarship.
Still, Beatty didn't want to serve as anybody's backup. He wanted to be his own man. He wanted a chance to lead a team on his own.
And so in June, after Rutgers assistant Jimmy Carr stayed on him for months, Beatty committed to the Big East school. Now he hopes to lead the Scarlet Knights on the upswing after an 11-21 season in which they went 2-16 in the Big East.
"I've won at every level and I want to bring that winning attitude here. Losing isn't acceptable in my eyes," Beatty said. "I don't care if we're playing against UConn or if we're playing against a Division 3 school. I feel like every time we step on the court our goal is to win the game."
Beatty averaged 13.4 points, 7.9 assists and 2.7 steals last season for a Miami Dade team that went 26-2 and finished third in the nation. He won back-to-back team Most Valuable Player honors.
"He's just a really good basketball player," Eisele said. "He's really coachable. He can really shot the ball well. He does a great job of taking the bull by the horns and leading by example. He knows how to take other talented players and make them better.
"He knows how to hit big shots. He had seven games of five or more 3's. He broke the school assist record with 16 in one game. He was the reason we were able to have such a successful season with keeping all the egos in check down here and sending so many kids to high-major Division I schools.
Had Beatty not chosen Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights would have probably used junior Mike Coburn as the starting point. The 6-foot Coburn averaged 4.0 points, 2.1 assists and 1.6 rebounds last season in a part-time role.
With Beatty in the mix, Rutgers coach Fred Hill went so far as to say his team could potentially make a postseason appearance. The Knights haven't been played in the NCAA Tournament since 1991.
"We are turning the corner and postseason is a realistic goal for this group," Hill said. "It's not a given."
A soft-spoken personality during interviews with the media, Beatty has been outspoken with his teammates after a short adjustment period.
"In the beginning I was trying to feel everybody out and see how they responded," Beatty said. "Everyone responded really well to my vocal style and I think everybody respects me a lot because I'm so vocal. I'm a positive leader. I don't try to yell or make guys feel low about themselves. If they make a mistake, I always try to pick guys up."
"James has been terrific," Hill said. "He's a guy that's always got a smile on his face. He's got an unbelievable attitude. There's never a bad day with James. He's very, very talkative. He stepped in from Day One. He talks in the locker room. He talks on the floor. He's just one of those guys that you love hanging out with, you love having as a teammate. All of his leadership qualities have really been very apparent in a short period of time."
Beatty is one of six new faces on this Rutgers team. The other key additions are 6-7 redshirt junior forward Jonathan Mitchell, a Mount Vernon, N.Y., native who won an NCAA championship at Florida; and 6-7 freshman forward Dane Miller, who figures to challenge for starter's minutes right away.
Sophomore shooting guard Mike Rosario and sophomore big man Greg Echenique should both be improved after a summer of international play and a year of Big East experience under their belts.
"They're very, very talented," Beatty said of the sophomores. "Greg is one of the most outstanding post players in the country. He's strong and not only can he score in the post, he can pass out of the post, too. He's an unselfish player, the way he gets the job done down in the post. He's going to battle regardless of who he's facing.
"Mike is a competitor. He's out there every day competing and he makes shots. That's his thing. Whether it's a 3 or driving to the basket. ... I'm amazed at the shots that he makes."
After going a combined 56-1 during their senior seasons at St. Anthony and St. Benedict'sh, both Rosario and Echenique let Beatty know that they weren't pleased with last year's outcome.
"They definitely expressed that they were frustrated with their losses," Beatty said. "In the beginning they both expressed that they didn't know what to expect."
Now Beatty is learning how to play with his new teammates in order to turn things around.
"I'm looking at how they like to get the ball," he said. "What spots that maybe Rosario or maybe Greg or maybe J-Mitch might want to get the ball and where they're more successful on the court. So every day is a learning process for me."
Hill says the team will run more this season than a year ago, when it often played at a snail's pace, and Beatty likes the sound of that.
"I've never played at snail's pace," Beatty said. "I've never played slow-down basketball. Every team I've played for has been a high [octane] offense where you get the ball and you push it, so I like that a lot."
Having chosen Rutgers above his other choices, James Beatty is starting to feel at home.