Brad Reesing

McCurtain Daily Gazette

BROKEN BOW — After an extended courting period, Wren

Baker finally has the first piece of his recruiting

puzzle in place.

Baker, starting the Rogers State College men's

basketball program from scratch, made Broken Bow point

guard Maurice Rutherford his initial signing.

The signing took place Friday at the McCurtain

County Sports Complex.

Baker, RSU director of athletics and men’s basketball coach, said that

Rutherford is a fine addition for the Hillcats.

"It's important for the first year to find a solid

young point guard to build a team round,” Baker said.

Rutherford will attend RSU for a year —

without losing eligibility — before the start of the

first season in November 2007.

An All-State selection who averaged 14.9 points and 6.8 assists per game, Rutherford has plenty of talent on

the court. Plus, he is a cousin to former Oklahoma State University standout Randy Rutherford.

But Baker was looking for more, especially

for the first official basketball scholarship for RSU.

"Real important was making sure it was a quality

person, in conjunction with being a good player,"

Baker said. "I don't think I could have found a better

fit than what Maurice is."

Baker likes Rutherford’s unselfish play and his drive.

Rutherford would rather make an assist than score.

"Those are the kinds of qualities I was looking for,"

Baker said. "Especially when you're building a team

early."

Baker said the team chemistry is both fragile and

valuable to a program.

"He has the qualities to keep and create chemistry,"

Baker said. "He makes everybody else better."

As for Rutherford’s individual play, Baker said:

"He puts a lot of pressure on the defense, because you

can't play him man-to-man, because he's quick and he's crafty

and he can penetrate. He's one of the best high school point guards

I've seen at picking apart a zone.”

Rutherford played the last two seasons for coach Gene Davis, a charter member of the Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

“He’s going to be a really good player,” Davis said of the 6-2 guard.

Baker knows Davis well, having finished his student teaching requirements under the veteran coach.

And Baker knows the practice regimen that Davis demands.

"We believe in a lot of the same philosophies," Baker said. “Maurice comes from a great coach.”

Baker thinks the year transition period will allow

Rutherford to add strength to his body and acclimate himself to college life.

"It benefits him in two ways," Baker said. "It gives

him that year to mature. And there's not an

established player in front of him. I anticipate

Maurice will have a great chance to play a lot, early

in his career."

Davis called Rutherford a “tremendous floor leader,” and added that “Rogers State is really fortunate” in signing the most valuable player in the Southeast Six Conference.

Rutherford and Broken Bow entered the Port City Classic at Catoosa in January with an unbeaten record and the No. 1 ranking in Class 2A. The Savages were turned back by Class 6A Bartlesville in the semifinals before finishing third.

An injury to Rutherford in the area tournament deprived the Savages a shot at the state tournament.

Rutherford says that he has recovered from the injury.