Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell credits players decreasing their phone usage for turnaround

Rutgers basketball has a winning record for the first time in more than two weeks, and coach Steve Pikiell believes he’s uncovered the secret behind its recent successes: limited phone time.

That’s right. The team isn’t dieting better, not sleeping more, not switching schemes to run teams off the floor. They’re not using a fancy-pants exercise tracking program or limiting practice time to conserve longevity. They’re simply using their phones less, Pikiell speculates, as Rutgers rides a two-game winning streak into Wednesday’s game against Indiana.

“I don’t know. Maybe they are using their phones less,” Pikiell told NJ.com on Monday about their recent turnaround. “That’s what my hope is.”

Pikiell says he has noticed the team is practicing better and showing more focus than earlier in the season, a stark change since the team held a players-only meeting before the recent win streak, and reiterates that limited phone time will key an extended run of success.

“Put the phones away,” Pikiell says. “The phones don’t help them shoot free throws. The phones don’t help them shoot 3s. The phones don’t help them prepare for games. Put the phones down, give the phones a break. Enough with the phones.

“It’s an issue everywhere, [even with] my own family … yeah, phones are an issue. We waste a lot of time on the phones. I’m trying to get these guys to focus on things that are going to help them be better in basketball. The phones aren’t one of them. You can’t take the phone with you on the court.”

By phones, Pikiell’s players say, he means social media. And by social media, he means refreshing of Twitter, of Instagram, of Snapchat — what millennials refresh hourly (and sometimes more frequently) as part of their daily routine.

“Coach Pikiell, he doesn’t like social media, to say the least,” freshman Ron Harper Jr. says. “He wants us to stay off social media because he told us that they’re always going to have to say something negative about you, and you really don’t need to hear any of that. As long as you and the people around you are good, we’ll always be fine.”

So there you have it, kids. Becoming a successful basketball team simply takes a little more focus, a little better practice and a lot less time on the cell phone.

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