The 2011 Rutgers basketball class is back to square one with the news that York, PA forward Andrew Nicholas is no longer a verbal commitment, and now considering signing with Penn State or St. Joe's.
Mike Rice and staff have done a good job over the past month in getting highly-touted '11/'12 prospects to take unofficial visits to Rutgers, and the first tangible evidence was the verbal from Class of 2012 combo forward Jordan Goodman. Rutgers basketball looks to be a viable option again with the top local prospects, but it's only fair to reserve judgment before any players actually make it to campus, and until Rice gets a chance to coach Big East conference games.
The new staff certainly has their work cut out for them in the meantime. Rutgers basketball won't have any underclassmen point guards on scholarship next fall, meaning that any signees there could be looking at seeing starter's minutes from day one.
As problematic as that situation looks, even more pressing are any immediate worries about the 2010-2011 season. Rutgers loses arguably their two more important starters next year in center Hamady N'Diaye and shooting guard Mike Rosario. While unlikely, it's at least conceivable that junior college transfer Tyree Graham or another guard can replace Rosario's scoring or at least provide a reasonable facsimile. Mike is an immense talent, but was streaky at times last year, and his field goal efficiency suffered as a result.
That'll be difficult, but an even greater problem will be replacing N'Diaye's contributions on the glass and defensively. Jonathan Mitchell and Dane Miller are good players, but Mitchell was miscast as a 4 last year. Placing even more of a burden on him would portend poorly on any chance that the Scarlet Knights improve. Even if you're optimistic about sophomore Austin Johnson, or have high hopes for incoming freshman Gil Biruta, Rutgers plainly needs another body up front to compete in the deepest, most physical league in the country. That's not going to happen now that the spring signing period is over, right?
One remaining glimmer of hope is last week's Jeff Goodman report that UNC Wilmington center John Fields is considering transferring to Rutgers. Fields has also visited Xavier, and Brian Mull says that he'll visit Miami too. It's hard to predict how Fields would translate to high major competition, but at least he's a big man with a pulse. Throw in immediate eligibility, and all of a sudden the cat is out of the bag.
Here's a pretty good writeup on the Xavier end about Fields and why he transferred.
Update: Adam Zagoria is now confirming the long-simmering rumors that sophomore C Brian Okam would be transferring.