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Rutgers Men's Basketball Battling St. John's for Top NYC Recruits

Eddie Jordan and Chris Mullin are targeting three of the top players in New York City from the class of 2017.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, Rutgers travels to face old Big East foe St. John's at Carnesecca Arena in Jamaica, Queens. However, this game is just the beginning for this renewed rivalry.  Both programs are now led by alumni of their schools, who starred in the glory years for their respective programs. Both coaches had varying degrees of success in the NBA, as a player and then as an executive or coach. Eddie Jordan, loyal son of Rutgers, returned to the banks to restore the respect and dignity of a once proud program.  Chris Mullin, the greatest player in St. John's history, returned home to take on the first coaching position of his career.  Now the two of them have begun what should be a ongoing recruiting battle for the best local talent in the area, especially New York City.

It started right after Mullin took over as head coach at St. John's last spring, as he landed three-star guard Malik Ellison.  Mullin topped Minnesota, South Carolina and Rutgers for the services of Pervis Ellison's son, the former #1 pick in the 1989 NBA draft. It was just the beginning, as Eddie Jordan and Chris Mullin are currently recruiting three of the top players in New York City from the class of 2017.

Both schools are aggressively recruiting the St. Raymond's duo of guard Isaiah Washington and wing Sidney Wilson. They are both rated 4-stars by

Wilson is a dynamic wing with off the charts athleticism and Washington is gritty point guard with a good handle. Both can shoot the deep ball as well. They would be big commits for either program and both should see their recruiting profiles grow in the next year, with many other power 5 offers already.

Recruitment picked up this summer for 3-star guard Jose Alvarado from Christ The King high school in the city.

Rutgers offered back in late July but St. John's has been pushing hard ever since.

It would not be surprising for Alvarado to be back at Carnesecca Arena for Thursday's St. John's-Rutgers game. Wilson and Washington could be there as well. Regardless, they will all be watching, as will many other top area recruits.

Mullin has been billed "the savior" and has achieved instant rock star status at St. John's, as he was literally featured in Rolling Stone magazine.  He wisely invited a group of about 15 recruits from the classes 2016 through 2018 over the summer to campus, as well as many top area coaches.  The group included Wilson, Alvarado and both of their high school coaches.  Mullin has marketed his success as a all-time great in the NBA as a key selling point to recruits. Essentially, he knows what it takes to excel at the next level and will focus on player development to help them achieve their own success.  He has been inducted to the National Basketball Hall of Fame twice as a player, for his individual career and as a member of the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team". His success as a player cannot be questioned.  Mullin was Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Golden State Warriors from 2004-2009 and more recently, a special assistant with the Sacremento Kings.

Mullin also surrounded himself with credible assistants, most prominently Barry "Slice" Rohrssen.  Slice was previously Kentucky's lead recruiter and has prominent connections to the NYC hoops scene. Mullin also reconnected with former NBA teammate Mitch Richmond, who was hired as a special assistant. However, Mullin has never coached before this season at St. John's and the grind will be an adjustment.  Over time, he will ultimately be judged on how successful he is in developing his team. There is a lot of work to be done after overhauling the roster and being in total rebuilding mode this season.  St. John's need to improve their talent and depth before rising back to national prominence. It  all starts with recruiting and Mullin is forging full force ahead.

Eddie Jordan doesn't have the star power of Mullin, nor does he have the mystique of playing in Madison Square Garden to sell.  However, Eddie coached in the NBA for almost twenty seasons and seven plus as a head coach. Allen Iverson, Gilbert Arenas, and Kobe Bryant have all been coached by Eddie, which was one reason former blue chip recruit and freshman Corey Sanders cited for coming to Rutgers.

Eddie and his staff are realistic that they aren't going to compete with the top programs for recruits and are more focused on the right fit for Rutgers. Eddie and staff have also shown the ability to put in the groundwork, as Greg "Shoes" Vetrone, Van Macon and Dalip Bhatia have proven resourceful in finding potential fits for the program up and down the east coast.  Florida has yielded Sanders and fellow freshman Jonathan Laurent. They are currently recruiting players from schools in Massachusetts, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, Kansas, Tennessee and the Canary Islands.

That being said, Rutgers has made targeting top New York City talent a priority, as well as New Jersey to an extent. This will lead to many recruiting battles with Mullin and St. John's for years to come.  With a new offensive system focused on guard play on the perimeter, along with an aggressive and up tempo pace, Eddie now features a player friendly style of play. He also has a vision to sell and a coaching pedigree from the highest level.  Ultimately, Rutgers and St. John's will be judged by wins and losses, but now is a key period of development for both programs. Tomorrow is an opportunity for both coaches to prove to the top recruits in New York City that better days are ahead. Long term progress this season is more important than the outcome of this game. However, winning it will be another chip to sell to their high profile, mutual targets!