With the season set to tip-off less than two weeks from now, the Rutgers men’s basketball coaching staff continues to keep one eye on the future with recruiting. While a top target in the class of 2017 was lost this week, Rutgers continues to plug away in making offers to players in future classes. Let’s get caught up on the recruiting front now.
Combo Guard Geo Baker remains the only current commit in the class of 2017 and one scholarship remains open. The staff had made a strong play for forward Makhtar Gueye, who attends the Aspire Academy in Arizona. Head coach Steve Pikiell visited Gueye in September and the talented 3-star recruit took an official visit to Rutgers earlier this month. While it appeared Rutgers was in his final three, the school that was considered the favorite for awhile now ultimately won out for his services.
I'm proud to say I will be attending the University of Alabama-Birmingham next year. Thank to all coaches, Go Blazers! pic.twitter.com/jY2SfbcJAY— TheLionKiller☠ (@MakhtarGueye22) October 24, 2016
Despite the loss, the fact remains that Rutgers has some flexibility with the class of 2017. With only one senior on the current roster in graduate transfer CJ Gettys, Rutgers only has one open scholarship to fill. It’s certainly possible they could decide to hold it and roll it over for the next recruiting cycle, if the entire roster returns for the following season. It’s no secret that the class of 2018 is loaded with local talent and Pikiell did a tremendous job hosting dozens of top recruits earlier this month for MidKnight Madness and the Michigan football game. To read about all the recruits who were on campus and hosted by the program, click here.
The past two weeks have proven that the staff never sleeps on the recruiting trail and new offers continue to be made. Last week we reviewed a couple here, and just yesterday, Rutgers made two more offers to players in future classes.
Rutgers offers 2018 F Colin "Dirk" Castleton & 2020 PG Naseem "Hardaway" Khaalid @seem_k4 @Castleton_ pic.twitter.com/NqSMBEOYGv— DEM SHOWTIME BOYZ (@ShowtimeBaller1) October 30, 2016
Both 6’9” forward Colin Castleton from the class of 2018 and 6’1” point guard Naseem Khaalid from the class of 2020, play their AAU ball with the Showtime Ballers in Florida. That is the same program where current Rutgers star Corey Sanders played during his AAU days. I wrote about a potential Florida pipeline being established under Eddie Jordan last summer, as the previous staff made several offers to other players with the Showtime Ballers back then.
As for Castleton, according to Verbal Commits, the big man holds offers from South Florida, North Florida, Charlotte, Robert Morris, and UAB, among others. Listed at 190 pounds it’s obvious he will need to bulk up and develop his body to be successful as a high major player in college. He will be a player to watch during his junior year at Father Lopez Catholic high school in Florida.
Khaalid is just entering his freshman year at First Coast high school, but is already garnering a lot of attention on the court. He recently competed at the Best of the Best Florida camp in September and turned heads with his play. You can read a full profile on his performance at the prestigious event here. The Showtime Ballers twitter account also reported that LSU is showing interest in the young floor leader. Rutgers is the first high major to offer Khaalid. It’s not only a smart move to show serious interest so early in the talented players recruitment, but the new staff of Rutgers is laying the groundwork for building a strong relationship with a very good AAU program, that is loaded year after year with Division I players.
As the Steve Pikiell era is set to begin in earnest on November 11th, it’s great to see the staff continuing to actively recruit and make new offers in future classes. Even if they are able to land another player in the class of 2017, which they no doubt will be working to do, the real test is landing an impact class in 2018. That class will undoubtedly reshape the program’s future. There should be a minimum of three scholarships available, potentially more, and Rutgers is pursuing so many talented players at several top local programs. Pikiell and the staff are laying a solid foundation in building relationships now, that hopefully reap benefits in the future.
The next step now is showing progress on the court this season, in order to get recruits to truly believe the program is moving in the right direction under Pikiell. I covered where Rutgers landed in the preseason KenPom rankings this week, as well as their season prediction here. Rutgers did hold a closed door scrimmage against Yale yesterday and only this tidbit from SNY’s Adam Zagoria has emerged.
On the Rutgers-Yale scrimmage was told Rutgers is big and adept at offensive rebounding but not shooting the 3.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) October 30, 2016
Nothing too surprising, as we know Rutgers has the biggest frontcourt they have had in years, but it’s good to hear their rebounding stood out in the scrimmage. As for shooting behind the arc, we know this will continue to be an area of concern this season. There are a couple of newcomers who could potentially help in this area. Dave White and I discussed what each player on the roster brings to the table, which you can read here. We are 12 days away until the new season and the start of the Steve Pikiell era at Rutgers! Media Day is Tuesday and I will be attending, so I will have plenty more coverage leading up to the November 11th opener against Division II Molloy at the RAC.