One of the top voices in local high school sports is Jeremy Schneider. A reporter for NJ Advance Media, Schneider was one of the first to question where Eddie Jordan was in terms of New Jersey high school recruiting. He also broke the story regarding Matt Bullock committing to Rutgers. On the Banks sat down (aka emailed some questions) and got the scoop on what Steve Pikiell is doing on the recruiting trail.
On the Banks: After Eddie Jordan was fired, word started to leak out that Jordan wasn't as visible at NJ basketball events. Now that Steve Pikiell is in charge, how has that changed?
Jeremy Schneider: Pikiell differentiated himself from Jordan immediately. He was on the phone with New Jersey high school coaches right away, looking to reconnect after Rutgers had little to no relationship with them. Going to Roselle Catholic's coaching clinic was a no-brainer and undoubtedly endeared himself to coaches around the state, and they've extended some offers that should have been handed out a long time ago as well as some less obvious offers. Rutgers has been present since Pikiell was hired. That wasn't the case before.
OTB: Would you say Pikiell and staff have done what is necessary in NJ so far or gone above and beyond? Why?
JS: I would say the Rutgers has done what's necessary and maybe a bit more. They're making the right moves, there offering the right kids and building the right relationships. The beyond in my eyes was landing a commitment from Roselle Catholic's Matt Bullock. The situation was almost too perfect — an under-recruited New Jersey player from the hottest program in the state. No, he wasn't a five-star on an elite national prospect, but it was something of an olive branch to New Jersey basketball after Eddie Jordan all but ignored it.
OTB: How have local high school coaches and players responded to the new Rutgers staff?
JS: You'll have a hard time finding anyone who has something bad to say about Pikiell and the new staff. The coaches seem to like him, and specifically praise his character and what a nice guy he is. And how coaches feel about him affects how the players feel about him. That doesn't mean the elite recruits are going to roll in or anything, but it's a start.
OTB: What prospects do you think Rutgers has the best shot with in the 2017, 18, and 19 classes? Does anyone stand out to you?
JS: Rutgers is a bit behind the eight ball with 2017, but center Bul Ajang from Patrick School is an interesting prospect for them. He has only a few offers and Rutgers has as good a shot as anyone with him. I'd say 2018 and 2019 are too far out to judge. But it will be interesting to see if this staff pays attention to the prospects in the middle of the pack — the previous staff essentially focused on the cream of the crop and didn't put in effort on the lesser-known names.
OTB: What is Rutgers greatest position of need, and based on the offers out there, have they targeted that position?
JS: Just based on last season and the roster in general, I would say Rutgers' greater position of need is at center and forward. Offering Nick Richards and Ajang from Patrick School seems to address that, and there are only so many big men out there to offer. But Rutgers seems to be doing what it needs to do.
OTB: Name one player you think Rutgers needs to offer that they haven't already. Why is this player key?
JS: I would say Linden 2018 guard Tavon Jones because he's poised to blow up, and he told me he expects Rutgers to offer shortly. He exploded onto the scene as a sophomore and has the looks of an elite prospect. His recruitment is young enough that they have a legitimate chance with him, too.
OTB: What are you early thoughts on Pikiell and his staff?
JS: It's early, likely too early to judge. But so far, so good. They're doing everything they should be doing and they're laying the foundation to become a legitimate presence in New Jersey. The staff is as good as Rutgers fans could have hoped for. Now the big question becomes when the new facilities are coming, because that would be essential to recruiting efforts.