It has been another busy week with the Rutgers men's basketball program. On Monday, the staff made seven offers in one day to recruits in the classes of 2017, 2018, and 2019. On Tuesday, the support staff for the program was officially announced. They also offered a 4-star point guard from New Jersey the same day, as well as several other recruits as the week went on. Thursday was a good day for the program, as the staff secured a commitment from JUCO transfer Candido Sa, beating out Texas and Pitt, among other schools for his services. With four scholarships open for next season, this was big for depth purposes, as well as Sa's ability to be a defensive force in the paint and around the rim, a major need for Rutgers. And amid all the recruiting news, the staff is also working out the current roster, with a focus on improving on the fundamentals.
With just seven scholarship players on the roster right now, the staff have a difficult challenge in improving the current team, while also adding players for next season. The good news is star Corey Sanders is participating in the team workouts. Also, NBA combine invites were handed out yesterday and he did not receive one. Thus, the odds of Sanders getting drafted in June is pretty much zero. The likelihood of Sanders suiting up next season is very strong.
The staff have secured two commitments so far for next season. Last month, Rutgers landed the under recruited, but the highly decorated guard from New Jersey powerhouse Roselle Catholic, Matt Bullock. Now, they landed a shot blocker in Sa. Back in February, 6'9" wing and 3-star recruit Issa Thiam committed to Rutgers and Eddie Jordan. Since the regime change, Thiam reopened his recruitment, but new head coach Steve Pikiell continued to pursue Issa. Former assistant coach and now Director of Player Development, Greg "Shoes" Vetrone, was the lead recruiter on Issa and kept Rutgers in the lead for his services. It had been rumored that Florida was jumping in the mix late, but Adam Zagoria dispelled that earlier this week.
Florida is not recruiting Issa Thiam, second source says, so Rutgers looks to be in strong position.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 29, 2016
Hopefully, Issa reaffirms his commitment to Rutgers very soon. The signing period ends on May 18th, so we will know by then for sure. For now, let's include Issa, along with Bullock and Sa when breaking down next season's roster. Here is an updated roster grid for the program as of today.
|Frontcourt||Deshawn Freeman||Deshawn Freeman||Jonathan Laurent||Issa Thiam|
|Jonathan Laurent||Jonathan Laurent||Ibrahima Diallo|
|Ibrahima Diallo||Ibrahima Diallo||Shaq Doorson|
|Shaq Doorson||Shaq Doorson||Issa Thiam|
|Candido Sa||Candido Sa|
|Issa Thiam||Issa Thiam|
|Backcourt||Mike Williams||Mike Williams||Corey Sanders||Matt Bullock|
|Nigel Johnson||Nigel Johnson||Matt Bullock|
|Corey Sanders||Corey Sanders|
|Matt Bullock||Matt Bullock|
With seven scholarship players returning, which includes Sanders, plus the three recruits anticipated to sign on, that would leave three scholarships still open for next season. Pikiell and his staff have a balancing act to manage, as they need more players for next season. However, they probably don't want to fill all three scholarships, as there are no rising seniors on the roster and that would result in zero scholarships available for the class of 2017. Of course, transfers could always happen, opening up additional scholarships. However, the staff cannot operate on assumptions. What is certain is their desire to add 1-2 graduate transfers for next season. This would add depth and experience to the roster, while creating flexibility by having that scholarship re-open for the 2017 recruiting cycle. It had been quiet on that front until news broke that a graduate transfer is scheduled to visit Rutgers this Tuesday.
The report states that Obokoh visited St. Bonaventure yesterday and after visiting Rutgers this week, should make a decision soon. Obokoh is looking to join a program where he can start right away, as he only has one season of eligibility remaining. While the 6'9" center didn't play much at Syracuse, he could make an impact at Rutgers and he certainly would provide depth to a frontcourt that saw three players miss significant time last season. With Deshawn Freeman, Shaq Doorson, and Ibrahima Diallo all returning from season ending injuries, having Obokoh would be a nice insurance policy to add along with Sa down low.
As for transfer possibilities for undergraduates, we have known about the intent of Caleb and Cody Martin from NC State to visit Rutgers in the near future. As of now that hasn't happened and the twins have started to take other visits.
NC State transfers Caleb and Cody Martin will visit East Carolina today, source told @CBSSports. Original visit to Cal was postponed.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 30, 2016
They are looking to play right away and together at whichever school they choose. Being from the state of North Carolina, they are exploring smaller schools like East Carolina and UNC-Wilmington as possibilities. While the Martin brothers were solid players for an ACC team, does it even make sense for Rutgers to take them on? If they do so, they lock up two more scholarships for the next three seasons, having to sit out next season due to transfer rules, before having two seasons of eligibility left after that. That would leave Rutgers with just one scholarship for the 2017 recruiting cycle. Again, transfers are always possibilities, but the current staff has been everywhere recently evaluating players from the class of 2017. Below is a current breakdown of offers out to recruits in that class.
|Class Of 2017 Offers|
|Measurements||HS/State||Rating||Total Offers & Top Schools|
|Nick Richards||6'10"; 220 lbs||The Patrick School/NJ||5 Stars||13 : Kansas, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Syracuse, Uconn, Villanova|
|Victor Uyaelunmo||6'11"; 210 lbs||Gulliver Prep/FLA||4 Stars||7 : Georgetown, Florida, Florida State, USC|
|Bul Ajang||6'11"; 220 lbs||The Patrick School/NJ||3 Stars||2 : Pittsburgh|
|Chris Efretuei||7'0"; 250 lbs||The Park School/NY||Not Rated||3 : Sam Houston State, Fordham|
|Andre Rafus||6'9"; 200 lbs||Roselle Catholic/NJ||4 Stars||17 : Kansas, UConn, UCLA, Georgetown, West Virginia|
|RaiQuan Gray||6'8"; 235 lbs||Dillard/FLA||4 Stars||11 : Florida St, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, Illinois|
|Lance Thomas||6'8"; 210 lbs||Norcross, GA||3 Stars||19 : Florida, VCU, Dayton, USC, Arkansas, Memphis, LSU|
|Hasahn French||6'6"; 220 lbs||Commonwealth Academy/NH||3 Stars||20 : VCU, ASU, Providence, Cincinnati, Pitt, Nebraska. Seton Hall|
|Myles Douglas||6'6"; 190 lbs||Paul VI Catholic/VA||3 Stars||9 : Maryland, West Virginia, Miami, Temple, Penn State|
|Sidney Wilson||6'6"; 170 lbs||St. Raymond's/NYC||3 Stars||4 : Indiana, St. John's, Minnesota|
|Jordan Nwora||6'8"; 220 lbs||Vermont Academy/VT||Not Rated||16 :Florida, UConn, Xavier, Marquette, USC, Oklahoma State|
|Makhtar Gueye||6'10||Winchendon/MA||Not Rated||7 : Florida, UConn, Marquette, Creighton, DePaul|
|C.J. Roberts||6'2"; 178 lbs||Richland/TX||4 Stars||14 : Baylor, South Carolina, SMU, Purdue, Wichita St, Illinois, Va Tech|
|Isaiah Washington||6'0"; 162 lbs||St. Raymond's/NYC||4 Stars||5 : Providence, Minnesota, Iona|
|Nate Pierre-Louis||6'3"; 175 lbs||Roselle Catholic/NJ||3 Stars||14 : UConn, Georgetown, Florida State, Miami, Iowa State, Seton Hall|
|Jose Alvarado||6'0"; 160 lbs||Christ The King/NYC||3 Stars||12 : Indiana, Miami, VCU, St. John's, Seton Hall, Xavier|
|Jerard Butler||6'4"||Westminster Academy/FLA||Not Rated||7 : Virginia Tech, LaSalle, Florida Gulf Coast|
|Geo Baker||6'2"||Proctor Academy/NH||Not Rated||13 : Kansas State, Vermont, George Mason, Penn, Drexel|
It is quite an extensive list and includes recruits being pursued by some of the heavyweights of college basketball. Of course, every staff needs to explore all options for improving their roster, and the Rutgers staff has hit the ground running in such a short time. They are making New Jersey recruits a priority and they wasted little time offering 5-star center Nick Richards from the Patrick School. While it's unlikely the staff will land a player of his caliber so early, high school hoops writer Jeremy Schneider told our own Dave White that Richards teammate, 3-star center Bul Ajang, is a legitimate possibility. That would be progress, and it behooves the staff to make an impact on the recruiting trail as early as possible in state. Taking on proven college players like the Martin brothers in the transfer market is a solid option, but my feeling is they would prefer to score with New Jersey recruits instead.
While the staff has made many recent offers to recruits like C.J. Roberts from Texas, RaiQuan Gray from Florida, and Lance Thomas from Georgia, landing national recruits are more likely to consider Rutgers in 2018, after the staff has proven that real progress is occurring. However, if the staff has any chance of landing that level of a recruit early on, local players that the previous staff offered like Nate Pierre-Louis, Isaiah Washington, and Sidney Wilson are possibilities. Shoes also targeted Roselle Catholic's Andre Rafus, who has seen his recruitment blow up recently and now has offers from UConn, Kansas, UCLA, Georgetown, and West Virginia among others, according to 247 sports.
If Rutgers could somehow land one of those four local recruits, it would be a major score and lend even more credibility to their potential to make the program a winning one for years to come. The good news is recruiting is full of possibilities these days for the Rutgers basketball program. Steve Pikiell and his staff have quickly made a positive impression on the recruiting trail. What the future holds is anyone's guess, but they certainly have a plan of attack to improve the roster and are laying the groundwork now.
If the staff can land Obokoh from Syracuse as a grad transfer, they would add depth for next season while having flexibility with that scholarship for the 2017 cycle. It's possible the Martin brothers end up at Rutgers, but it's probably more likely those two spots remain and are either filled with additional graduate transfers, or they stay open for the 2017 recruiting cycle.
Based on the early progress the staff has made and the litany of offers made and targets they are pursuing, having three scholarships available for 2017 leaves the opportunity for exciting possibilities. The staff has one eye towards future classes as well, and I will breakdown those offers for the 2018 & 2019 classes later this week. Next season and the 2017 class is the priority for this staff right now, and it will be fun to watch them work towards rebuilding the roster for the immediate and near future of the program. The wheels are in motion for positive results to become a reality.