Rutgers continues to search for players to fill out the roster for next season. A full review of the current roster and expected additions to the 2016 recruiting class can be seen here. With three presumed open scholarships for the 2016-2017 season, the most likely avenue to land players is through the transfer market. There is no shortage of inventory, as ESPN is compiling a list that is now over 500 players long.
Rutgers men's basketball head coach Steve Pikiell has made it clear he will not panic and hand out scholarships just to fill out the roster. The challenge is adding depth to the program with players that can play at a Big Ten level, while also giving the coaching staff flexibility in keeping scholarships available for the 2017 recruiting cycle. Graduate transfers are the best way to accomplish this and Rutgers has dipped into that pool before. Omari Grier played last season as a grad transfer from Bradley and although he was inconsistent, he did average 7.6 points in 21 minutes off the bench and shot 40.5% from three-point range.
With zero seniors on the roster, adding one to two graduate transfers is a major priority for the staff. At the same time, they are also exploring the transfer market for players with multiple seasons of eligibility remaining. Let's take a look at all the options Rutgers is considering.
It turned out that Obokoh visited Rutgers this past Wednesday and Thursday, as reported in this article by Adam Zagoria. The Nigerian native didn't make a huge impact last season during Syracuse's final four run, averaging just 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per game in just 6.1 minutes of action. Foul trouble was an issue for Obokoh, who fouled out of two games and picked up four fouls in another of the four games he saw over 10 minutes of action. Still, you can't teach height and at 6'9" Obokoh would provide depth to a frontcourt that has three players returning from season ending injuries. The only other school reportedly in the mix for Obokoh's services is St. Bonaventure, where he visited last weekend. Zagoria spoke with his guardian and it sounds like his visit to Rutgers went well:
"The Rutgers visit was very good," Obokoh's Rochester guardian Kevan Sheppard told SNY.tv. "Coach Pikiell has assembled a first-class staff over there."
Asked what the appeal of playing at Rutgers would be, Sheppard said: "The opportunity to play a big role and go against good bigs in the [Big Ten] Conference. Their message is come play as many minutes as you can handle, and help them change the culture."
Syracuse transfer Chinonso Obokoh has committed to St. Bonaventure, source told @CBSSports. Immediately eligible.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 7, 2016
Coppin State grad transfer Christian Kessee says tonight he's considering Memphis, Rutgers, Ole Miss, ODU, Tulane, Wyoming. NC State now out— L. Jason Smith (@TheCAJasonSmith) May 4, 2016
Kessee led the MEAC school in scoring and minutes played last season, averaging 14.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 32.5 minutes per game. He shot just 39% from the field overall, but actually shot better from three-point range, knocking down 39.5% from long range. Over half of his field goals came from behind the arc and he averaged 2.84 three-pointers made per game. He is also an excellent free throw shooter at 80%.
Landing Kessee for next season would be a great addition to the roster, as Rutgers desperately needs shooters after hitting just 32% from long range as a team last year. However, Rutgers has plenty of competition for his services. It has been reported he is visiting Nevada this weekend and Memphis at the start of next week. No word on if and when Kessee will visit Rutgers, but they are certainly in play as of now.
Now let's shift towards transfer candidates that we know Rutgers is involved with that are not eligible for next season. These are players with more than one season of eligibility remaining, but could not play next season due to transfer rules.
Florida transfer Brandone Francis told ESPN he's heard from Rutgers, Arizona State, USF, Temple, UCF, Colorado State and Louisville.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) May 6, 2016
The 6'5" guard from the Domincan Republic is leaving Florida and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after redshirting the 2014-2015 season.. He averaged just 2.0 points, 1.0 rebound, and 0.5 assists in only 10.8 minutes per game in his first season on the court for Florida. Although he struggled badly shooting the basketball last season, Francis-Ramirez is a former 4-star recruit out of Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Florida. According to 247 sports, he had offers from UCONN, Florida State, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Miami, West Virginia, and Louisville, to name a few. Rutgers associate head coach Karl Hobbs was at UCONN at the time, so that could help in his pursuit now. There will be no shortage of offers as he looks to find a better fit and he will be a name to watch in the coming weeks. Colorado State could be a sleeper for his services as his high school teammate Che Bob just signed with the Rams as a JUCO transfer.
Caleb & Cody Martin
NC State transfers Cody & Caleb Martin cancelled visit to Cal, source says. ECU, Providence, Texas, Rutgers, Butler, Texas Tech involved.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) May 2, 2016
I wrote on the brothers Martin a few weeks ago and Rutgers continues to be in the mix for their services. The North Carolina natives visited East Carolina recently and are looking to get major minutes wherever they end up. While both were key role players for NC State last season, Caleb is the more skilled offensive player, while Cody is a stronger defensive player. I'm not sure if it is in Rutgers best interests to take on two transfer players right now. They would sit next season while occupying two scholarships, and it would severely limit Rutgers flexibility with open scholarships for the 2017 recruiting cycle. The twins are committed to landing at the same school together, so that complicates things. Regardless, it is smart of Pikiell and staff to stay in the mix because roster changes can happen any anytime. While Rutgers appears in great position to lock down 3-star recruit Issa Thiam, if doesn't actually sign, then taking both brothers makes more sense.
There has been no report of Cooke and Rutgers having mutual interest, but I wrote about why he is an intriguing transfer candidate here. Aside from his New Jersey connections to both St. Anthony's and AAU power Sports U, his scholarship would open up for the 2018 recruiting cycle. Rutgers is already positioning itself to be in the mix for several top players in that class from New Jersey, so the more scholarships available the better. By taking a flyer on Cooke, it could help open doors, especially with Sports U, who Rutgers offered their entire starting five with players from the classes of 2017 & 2018.
There has been no reports of Hudson and Rutgers having mutual interest, but assistant Brandin Knight just started following him on twitter. Hudson is a highly sought after transfer, as he averaged 8.4 points in 20 minutes per game as a sophomore at Virginia Tech last season. He has two years of eligibility remaining and is visiting Texas this weekend. Rutgers recently had a big recruiting win over Shaka Smart and the Longhorns in landing JUCO transfer Candido Sa over a week ago. The former 3-star guard certainly knows Knight from the recruiting trail, as Pitt had interest in Hudson when he was in high school. It's possible Rutgers gets into the mix for his services with Knight as the lead recruiter. However, with Florida and Purdue reported in the mix, he will have plenty of options to consider.
Rutgers needs players and cannot enter next season with just 10 scholarship players. Of course, they need to be careful about who they add and want to keep scholarships available for the 2017 recruiting cycle. It is possible that Pikiell and staff are talking with other transfer candidates not yet reported, as they have proven to be resourceful in the recruiting game so far. Hopefully, Rutgers can add one to two impact graduate transfers for next season, while also landing a solid transfer candidate to be part of the future. This would add depth for next season and jump start the rebuilding process for the program.