It's not a secret that for head coach Steve Pikiell to be successful at Rutgers, he must be able to recruit top players from New Jersey. He and his coaching staff have smartly made building relationships with top local programs a priority, something that didn't happen during Eddie Jordan's tenure. They are also working to make inroads with the top AAU programs in New York City and New Jersey. It's easier said then done, but at least this staff is making a serious effort to do so.
At the same time, they are canvassing the east coast for players to add to their 2017 recruiting class, which there are currently three open scholarships available. The staff have handed out over two dozen offers so far. They aren't stopping there and continue to work in finding new targets. Yesterday, the staff hosted three under the radar local players that they have not yet offered, but obviously have interest in. They also are from some top high schools in the area, making their efforts doubly important.
Livingston plays at Linden high school with class of 2018 guard Tavon Jones, who is in contact with Rutgers as well. They make up a strong backcourt for the best public high school boy's basketball team in New Jersey. They play for head coach Phil Colicchio, who had this to say to Adam Zagoria regarding coach Pikiell back in April:
"I think with such high-profile coaches here today, a Larry Brown, a John Calipari, the one guy who really stuck out and I think most of the people here were really anxious to meet Steve Pikiell, Colicchio told SNY.tv. "And he didn't disappoint. He was really dynamic, I thought he did a really good job of showing us his personality and his vision at Rutgers. And after talking with him on the sideline, I'm really, really excited. I didn't know him prior to this, but I'm really excited of his view of Rutgers and what he thinks he's going to accomplish there, and it seems like he has a plan. For the first time in a while, I'm really, really excited about Rutgers."
For Pikiell to build trust and prove he can develop players at the high major level, taking a chance on kids like Livingston is a good idea. He seems to understand that, as he took Roselle Catholic's Matt Bullock as his first commit back in April. Like Bullock, Livingtson hasn't been highly recruited, with his best offer reportedly from St. Joseph's. He is talented and will be one of the best seniors in the state next season. His brother Otis was also not recruited heavily, and amazingly never received an offer from Rutgers under the previous coaching regime. He went to George Mason last year, leading the team in scoring, assists, and steal on his way to making the Atlantic 10 all-freshman team. Pikiell can't afford to let players like that slip through the cracks in the future.
While everyone hopes Rutgers can ultimately land the top recruits in the state down the road, they absolutely must land talented players like Livingston who can help build the program from the ground up. Linden will be competing for a state title yet again, and it behooves Rutgers to build a strong relationship with the school and Colicchio. No offer has come yet, but that could change shortly. He is a prospect worth keeping an eye on.
The 6'7" forward from Paramus Catholic is set to take a prep year at St. Thomas More in Connecticut. Like Livingston, he has siblings who have been successful on the hardwood before him. His brother O.D. plays overseas and his sister Nicky was a McDonald's All-American in high school, starred at Tennessee in college, and was a WNBA All-Star. Anosike is also an honors student and seems to be a high character kid. After not being heavily recruited, he is hoping to build up his resume at St. Thomas More this upcoming year. Rutgers hosting him during the summer puts them squarely on the forward's radar. No offer has been reported yet, but he is obviously another under the radar target for Rutgers.
Washington is a 6'0" point guard from Roselle Catholic who just visited Temple the day before visiting Rutgers. He had transferred from Teaneck at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. It doesn't appear he has received offers from either school yet, but there is obviously interest. Rutgers hosted a pair of 2017 point guards recently, Geo Baker and Jose Alvarado. While Alvarado appears to be the top point guard target of Rutgers, Washington is another under the radar player that makes sense for them to consider. His height is the biggest reason that he isn't being considered as a more elite recruit, but the talent is there. He also gets overshadowed by backcourt mate Nate Pierre-Louis at Roselle Catholic, who is a top recruit with UConn targeting him.
Building a pipeline with Roselle Catholic would be monumental for Pikiell and his staff, who also are recruiting 2018 center Naz Reid, who is one of the top recruits in the country for that class. Pikiell has proven to Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff that he can develop players, as he made Boff's former pupil Jameel Warney a star at Stony Brook. Washington is another sleeper recruit to track in the coming year.
Smart of Rutgers to get Leondre Washington on campus. Kind of underrated Jersey kid that they have a real shot at #NJhoops— Jeremy Schneider (@J_Schneider) June 15, 2016
Upcoming Visit Scheduled
Rutgers also has another 2017 recruit scheduled to visit on Tuesday.
Loewe is a 6'3" combo guard from Wisconsin that coach Pikiell has pursued soon after being hired at Rutgers. According to 247 sports, he holds offers from Davidson, Lehigh, St. Joseph's, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, among others. No stone is being left unturned.
With just 10 scholarship players on the roster for next season as of now, Pikiell and the staff have gone all in on recruiting the class of 2017. Although they could add a scholarship player before the start of next season, it's very possible they will have three open scholarships to work with for the 2017 class. Also, it's always possible someone will transfer out of the program after next season. It is a great sign the staff is working so hard to build a dynamic recruiting class and are mixing local and national recruits as targets. It's likely Rutgers will need to take a chance on at least one talented yet under recruited player in the next class. It will be a fascinating year to watch Pikiell on the recruiting trail and which players he lands to help him rebuild the program.