The Rutgers men’s basketball program has had a great month of August in adding players late in the process for next season. First, there was Canadian wing Eugene Omoruyi committing at the beginning of this month while on a visit to campus. Then on Monday, UNC-Wilmington graduate transfer C.J. Gettys committed to coach Pikiell and the staff on the spot during his visit. Having just ten scholarship players less than a month ago, Pikiell has done an excellent job beefing up the roster for next season. However, guard depth is still a major issue. Typically, it’s extremely rare to find a quality shooter this late in the game for next season.
And then a big time possibility presented itself just today:
Hartford's Pancake Thomas has been granted his release and will be a grad transfer, sources told @CBSSports. Averaged 18.9 PPG.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) August 24, 2016
Cleveland “Pancake” Thomas was a redshirt junior last season at Hartford, where he averaged 18.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.2 steals in 34.6 minutes per game. After playing his first two seasons at New Mexico, Thomas transferred to Hartford and sat out the 2014-2015 season. The reason Pancake would be a tremendous fit for Rutgers is his three-point shooting. He shot 42.6% from behind the arc on 190 attempts last season, averaging 2.7 three-pointers made per game. That is elite at the Division I level and the biggest deficiency with the makeup of the current Rutgers roster. He made four or more three-pointers in a game 11 times last season. He also shot 43.7% from the field overall and 82.7% from the free throw line.
While Pikiell and the staff have quickly transformed the Rutgers frontcourt to the biggest in the Big Ten, the current backcourt consists of only three scholarship players. While incoming freshman Matt Bullock could play in the backcourt as well, he is probably better suited on the wing. Returning guards Corey Sanders and Mike Williams both averaged double figures in scoring last season and transfer Nigel Johnson can score in multiple ways. However, both Sanders and Williams both shot under 32% from three-point range last season and Johnson’s best season from long range was his last at Kansas State, when he shot 33.9%.
Thomas would fill that void immediately for next season, and as a graduate transfer, his spot would become available for the following season. All signs point to NYC point guard Jose Alvarado still being the top target for the staff, as they look to add to the class of 2017, along with current commit Geo Baker.
Pikiell surely knows how quickly Pancake can cook (apologies, I couldn’t help myself), as Thomas and Hartford played Stony Brook three times last season. Thomas struggled in their first meeting back in January, as he shot just 4-16 from the field and only scored 8 points. That was one of only seven games all season that he failed to score in double figures. However, Thomas came back strong in two later meetings against Pikiell and Stony Brook, combining to score 41 points on 16-33 shooting from the field, including 6-14 from three-point range.
I don’t know if Pikiell and the staff are considering Thomas as an option, but everything they have done on the recruiting trail this summer makes me think they would. There will certainly be multiple suitors for a quality fifth year guard like Thomas. The Louisiana native will want to play somewhere he can get a lot of minutes and of course, win. Hartford was just 10-23 last season. Pikiell would have to convince the talented shooting guard that Rutgers can improve dramatically next season. It will be a tough sell for sure, but Pikiell is on a roll this month and you never know. The staff has done a tremendous job already, but if Rutgers were able to add Thomas, the roster would be more dynamic and well balanced than it has been in years. Let’s hope breakfast is served at the RAC very soon.