There is no sugar coating the setback that Rutgers experienced today with the announcement that their top target for the class of 2017, Jose Alvarado, has committed to Georgia Tech over the Scarlet Knights.
It’s very disappointing on several levels. First, head coach Steve Pikiell has made Alvarado his #1 priority since taking over at Rutgers, even personally taking the lead on his recruitment, a rarity in Division I college basketball. Second, Georgia Tech only got involved with Alvarado recently, and in essence, new head coach Josh Pastner whisked him away under the nose of both Rutgers and Seton Hall, the other finalist he was choosing from. However, no aspect is worse than losing out on an impact recruit who was set to be the face and leader of the program for years to come.
Pikiell was basically willing to give the keys to him in leading the program in the future. Alvarado is a top NYC point guard from a power high school at Christ The King, as well as a AAU team filled with talent Rutgers is interested in. The relationships with these programs, while still good, would have only grown stronger over time, assuming Alvarado blossomed at Rutgers. It was said all summer that Alvarado preferred to stay local and Rutgers was considered the heavy favorite as late as yesterday by basketball insiders.
All signs point to Christ the King's Jose Alvarado committing to Rutgers tomorrow. Could be a big day for Steve Pikiell and Co. #rhoops— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) September 14, 2016
After discussing yesterday all the recent new offers and activity of the Rutgers staff on the recruiting trail in the past week, where do they go from here? The other top NYC point guard that Rutgers was somewhat involved with, Isaiah Washington, just committed to Minnesota last weekend. While Rutgers has an offer out to 3-star point guard C.J. Roberts from Texas, they haven’t appeared to be a major player in his recruitment. Of course, that very well could change now, but he does have double digit high major offers, so it won’t be easy.
The good news is Rutgers does have combo guard Geo Baker committed for the class of 2017. Depending on how the staff handles things now that Alvarado is off the table, they do have some flexibility if they feel Baker can become their point guard of the future. Obviously, their plan was to have Baker at the 2 with Alvarado leading at the 1, but that’s done now. They could focus on the most talented recruits left on the board that they have offered, regardless of position, or continue searching for new point guard targets. It will be interesting to see how Pikiell and staff react to not getting Alvarado and see what their plan B actually is. Although, we all wish it never came to that.
The only positive spin I can muster is A) at least he didn’t choose rival Seton Hall over Rutgers and B) at least the staff didn’t have to chase Alvarado all season and can regroup now while there is still time.
I wouldn’t put this recruiting loss in the category of devastating, but it certainly is a big loss. Landing Alvarado was a chance to make a big splash early in the Pikiell era, both in securing a top local recruit and edging blood rival Seton Hall in the process. While the staff have done a tremendous job building relationships and pursuing many talented players in future classes, the 2017 class is pivotal to make progress and change perception on the recruiting trail. The pressure is on even more now, as they enter their first season on the banks with a scholarship open that they must fill with an impact player.
As today proves, there is still significant work to be done. I fully believe Pikiell and his staff are on the right track and have essentially done everything right so far. Credit them for being in the mix on multiple top local recruits, something Eddie Jordan really never truly was during his three years at Rutgers. Losing out on Alvarado is not a defining moment for Pikiell’s tenure, but it’s another example of how far he has to go in rebuilding the program. If Pikiell can prove how good of a coach he is on the court this season, there will be better days ahead on the recruiting trail. Practice for the 2016-2017 season begins in just about two weeks.