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Rutgers Men's Basketball Continues Making Progress On Recruiting Trail

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Updates on some big name prospects the staff is pursuing, including Jahvon Quinerly, Bryan Antoine, Paul Mulcahy, and Aundre Hyatt

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

As the new year approaches and Rutgers is just playing one game until Big Ten play resumes in eaJanuary, it’s time to get caught up on recruiting updates for the men’s basketball program. Even though there are three prospects already signed in the 2018 class, the coaching staff has been very busy at the start of the high school basketball season. They’ve predictably focused on their top targets in the class of 2019, but they continue to track certain recruits in the 2018 class as well, in case additional scholarships open after this season. Let’s tip off things here.

Rutgers Watched 5-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly...TWICE

An interesting development occurred last week when Rutgers assistant coach Brandin Knight was spotted watching a loaded Hudson Catholic team during the City of Palms Tournament in Florida. While 5-star forward Louis King signed with Oregon and 4-star guard Luther Muhammad is signed with Ohio State, both former Rutgers targets, their teammate, 5-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, is unattached after decommitting from Arizona amidst scandal back in September. His recruitment to the PAC-12 school was brought into question in the FBI investigation that led to the arrest of longtime Wildcats assistant coach, Book Richardson. While Quinerly isn’t directly named, it’s been speculated that he was the recruit in question that led to Richardson’s arrest. While nothing has been reported further on Quinerly’s involvement or regarding his future in college basketball, his family did hire a lawyer. However, for now, Quinerly is one of the top prospects still available in the class of 2018.

The thought has been the dynamic floor general is more likely to stay close to home now and from a Rutgers point of view, they have nothing to lose by pursuing Quinerly at the moment. While Villanova has been speculated as the new favorite to land his services for next season, Rutgers sent a message by watching him twice last week.

While Rutgers recruited Quinerly early on in his high school career, it never went far during the initial process. Due to him being back on the open market, Steve Pikiell seems to be doing his due diligence by at least making it visible that Rutgers could potentially be an option for the talented point guard. Of course, several hurdles would need to be cleared, including Quinerly’s eligibility status being confirmed by the NCAA and Rutgers having a scholarship become available for next season. Even so, I think it’s a smart move to at least take a shot here, because the payoff could be huge for the program. Local basketball writer Adam Zagoria took notice and asks the question of whether Rutgers actually has a shot with Quinerly. While it’s unlikely, there is no harm in trying at this point and I wouldn’t expect Rutgers to waste time moving forward if it looks like a lost cause.

Here are some highlights of Quinerly from last week’s event.

Point Guard Diego Willis Receives Offer

According to 247 Sports, Canaris Basketball Academy’s Diego Willis, a 6’4” point guard from Mexico, received an offer from Rutgers during two visits back in November. The entire program visited with Willis for the East Carolina game, after the floor general had visited Rutgers prior to that trip as well.

If the Canaris Basketball Academy sounds familiar, its because Rutgers has recruited heavily from this program in the past. Current Director of Player Development and former assistant coach, Greg “Shoes” Vetrone, has a long term relationship with CBA. Current players on the Rutgers roster from CBA include Issa Thiam, Shaq Doorson, and Souf Mensah. Willis is a member of the 2018 class and while he hasn’t been heavily recruited in the United States yet, he performed really well last month at the NERR Prep Showcase.

Pikiell continues to search for a true point guard and Willis is an intriguing prospect. CBA also visited Maryland in November as well, but no offer has been reported for him. Willis is a name to keep an eye on as the season and spring signing period develops.

Rutgers Still Recruiting 3-star Valdir Manuel

The 6’8” forward from local powerhouse, The Patrick School, told Rivals’ Corey Evans last week that Rutgers is one of three schools that contacts him the most right now.

Manuel has visited multiple times and Rutgers appears to continue to stay involved with the 7th ranked player in New Jersey in the class of 2018. Pikiell and the staff offered Manuel last February, which I covered here. Aside from Quinerly, who is ranked 3rd in the state, Manuel is the highest rated player locally that is still uncommitted. It will be interesting to track how often Rutgers watches him this winter and if the big man visits for any home games at the RAC this season.

5-Star Bryan Antoine Still Considering Rutgers

Another player that assistant coach Brandin Knight watched at the City of Palms event was the Ranney School’s Bryan Antoine. I’ve written about Antoine, the 7th rated player in the country in the 2019 class, and his teammate, 6th ranked Scottie Lewis, in regard to Rutgers recruiting the dynamic duo ever since head coach Steve Pikiell took over the program. While landing either player is unlikely due to both of them literally having their choice of college basketball program to attend, Rutgers isn’t giving up in its pursuit of the local recruits. According to Sean Bock of Zagsblog, Antoine included Rutgers among a group of schools recruiting him the hardest, including Kentucky, Duke, Villanova, Florida, and Harvard. Recruiting analyst Russ Wood tweeted Knight’s presence at a recent Ranney game at the City of Palms last week.

I understand it’s unlikely Antoine will seriously entertain Rutgers as his recruitment ramps up, but you have to love Pikiell’s willingness to continue to pursue top local talent, regardless of which national powers continue closing in. It may take years, but eventually, Pikiell will land a player no one expected him to and it will go a long way towards changing the perception of Rutgers basketball. While Scarlet Knight fans have had their hearts broken too many times to count with top local recruits heading elsewhere, it only takes one. If any Rutgers coach can do it, Pikiell is building confidence on the recruiting trail that he is the leader to get it done.

Here is Antoine hitting the game winning shot for the Consolation bracket championship at the event:

4-star Guard Paul Mulcahy Remains A Top Target

It’s safe to say that 4-star guard Paul Mulcahy of Gill St. Bernard’s is at the top of the list for 2019 targets for Rutgers. He has been targeted by the current Rutgers staff since they took over, he has visited the program multiple times and was expected at the Seton Hall game on December 16th, in addition to another priority recruit in the 2019 class, Khalif Battle, per Adam Zagoria. His visit was confirmed by Matt Agnoli of 247 Sports, who spoke with Mulcahy about his latest trip to the banks here.

The day after Rutgers upset Seton Hall, Steve Pikiell was out watching Mulcahy in action and can be seen here in this highlight video.

Mulcahy can play either guard spot, but has said in the past he prefers to play point guard. He reminds me some of current combo guard Geo Baker, who has taken the burden off of Corey Sanders this season in running the offense. The possibility of having those two players together in the future, as well as 4-star guard Montez Mathis, who will join the program next season, is an exciting thought for the future of Rutgers basketball. Mulcahy is said to be a tireless worker and should only get better in time.

Gill St. Bernard lost a highly anticipated matchup with state power Roselle Catholic right before Christmas and Rutgers was back to watch Mulcahy play.

The 4-star guard is ranked the 6th best player in New Jersey in the class of 2019 and has picked up offers in the past month from Temple, Rhode Island, and UMASS. He also holds offers from Seton Hall, Virginia Tech, Boston College, SMU and Rutgers, per 247 Sports. He is certainly a high priority in the 2019 class for coach Pikiell and his recruitment is one to watch as the season progresses. Here are highlights of Mulcahy from last week.

4-star Aundre Hyatt Visits

Another longtime target in the class of 2019, 4-star wing Aundre Hyatt, visited Rutgers for the Stony Brook game last Friday, per Andrew Slater of 247 Sports.

Pikiell and the staff offered Hyatt a year ago and he took an unofficial visit after the July live period this past summer. He also holds offers from Temple, Virginia Tech and Florida State, schools that he has visited in recent months. Of course, rival Seton Hall has offered Hyatt as well. While he plays his high school ball in Virginia, Hyatt is from White Plains, New York and is another top player in 2019 that Rutgers is firmly in the mix for. Here are highlights of him in action from a recent event.

Closing

As much as the loss to Stony Brook hurt last Friday, the overreaction to it by some does not represent reality. While it stinks that Rutgers failed to continue to build momentum after the biggest win in years with the come from behind victory over Seton Hall, the loss to Pikiell’s former team is not fatal. Stony Brook is a solid mid-major who came in with single digit losses to Providence and UConn. Beating Seton Hall still reaps positive benefits on the recruiting trail more so than the loss to Stony Brook hurts them. If anything, it reinforces to local recruits that they are needed even more to take this program to new heights.

The fact is that Rutgers continues to be in the mix for many highly rated recruits in the New York & New Jersey area. With a promising 2018 class already signed, the goal should be to land a big name in the 2019 class at some point before the July live period next summer. Mulcahy seems like the most likely to land at Rutgers as of now, but his recruitment could get trickier if schools like Villanova and Notre Dame were to pursue him in earnest. Battle, who I touched on briefly in this article, is another guard that Rutgers has pursued and is ranked 7th in the state. He visited back in September.

While Pikiell and the staff are working hard recruiting the class of 2019, they continue to keep one eye on the class of 2018 as well. Pikiell has proven to always have backup plans and if a spot becomes available for next year after this season, Rutgers appear likely to have a prospect or two in mind to fill any open scholarships that emerge.

Rebuilds are hard and while the setback before Christmas was difficult to take, there is no question that this program is moving forward, both on the court this season and off it on the recruiting trail. The staff continues to work hard and are laying the groundwork for the future of this program. If Rutgers can continue to show progress in the Big Ten conference this season and avoid a last place finish, while also achieving the first winning campaign for the program in 12 years, the message that Pikiell and the staff are selling on the recruiting trail will ring true to future classes even more so than it has already. Recruiting is always fluid and Pikiell has proven in his tenure that Rutgers is as active and aggressive in pursuit of adding talent to the program under his watch of any coach we’ve seen on the banks in many years.