Now that the season is over, the Rutgers men’s basketball program has two main areas to focus on. The first is for the players to reset and follow the off-season plans that the coaching staff lays out for them. The second is for the coaches to hit the hardwood on the recruiting trail. After scouting hard during the past few months, it should be no surprise they haven’t wasted anytime since Thursday night’s season ending loss to Northwestern. Yesterday, a high profile recruit from the class of 2018 visited campus, per Corey Evans of Rivals.
Rutgers played host to four star 2018 @PSACardinals & St James wing Isaiah Mucius, per source— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) March 12, 2017
Isaiah Mucius is a 6’8” wing from Brooklyn, NY who is a consensus 4-star recruit, according to all the major recruiting services. For the class of 2018, Scout ranks him the 42nd best prospect, 247 Sports rates him 44th, ESPN lists him at 57th, and Rivals has him at 58th.
The scouting report on Mucius is he has great athleticism, is a good ball handler, and can attack the rim from the perimeter. He is long and quick, making him a matchup problem for most at the wing position. We know Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell likes taller, athletic players in the backcourt and wing. Mucius has a similar build to rising sophomore wing Issa Thiam, who flashed a ton of potential this season.
According to 247 Sports, Mucius holds offers from UMass, Oregon, Seton Hall, Penn State, St. John’s, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and Xavier, in addition to Rutgers. Back in the fall, Mucius reportedly took unofficial visits to Virginia Tech, Penn State, and Wake Forest. Xavier recently visited him as well.
It appears Rutgers has been seriously pursuing Mucius since the season began and offered him back in early December. Pikiell and the staff appear to have been tracking him ever since.
Getting a player the caliber of Mucius on campus right after the season concluded is a big deal for the program. It was very important for Rutgers that they closed out it’s season on a high note and they were able to do just that with victories over Illinois in the regular season finale and over Ohio State in the First Round of the Big Ten Tournament. Pikiell and the staff received much needed ammunition for them to sell on the recruiting trail. Progress this season provides hope for the future and those last two wins highlighted that in a big way.
Rutgers does seem to be making the Brooklyn, NY native a priority. He plays for the St. James School in Maryland, but is also a member of the PSA Cardinals of the Nike EYBL circuit. The Cardinals are a prominent AAU program in New York City and one in which Pikiell has worked to build a relationship with since taking over Rutgers last April. In fact, he seems to be making serious progress in that regard, as the lone class of 2018 commit for Rutgers as of now, is 4-star center Mamadou Doucoure, who is a member of the PSA Cardinals. According to Adam Zagoria’s article back in February, Doucoure is doing what he can to bring Mucius with him to the banks:
Isaiah Mucius,” Doucoure said of the 6-7 PSA Cardinals small forward who holds offers from Rutgers, Xavier, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Wake Forest, among others. “I’m trying to make him come.”
It won’t be easy to land Mucius with all the competition for his services, but it appears Rutgers is right in the thick of things for now. Mucius would be a perfect fit in Pikiell’s system, as he can run the floor, slash to the basket, and can create mismatches on both ends of the floor at the wing position. Having a player like Mucius opposite of Thiam on the perimeter would cause headaches and heartburn for every coach in the Big Ten.
With the April live recruiting period just a few weeks away, it is imperative that Rutgers continues to work as hard as possible on their top targets for the class of 2018. With as many as five scholarships potentially available for Rutgers with that class, Pikiell has a tremendous opportunity to reshape the roster and change the trajectory of the program by fulfilling the vision he has with the players he wants.
While landing one or two of the top players in New Jersey would be a major coup for Rutgers, it is smart of Pikiell to be going after recruits playing high school ball outside of the state too. The key with Mucius is he does have local ties and is ranked even higher than some of the top players in the state for the class of 2018. If Pikiell ultimately secures his commitment, it would be a major statement in recruiting circles.
In coach Pikiell’s first season on the court, Rutgers made significant progress and earned more respect within the Big Ten. We know he and his staff can coach. Now, the hard part really comes into play. Making strides on the recruiting trail will define the ceiling for this program under Pikiell. While attrition with the current roster is possible, the real opportunity to upgrade the talent level in the program is with the class of 2018. Hosting a player the caliber of Isaiah Mucius is a great start to the off-season and hopefully a sign that the perception of Rutgers is changing in the eyes of top recruits. Of course, getting them to ultimately commit is the hardest part. It should be an interesting spring and summer from a recruiting perspective for Rutgers basketball, to say the least.
Here are some highlights of Mucius, both from this high school season and from his AAU season last year.