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Multiple Visits With Top Targets Highlight Busy Week Recruiting For Rutgers Basketball

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NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

April is such a critical time in recruiting in college basketball circles and Rutgers has been extremely active. So active in fact, that there is a ton of information to get caught up on since my last update from this past Sunday. Rutgers has had several important in-home visits, there are a couple campus visits scheduled for this weekend, plus a new potential grad transfer target has emerged. That doesn’t even include all the contact they’ve had with players in future classes as well.

After the news that reserve big man Ibrahima Diallo was transferring, Rutgers now has three open scholarships for next season. While filling those spots is a top priority, the coaching staff continues to work hard on the ever important 2018 class as well. The live period began last night and continues through next weekend, so Rutgers will be very active in attending AAU tournaments and evaluating players. There is so much to catch up on, so let’s dive in!

Naz Reid

Let’s start with a monster target for the 2018 class in 5-star center Naz Reid. We have discussed Reid for years at this point and he visited Rutgers multiple times in 2016. It was positive news that head coach Steve Pikiell secured an in-home visit with Reid this past Wednesday.

The reality is the Roselle Catholic big man has many options to choose from, making competition for his services about as fierce as they come. Kentucky head coach John Calipari met with Reid two Fridays ago, although he has yet to offer Reid. Kansas was also supposed to visit Reid this week but postponed the visit. They offered him awhile ago. In addition, St. John’s and Seton Hall are heavily involved as well, with Pirates head coach Kevin Willard visiting Reid this past Monday. According to Adam Zagoria, all of those schools, plus Maryland, were in attendance last night for the Under Armour AAU event in New York City.

While there has been chatter that Reid may prefer to stay local with his college decision, the reality is when schools like Kentucky and Kansas come calling, it’s extremely difficult to compete against college basketball’s elite. Reid also picked up offers from Arizona, Cal, and Missouri on April 12th, according to 247 Sports. The one edge I believe that gives Rutgers a chance is the great relationship that Pikiell has with Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff. He witnessed how Pikiell and longtime assistant Jay Young transformed former player Jameel Werney at Stony Brook, who was a three-time America East Player of the Year and is a legend at the Long Island school.

Here is what Boff told Adam Zagoria in this article about Rutgers after their visit this week, in which he was present with Reid:

“Rutgers thinks this is a great time for kids to stay home,” said RC coach Dave Boff, who was in attendance. “They have a new coach, new facilities and they hope a new pattern of local kids staying home and helping build something that New Jersey can be proud of.”

Pikiell, Young, and assistant Brandin Knight all visited Reid together and this past winter Reid said he talks to the staff almost every day. There should be no doubt that Rutgers has been relentless in pursuing Reid. Whether that gives them a legitimate chance in ultimately landing Reid remains to be seen.

Montez Mathis

Rutgers has been all over 4-star wing Montez Mathis as well, offering him back in December. Pikiell and Knight visited Mathis multiple times in January and February during the season. This week their pursuit continued, as coach Pikiell had an in-home visit with Mathis this past Tuesday.

One interesting note is that Mathis’ AAU team, Team BBC, is part of the Adidas circuit. With Rutgers transitioning from Nike to Adidas this summer, it certainly doesn’t hurt that one of their top targets plays for a team affiliated with their new sponsored brand.

Mathis had a huge game last night in Dallas and Rivals recruiting analyst Eric Bossi took note.

In Bossi’s article on last night’s games, which featured several top recruits in the class of 2018, he said this of Mathis:

“With 23 hard nosed points and six rebounds, Mathis stole the show in the highly anticipated matchup between Quickley and Grimes. He loves to play physical and is a finisher at the rim.”

ESPN analyst and former college head coach Seth Greenberg also praised Mathis last night here:

Bossi spoke to Mathis in that same article and here is what the athletic wing had to say about his recruitment:

"Rutgers is standing out some and they keep it 100% with me. We just had an in home visit with them and they ended up staying for three hours because it was going so well.”

It’s clear that Pikiell and the staff look at Mathis as a top priority in the class of 2018. The Maryland native has a lot of high major interest and he is likely to receive a bevvy of offers soon if he continues to perform at such a high level this spring. The fact that Rutgers has pursued him the hardest and offered him early on is a big positive. There is a long way to go in his recruitment, but I am optimistic that Rutgers can ultimately land him. If they do, he would be a perfect fit for Pikiell’s preferred style of play and Mathis would be a key figure in the rebuild of Rutgers.

Kahlil Whitney

Recruiting never stops and Rutgers continues to target top players in future classes that are still several years away from joining the collegiate ranks. Rutgers offered 4-star wing Kahlil Whitney last September and have made him a priority in the class of 2019. According to Andrew Slater of 247 Sports, Whitney visited campus this past Wednesday.

Like Reid, Whitney plays for Roselle Catholic and head coach Dave Boff. He transferred there from Chicago last summer. Rutgers fans should remember the Whitney name, as his father Kelly starred at Seton Hall in the early 2000’s. That connection will certainly be a hurdle in his recruitment, but Rutgers is certainly in the mix and working hard early on in the process.

Kody Shubert

Rutgers is looking for a true point guard to lead the program and one such target was on campus yesterday.

Shubert’s father tweeted that they had a great visit with the Rutgers staff and coach Pikiell was on hand to watch Kody play at the Under Armour AAU event in New York City last night, as well as some other top players in the 2018 class.

Shubert is a player Rutgers is interested in, but doesn’t appear to have offered yet. The 6’0” point guard from North Carolina doesn’t have any high major offers, but Clemson is another school that is interested. How he performs during the April and July live recruiting periods will likely determine how involved Rutgers and others high major schools will become in his recruitment. Shubert is not flashy, but is fundamentally sound and said to be a tough, hard working player. Credit Rutgers for being involved with an under the radar player and getting him on campus.

Wynston Tabbs

The 3 & 4-star guard from Maryland visited Rutgers last weekend and was offered during his time on campus, which I covered here. Rivals recruiting analyst Corey Evans spoke with Tabbs in this article and here is what he had to say about the visit:

“It was great. I loved the campus. It was quick since I had to come in but I loved the campus. Coach (Steve Pikiell) is very energetic and he told me what he wanted me to do if I were to come in.”

Penn State has also offered and recruited Tabbs the longest, but it’s good to see Rutgers making progress with him as well. Evans said of him, “Tabbs plays with an edge, can consistently make shots from every spot on the floor and is improving as a playmaker.” It is no secret that Rutgers needs guards who can shoot and Tabbs would bring a toughness to the banks as well. He is a player who will likely see his stock rise in the coming months, so it was key for Pikiell to get him on campus when he did.

More Future Targets

Noah Farrakhan from St. Benedict’s Prep mentioned Rutgers as recruiting him hard back in January, along with Florida and Seton Hall. He also visited Rutgers last October for the Michigan game, when the program hosted dozens of recruits. He is a highly coveted point guard in the class of 2020. Jabri Abdur-Rahim plays for Seton Hall Prep and is the son of former NBA star Sharif Abdur-Rahim. The recruiting site Future 150 claims that Rutgers has offered him already. Both players will be names to follow in the coming years and having Rutgers involved already speaks volumes about how hard the staff is working on the recruiting trail.

Transfer Candidates

Cam Johnson

Pikiell and Knight received a coveted in-home visit with Johnson last weekend. However, Johnson has received over 20 offers since announcing he was transferring from Pitt. Not only is he a versatile wing that is a proven high major player, but he is graduating in just three years, so he can play immediately and has two seasons of eligibility remaining. Unfortunately for Rutgers, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello reported that Johnson narrowed his decision down to Arizona, Kentucky, Ohio State, Oregon, UCLA, and TCU. The odds were slim from the start, but at least now the staff can move on and pursue other transfer targets for next season’s roster.

Steven Enoch

The big man from UConn announced he was transferring last month after the program had their worst season in three decades. This article from Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant mentioned that Enoch recently visited Rutgers, likely due to the relationship with former UConn assistant and current associate head coach under Pikiell in Karl Hobbs. However, Enoch also visited Louisville and they seem to be the heavy favorite to land one of the best frontcourt players available on the transfer market. He would be a sit-out transfer for next season, with two seasons left to play after that.

Matthew Atewe

One new name that surfaced this week and seems to be a realistic option for Rutgers is Washington grad transfer Matthew Atewe.

There were reports on twitter that other schools like Seton Hall, Kansas State, and Missouri also reached out for the forward, but Rutgers made his list of top five schools he is considering. Atewe does have a long history with injuries, as he missed two seasons due to a stress fracture that he suffered at Auburn, where he started his career. He averaged just 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds in only 8.7 minutes of action in 19 games this past season. Atewe confirmed when he announced that he was transferring that he has just one season of eligibility remaining. No word on if he will actually visit Rutgers, but he is name to be aware of.

Peter Kiss

The New York City guard and MAAC All-Freshman Team selection is visiting Rutgers on an official visit today.

I wrote at length about Kiss in a recruiting update here from last weekend. He would have to sit out next season, but has three years of eligibility remaining after that. It would benefit Kiss to have the year off to get stronger and work on his game before potentially making the jump to the Big Ten conference. He also visited Auburn last weekend and Seton Hall before that. Pikiell recruited Kiss at Stony Brook and has known him for some time. Kiss is another player I think Rutgers has a good chance with and landing an experienced player to add to the 2018 class, along with NYC big man Mamadou Doucoure, who committed this winter, would give the staff a solid start with that recruiting cycle.

Update: Kiss commits to Rutgers!

Conclusion

The bottom line is Rutgers is recruiting at a relentless pace and is working hard to improve the roster. With three open spots for next season, with likely at least three spots available with the class of 2018, there is great opportunity for Pikiell and the staff to upgrade the talent within the program in a major way. Recruiting is a numbers game and Rutgers is involved with many highly rated players in future classes.

Of course, being so late in the 2017 recruiting cycle with three open spots is both exciting and scary. The good news is the staff is aligned well and Pikiell can point to that stability, along with the impressive pedigree of his assistants. One positive development is that associate head coach Karl Hobbs, who had been pursued by new Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing and reportedly visited their campus last weekend, appears to be staying at Rutgers.

Hobbs and Ewing played together at Cambridge Rindge & Latin in high school, so their relationship dates back decades. Hobbs also coached at George Washington and his family is still rooted in the DC area. Having him stay with Pikiell after Ewing’s pursuit is another positive sign that things are moving in the right direction at Rutgers.

The recruiting presence that Rutgers has on the trail right now is very strong. There should be no underestimating the challenge the staff has had in establishing a new identity for Rutgers in recruiting circles. The damage that the Rice era caused and the absenteeism shown in recruiting from the Jordan era has resulted in Pikiell having to start from scratch.

The reality is the staff ultimately needs to land talented players to succeed on the court. Filling the three current spots for next season is about upgrading the talent on from last season’s roster and finding players that fit coach Pikiell’s style and vision for the program. With over 700 transfer candidates available, there is still plenty of time for Rutgers to add quality players. The focus of future classes for Rutgers is about building on those principles and landing talent that can really push the program far ahead of where it’s been for many years.

The recent transfers should not be a concern, but rather viewed as a positive that Pikiell has greater opportunity to add his own players sooner than expected. As Pikiell told me in my interview with him last week, he asks fans to “just continue to enjoy the journey.” The program is moving forward in a positive way and patience is needed. Rutgers is highly visible on the recruiting trail and better players will be added. Keep the faith and stay tuned!