Rutgers picked up their third commitment ahead of next season this past Sunday, after Quinnipiac transfer Peter Kiss pledged to the program at the conclusion of his official visit. He is a sit-out transfer, so he will be unable to play this coming year, but will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after that. His background is interesting and the coaching staff is making a calculated risk in Kiss, investing in his future with the hope that his value down the road is greater than today. Of course, that is the nature of recruiting. There are many facets in projecting a ceiling for Kiss, so let’s dive in and break it all down.
Five Things To Like
He Is A Good Rebounder
Kiss, who is a 6’5” shooting guard, averaged 5.6 rebounds per game last season as a wiry freshman. Granted, the Big Ten is a big step up from the MAAC, but there should be some hope that the scrappy Kiss can still be an effective rebounder in the conference. While he grabbed offensive rebounds at a rate of only 3.9%, he was much more effective on the defensive end, pulling down boards at a rate of 16.5%. The only player on Rutgers that produced a higher rate on the defensive end from last season was Deshawn Freeman. Coach Pikiell wants every player on the court to rebound and Kiss should be able to contribute. Kiss will need the year off to bulk up and physically prepare for the rigors of Big Ten play, but there should be hope he can rebound at an above average rate for a guard in the league.
Rises To His Competition
Two of the best games for Kiss last season came on Thanksgiving weekend on back to back nights against two NCAA Tournament teams in national finalist Gonzaga and blood rival Seton Hall. Full stats and highlights below and yes, I’m already looking forward to seeing Kiss at the Prudential Center versus Seton Hall in 2018.
In addition, he averaged 18.5 points and 6 rebounds in two games against MAAC Champion Monmouth. Against the conference representative in the NCAA Tournament, Iona, Kiss averaged 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in two meetings. His competitive nature should be an asset, which I’ll mention more of in a bit.
Gonzaga - 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 8-13 shooting, 1-3 from three-point range
Seton Hall - 19 points, 7-11 shooting, 4-4 from three-point range
Plays With Swagger
A big reason CJ Gettys was so much fun to watch last season was the passion that he played with. After the previous season produced little to cheer about and the players had little to celebrate, watching Gettys play was a breath of fresh air. Kiss plays with similar emotion and can trash talk on occasion (see Seton Hall highlights above). He plays with a competitive edge, toughness and swagger that is sorely needed in this program, in my opinion. Rutgers needs players who have a chip on their shoulder that aren’t going to back down to anyone, a key trait as the program looks to make the steep climb up the Big Ten ladder. Kiss seems to be a perfect fit in this area and doesn’t seem to be short on confidence. After having played well in the past against some high major teams, he won’t be intimidated.
Staff Knows Him Well
Not only did Pikiell and assistant coach Jay Young recruit Kiss while at Stony Brook, he played his lone college season for former Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore. Pikiell and Rutgers associate head coach Karl Hobbs know Moore very well, as they are all part of the UConn family. In fact, Hobbs and Moore were assistants at UConn together for almost a decade. The Rutgers staff knows exactly what they are getting with Kiss. There are some doubters out there regarding Kiss being able to be compete at a high major level, but from a fan perspective, it’s time to trust Pikiell and the staff. Player development is a strength of the coaching staff and they obviously see a lot of potential in Kiss. His development will be crucial moving forward, both in his ability to help the program improve, as well as an example to show recruits how this coaching staff can make them better.
Room To Improve
Kiss didn’t start playing competitive basketball until late and is still learning the game. His potential to improve more rapidly exists because of that. It’s also a reason he wasn’t heavily recruited in high school, but despite his lack of experience, he showed he could really play last season at Quinnipiac. A year off to focus on his fundamentals and shooting the basketball could really benefit his game in the long run. Kiss shot just 28% from three-point range last season, so he needs repetition from behind the arc to become more consistent. He needs to add muscle to be able to physically compete in the Big Ten, but his 6’5” frame is exactly what Pikiell ideally wants, in terms of height, from his guards. He’ll also have time to acclimate to the program and prepare himself mentally for the step up in competition.
What To Hope For
The reality is there is a wide range for how Kiss could ultimately turn out in his Rutgers career. It’s possible he proves incapable of adjusting to the increased skill level and competition of the Big Ten, not being a good enough shooter at this level and becoming an end of the bench type player. It’s also possible he fills out his 6’5” frame, improves his shot, and becomes one of the best players in the program over the next few years. In talking to coach Pikiell last week about what he looks for in a transfer player, he had this to say:
“What I am looking for is great kids. I want workers and I want kids that I think can start for us down the road. That’s what I am really looking for. Any kid that I would take and sit out for a year or a one year transfer, I’m looking for those same kind of qualities. I just want to get guys that are going to be starters and get guys that want this great opportunity that we have. Someone that could come in and help us and go from there.”
Based on Pikiell’s comments, it seems clear he and the staff do feel that Kiss can reach his potential and become a full-time starter under their tutelage. He produced a balanced stat line during his freshman season with 13.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.2 steals in 30 minutes per game. However, producing those averages is going to be far more difficult in the Big Ten.
It’s no secret that whoever replaces Mike Williams after next season will have big shoes to fill. Kiss should have first crack at filling his role, depending on what other players join the program in the next year plus. Rutgers will need a leader on the court, as well as a player who is versatile and able to do the little things to help win games. Kiss could be that guy.
At worst, the program will have a highly competitive, hard working player who will push the rest of the roster during practice. If Kiss can improve his three-point shooting accuracy to somewhere between 35-40%, while proving to be an effective on-ball defender, he will be much more of a complete player. If that happens, it would make Kiss a valuable piece in rebuilding the program.
I think Kiss will definitely improve under the coaching staff, it’s just a matter of how much and what role he can ultimately carve out on the roster. He could also be an asset in helping a potentially large number of freshman transition into the program ahead of the 2018-2019 season. Only time will tell, but the program definitely upgraded their talent base by adding Peter Kiss. Now the real work begins.
Editors note: Rutgers has two more open scholarships available for next season. For more recruiting updates, click here.