This past Thursday, the live period began for college basketball coaches to resume contact with recruits and as expected, Rutgers wasted little time, as they visited a top out of state target from the class of 2018. The staff had offered 6’8” wing Isaiah Kelly, a 3-star recruit from Georgia, last summer, which I covered here. They have continued to make him a priority.
Rutgers is having an in-home visit w/ 6'8" Isaiah Kelly @Isaiahkelly_ of Pace Academy (GA). Won state title https://t.co/PgJLyi91jH #RHoops pic.twitter.com/P5dBYXCn9x— Andrew Slater (@ASlater247) April 6, 2017
Head coach Steve Pikiell and associate head coach Karl Hobbs visiting Kelly at his home on Thursday signifies he is a top target for them with the class of 2018. Rutgers was one of the first schools to offer the talented swingman and Pikiell has visited him at least once since last summer.
Kelly told Rivals recruiting analyst Corey Evans back in December that schools which stood out at the time were Wisconsin, Xavier, Iowa State and Princeton. According to 247 Sports, he holds over a dozen offers including Harvard, Penn, Vanderbilt, Memphis, and Cincinnati, among others. He reportedly visited Harvard during the season as well.
The versatile wing player was described by Evans as “capable of taking his man off the bounce with a fine first step, hitting in rhythm jumpers from beyond the 3-point arc, and rebounding the ball from out of his area on the offensive glass.”
Kelly posted a picture with Pikiell and Hobbs after their visit on Thursday. Expect the staff to track Kelly throughout the summer on the AAU circuit and hopefully he visits campus at some point soon. Rutgers has been in the mix since his recruitment started to pick up and they continue to stay on the talented prospect.
Great visit with Rutgers today ⚫️ pic.twitter.com/CAMlOntsjp— Isaiah Kelly (@Isaiahkelly_) April 7, 2017
In addition to visiting Kelly, Rutgers is set to host 4-star recruit Matthue Cotton on Friday.
Rutgers will play host to 2018 top-150 @TeamFinalHoops guard Matthue Cotton tomorrow, per source— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) April 6, 2017
He is a shooting guard from St. Benedict’s Prep and has a bevvy of high major offers, according to 247 Sports. He visited Seton Hall during the season and it’s a great sign that he is visiting Rutgers today. The list of suitors should continue to grow for the talented guard this summer.
Last week, I covered the pursuit of two former Washington commits in 4-star point guard Blake Harris and 3-star win Mamoudou Diarra, both members of the class of 2017. Coach Pikiell and assistant Brandin Knight visited Harris the same day as Michigan State, which resulted in him naming Rutgers as a finalist in his decision making process. ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi confirmed Harris is set to visit Rutgers April 21st & 22nd. Harris has already visited N.C. State and has stops scheduled at Missouri, UConn, and Michigan State before heading to the banks. On Thursday, UConn and an apparent new suitor visited him at home.
#UConn and Georgia Tech will be in to see 4 PG Blake Harris @blizzyblake55_ today https://t.co/bNOIA9yWmC— Andrew Slater (@ASlater247) April 6, 2017
You may remember that Rutgers made NYC point guard Jose Alvarado their top target last summer, but the gritty floor general chose Georgia Tech instead. The reality of big time college sports is that schools continue to recruit a position, even after having a commitment in that same class. Alvarado would have been the clear point guard of the future at Rutgers and hopefully Harris will see the positives of playing under three former lead guards in Pikiell, Knight, and Hobbs. Landing a player the caliber of Harris for next season would be a huge step forward in the rebuilding process and a recruiting coup for this staff.
Update: Harris committed to Missouri on 4/9.
Another top target of Rutgers is 4-star wing Isaiah Mucius, who visited campus last month. He plays AAU ball with the PSA Cardinals and is teammates with 2018 Rutgers commit Mamadou Doucoure, who is actively trying to woo Mucius to Piscataway. He is a consensus top 60 recruit and is the type of athletic wing that would fit Pikiell’s preferred style of play well.
Three schools recruiting Isaiah Mucius the hardest - Preparing for AAU season https://t.co/Tjqdvjv7Q7 pic.twitter.com/z4WWHagdh8— Pat Lawless (@PatLawless_) April 7, 2017
In this article with Pat Lawless, Mucius lists Oregon, Wake Forest, and Rutgers as the three schools that are working the hardest in recruiting him. Mucius had this to say to Lawless about Rutgers:
“Coach Pikiell and his coaching staff have been really pursuing me,” Mucius said. “He’s trying to build a big program at Rutgers especially with him getting a new facility. He has my teammate Mamadou Doucoure already committed there so he’s trying to have my join him in that class.”
It won’t be easy to land Mucius, but having Doucoure helping the cause gives Rutgers a puncher’s chance.
The staff is doing a good job of balancing recruiting efforts for both the 2017 class, which is coming down to the wire, and the 2018 class, where Rutgers will have at least three open scholarships with more becoming available as a possibility. Doucoure holds one spot and seems solid in making it official during the November signing period.
As for next year’s roster, it seems things are firming up. We know for sure there is one scholarship to fill after the departure of Nigel Johnson. Although Corey Sanders has entered the NBA Draft pool, he has not hired an agent and the hope is he will return for his junior season. As for the 2017 class, Geo Baker officially signed back in November and he had a strong senior campaign, which I covered here. The second commit, JUCO point guard Souf Mensah, verbally committed in January and it now appears he is set to sign officially later this month.
Seasoned Juco guard Souf Mensah cant wait to play for @CoachPikiell and the @RutgersMBB coaching staff https://t.co/Uzi4mht6nv— Sam Hellman (@SamHellmanScout) April 7, 2017
Sam Hellman of Scout spoke with Mensah and he was enthusiastic about joining the program. While not highly rated, Mensah would be the only true point guard on the roster and provide a pass first mentality in the backcourt that Rutgers sorely needs. Pikiell and the staff have strong reputations for developing players, so Mensah could be the type of under the radar prospect that they can mold under their guidance.
Speaking of Johnson, he is set to visit Virginia this weekend and is also considering VCU, Colorado, and LSU, per this article from 247 Sports. We wish him well in his next journey.
#UVa hosts Rutgers graduate transfer guard Nigel Johnson on a visit this weekend. He talks to us about it here … https://t.co/4rTltYz6Ci pic.twitter.com/l79kttXVTQ— Wahoos247 (@Wahoos247) April 6, 2017
Update: Nigel committed to UVA.
For now, Rutgers has one scholarship to fill in 2017, assuming Sanders comes back. I covered a variety of transfer options here and a new target has emerged since. Cam Johnson recently announced he was transferring from Pitt and after being set to graduate this spring, he will be the rare player who will have two years of eligibility remaining, while being able to play right away without having to sit out one year. Johnson averaged 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists last season at Pitt. He is a very good shooter, as he averaged 42% from three-point range on 188 attempts and shot 81% from the free throw line. Although assistant Brandin Knight coached Johnson previously at Pitt, the competition for Johnson is as fierce as it gets. Corey Evans of Rivals mentions the over two dozen offers he has already received since announcing he was available last week.
Pitt transfer Cam Johnson's offer list:— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) April 7, 2017
Others with offers on the table include:— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) April 7, 2017
Don’t hold your breath on Rutgers landing Johnson, but as they say, you can’t win at something if you aren’t in the game.
The next month should be fascinating to track in regards to how Pikiell and the staff work to fill the open scholarship for next season. They are actively working the graduate transfer market as well. At the same time, Rutgers will be active this month on the AAU circuit during the live recruiting period. We will have a better idea of who they are prioritizing in the class of 2018 by who they are tracking and watching play this month. Hopefully, they will be able to get as many targets on campus this spring and summer as possible, before they head into a critical July live recruiting period. I’ll continue to update any developments as they happen, in what should be a busy and exciting month of April for Rutgers basketball, as the staff works to build for the future.