With last weekend’s live period over, there are a lot of updates regarding recruits that Rutgers scouted and offered in future classes in 2018 and beyond. I will cover those soon, but wanted to focus on some developments regarding targets who could potentially fill out the two open scholarships available for next season.
After the recent commitment from Quinnipiac transfer Peter Kiss, there is now one spot taken by a player who must sit out next season. I discussed the potential of Kiss and the type of player he can ultimately become at Rutgers here. Now the question is, how will the staff fill the two remaining spots? The initial thought is they would focus on filling the spots with grad transfers, JUCO transfers, or prep/high school recruits who are still on the open market. However, acquiring the most talent possible should be the ultimate goal and the long term view is needed in rebuilding the program.
Enter UConn transfer Vance Jackson, who is reportedly visiting campus this coming Friday.
UConn transfer Vance Jackson will visit Rutgers on Friday, source told ESPN.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 1, 2017
Jackson is a former 4-star, top 100 recruit from the class of 2016. The Pasadena, California native is 6’8” and averaged 8.1 points while shooting 40% from three-point range as a freshman for UConn last season. The swingman also grabbed 3.8 rebounds and had the highest adjusted offensive efficiency rating of any regular on UConn. Jackson is one of several players to leave the Huskies this offseason, who are coming off a tumultuous campaign, resulting in their first losing season since Jim Calhoun took over the program 30 years ago.
The connection here is that Rutgers associate head coach Karl Hobbs was the lead recruiter for Jackson at UConn, before leaving to join Steve Pikiell on the banks. Reports indicated that Jackson and his father were unhappy with his role last season. He averaged 26 minutes per game, but was just fifth on the team in shot attempts. It’s likely Jackson is looking for a larger role on offense and Rutgers would fit that bill. With his height, he has the ability to play on the low post or the perimeter.
While it’s not ideal to take two sit-out transfers in the same cycle, the reality is if Rutgers can add a talent like Jackson, you do it. It would leave them just one spot to fill for next season, putting a lot of pressure on landing an impact player for next season. However, this rebuild can’t be viewed from a short term lense.
Adding Jackson would give the program a go to offensive player for the future, as he has three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out next season. He would fill a role that Rutgers desperately needs. Pairing Jackson with then junior Issa Thiam would give Rutgers weapons on the perimeter that would be a matchup nightmare for most Big Ten teams. Add in Peter Kiss and Rutgers would have three legitimate shooters from behind the arc at a minimum.
In addition, adding Jackson would take some pressure off the recruiting efforts for the 2018 class by having fewer spots to fill. Even if they did add Jackson, Rutgers will still have at least three open scholarships to fill the following year. Adding a player the caliber of Jackson would also be very appealing to recruits that are currently considering Rutgers.
Jackson’s relationship with Hobbs and the opportunity to be a major focal point of the offense are two significant chips in Rutgers’ corner. Baylor is also in the mix for the former Husky, and there will of course be other high major suitors. However, getting Jackson on campus this Friday is a big deal and puts Rutgers firmly in play for the former blue chip recruit.
Another name that has surfaced as a potential addition for next season is JUCO big man Jon Nwankwo.
6-9 F and Victory Rock Prep (FL) product Jon Nwankwo will visit ETSU soon. Southern Idaho (JUCO) big has been hearing from Rutgers and Pitt— zach smart (@zsmart3) April 26, 2017
Nwankwo played one year of high school ball in Florida with Peter Kiss, so there is now a connection to Rutgers here. While he suffered an knee injury that cut his season short, Nwankwo averaged 9.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game in 18 contests at Southern Idaho Community College. He also shot 60% from the field and 77% from the free throw line. As a JUCO player, Nwankwo would be able to play next season and I believe would actually habe three years of eligibility remaining. He is from the Bronx and originally committed to VCU, where he attended his freshman year and redshirted. After one season at the JUCO level, he should still have three seasons to play.
While Nwankwo is raw and needs some work to develop into a legitimate Big Ten low post player, he is the type of player the staff could mold into a starting role at some point. The former 3-star recruit was ranked the 19th best center by 247 Sports coming out of high school. He might not be able to replicate the type of production Rutgers got from CJ Gettys last season right away, but Nwankwo would be an immediate contributor on the defensive end and on the glass. No word yet on whether he plans to visit Rutgers.
College of Southern Idaho big man Jonathan Nwankwo just committed to Kent State, coach Jared Phay tells me.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) May 5, 2017
As for a graduate transfer possibility, no word on whether former Washington big man Matthew Atewe is planning to visit Rutgers. He did list them in his top 5 and I covered his background in more detail here.
While the staff continues to search for players to add for next season, it appears a walk-on has joined the program.
Nathan averaged close to 13 points per game this past season for Randolph high school and was chosen to play in the North-South All-Star game. He wasn’t recruited much at the Division I level, but could be a productive practice player for the program. Maybe he could develop into a role player down the road, but he would need to improve his game and add bulk to his slight frame. Still, it never hurts to add height and a player willing to work as a walk-on, especially with local ties.
And speaking of bulking up, in case you missed it, the new weight room for men’s basketball, as well as several other Rutgers sports, opened last week. It’s a big addition and another positive selling point on the recruiting trail for head coach Steve Pikiell. The current players could make big strides this offseason in their second year in working with David Van Dyke, who Pikiell brought with him from Stony Brook. Pikiell spoke about how happy he was with the progress made with strength and conditioing under Van Dyke in speaking with him last month.
Let’s hope the players on the roster continue to work hard and improve this summer. They appear to already be putting the new facility to good use.
There are some intriguing developments on the recruiting front for next season for the program. If Rutgers did add Jackson and Nwankwo along with Kiss, the program would have key building blocks in place. It would allow the staff to focus on high school prospects for the class of 2018. They have been very active recruiting that class and adding talented players out of high school with potentially several more experienced newcomers seems like a smart approach. At the end of the day, the staff is exploring all options in upgrading talent on the current roster.
I’ll have a full recruiting update on 2018, 2019, and even 2020 targets that the staff watched this past weekend. Stay tuned!