As we head into the July 4th weekend, sort of, there is plenty of odds and ends to catch up on with Rutgers Basketball. It’s been awhile since I last did a RAC n’ Roll report and this seemed like a good time for a new edition. We even have some Rutgers women’s basketball news to discuss as well. Let’s tip things off with some recruiting news.
Paul Mulcahy Visits Friday
Head coach Steve Pikiell and the staff continue to host an impressive group of talented recruits in future classes. Last weekend, I covered multiple prospects that visited, including 4-star point guard Jalen Carey from the class of 2018. On Wednesday, Rutgers hosted 4-star wing Ismael Massoud and then 3-star forward Eric Dixon on Thursday. Both players are in the class of 2019 and I covered them here. The run continues, as Andrew Slater of 247 Sports reported that 4-star combo guard Paul Mulcahy, also class of 2019, is visiting the program today.
Mulcahy holds offers from Rutgers, Seton Hall, Boston College, SMU, and Virginia Tech, per 247 Sports. He is also being tracked by Villanova, who have previously visited with him. Mulcahy told Adam Zagoria in this article from February that Rutgers was one of the schools working the hardest in recruiting him. Here is what he told Zagoria about his thoughts on Pikiell and his vision:
“I like how Coach Pikiell’s on this rebuilding thing and how he’s real big on New Jersey basketball.”
“He’s going to try to get the New Jersey kids and he wants kids to stay and then we’ll really change the program, you know? He has a good pitch that way. Just the way he thinks, I love the way he thinks about the future and stuff like that.”
He is currently ranked by 247 Sports as the 7th best player in New Jersey in another loaded class for the garden state. Landing Mulcahy would be absolutely huge and he could be the type of player that leads the charge in preaching about changing the future of the program with local recruits. The odds aren’t stacked in Rutgers’ favor, but that hasn’t stopped the staff from relentlessly pursuing players like Mulcahy. Getting the Gill St. Bernard’s star on campus is another step in the right direction. Mulcahy is likely to see his recruitment pick up even more so during the July live period playing for prominent AAU program New Jersey Playaz, along with Carey, so Rutgers having time with him now is critical.
Here are highlights from his freshman season two years ago.
Update: Looks like things went well!
Freshman Officially Join Program
Rutgers basketball posted the above tweet on Monday highlighting the arrival of three freshman to the program. A pair of 3-star recruits, Geo Baker and Myles Johnson, as well as 6’10” walk-on Luke Nathan, began summer classes, marking the beginning of their college careers. Baker and Johnson have an opportunity to be major contributors in the rebuilding of the program in the next few years. In terms of what impact they could have this season, I detailed their potential here. Welcome to the banks, fellas!
Gains Being Made In Weight Room
The program is a great follow on twitter, as they are posting pictures and videos of the team working out on a regular basis. In particular, Issa Thiam jumps out in the pictures above, who was a certified coat rack last season and looks to be much stronger already this offseason. While Kenny Parker gets a lot of attention for the great work he is doing with the strength and conditioning program with the football team, and rightfully so, the same should be said for basketball’s David Van Dyke.
To say the strength and conditioning program needed improvement from the previous coaching staff would be an understatement. We saw the positive results immediately last season, as the team stayed healthy and were better conditioned. However, with a full offseason to train, the gains the players are making in the second year under Van Dyke could be even more impactful. Pikiell told me when we spoke here back in April, that this summer would be huge for players in their second year working under the direction of Van Dyke. Here is what Pikiell said:
“David has done a tremendous job. Especially in light of the fact that a lot of our players had injuries. He got them through it all, all season long. We pretty much had a full roster for the whole season. It’s a long season and it’s a credit to the work he did. I think we were in really good shape. I think it will even pay bigger dividends moving forward here. I think you will see a big jump from the freshman to sophomore year, their bodies, strength, explosiveness.”
“I think David does a great job with the latest technology and keeping on top of nutrition and those kind of things. I think you’ll see some payback. They are working hard right now. The summertime is a big time too for him to make big strides with our guys. I think you’ll see that moving forward and I’m just real pleased with the overall improvement within that area.”
It will be exciting to see how much progress the players make this summer on the court next season.
Corey Sanders Highlight Video
The drama of Corey Sanders potentially going pro has been over for a few weeks now and #3 reminded everyone of his return by posting this video from his twitter account. This offseason is critical for the entire program, but also for Sanders to prepare himself to elevate his play next season. For now, enjoy the memories and be hopeful for the future, both for Sanders and the team.
New Adidas Gear
Tomorrow, July 1st, is the official start date for Rutgers entering in the contract with Adidas. Some pictures have been put out there previously, which I covered here. This was a cool video of the players receiving Adidas gear for the first time, including the Harden Volume 1 shoes. The Rutgers basketball marketing/pr work on social media continues to do a great job in giving an inside peak of the program!
Iona Head Coach Tim Cluess Comments On Rutgers Job
Iona head coach Tim Cluess was profiled by Jon Rothstein this week and a big theme of the article was how surprising it is that he hasn’t gotten the opportunity to lead a high major program. Cluess has been very successful at Iona, accumulating a 162-78 record and four NCAA Tournament appearances. In the article, he comments on why he wasn’t a fit for the Rutgers job that was available last year, before Pikiell was hired. Cluess met with Rutgers, according to Rothstein, but had this to say about the job:
“I didn’t have an interest in that one,” Cluess said of Rutgers. “I wasn’t going to leave Long Island for that. I didn’t think the infrastucture was in place to win, and hopefully that changes for them down the line. I’m happy Coach Pikiell got that job and hope he gets that thing going in the right direction. But I know me, I’m really happy when I win, and I’m not really happy when I lose.”
It seems a bit classless for Cluess to make this comment, especially when I don’t think he was ever a serious candidate for the job. While he has been a success at Iona, he has thrived on adding JUCO players and transfers, which would have been much harder to do at Rutgers. In fact, his recruiting strategy is probably a big reason he hasn’t ever been a serious candidate for a high major job before.
To be able to rebuild a program, especially at Rutgers, the head coach must have a clear vision of the future and of what is possible, thus being able to sell that vision to recruits, boosters, fans, alike. You need to recruit talented players out of high school and develop them. The bottom line is athletic director Pat Hobbs found the right man for the job in Steve Pikiell, and his vision and belief that the program can be successful is certainly resonating by the fact that he continues to get high profile recruits to visit campus. I believe the future is bright and Tim Cluess isn’t going to change my mind on that.
There was also some news on the women’s side this week, so here is a quick update.
DaChe Williams, a redshirt senior guard, has left the program as a grad transfer and will play for Florida Atlantic next season. It will be her third school, as Williams transferred to Rutgers from Northeastern previously. She missed a bunch of games at the start of last season due to a concussion in the preseason and never really got going. However, she did produce a season best 7 points in both the regular season finale against Ohio State and in the Big Ten Tournament versus Wisconsin.
It’s easy to spin that her leaving isn’t a big loss, based on her season averages of 1 point and 1 rebound per game. Still, I doubt Williams, who graduated from Rutgers this spring, planned to transfer here to then leave for her last season of eligibility. The fact that she is the fifth player to transfer out of the program since last season makes things worse.
I wrote back in the spring that whatever spin to offset this disturbing trend of having a large group of players leaving is, which includes the top two players from last season in Shrita Parker and Kandiss Barber, it shouldn’t be viewed as a positive. I received responses on social media that it isn’t a big deal because the players leaving would have either have been coming off the bench or not played much at all next season, with star Tyler Scaife returning from a medical redshirt, plus a few high profile transfers now being eligible to play as well. For me, that’s a ridiculous thought, as depth is crucial to the success and survival of any program in any sport.
The bottom line is the women’s program needs a huge bounce back season, after the worst campaign in Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer’s illustrious career. Our own Bob Cancro highlighted recently that there are currently eight former Scarlet Knights in the WNBA and that Stringer has lacked the proper support by the university for years. He is absolutely right, but with Hobbs now in charge of the athletic department, facilities, fundraising, and support are trending in a positive direction. There are no more excuses and hopefully Stringer can right the ship for a program that was once the top team in the entire athletic department.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge Matchup
The ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup on the men’s side was announced earlier this month, with Rutgers hosting Florida State at the RAC on November 28th. That will be a challenging week, as the Big Ten is slated to play two conference games between December 1st through 4th, to accommodate playing the postseason tournament in Madison Square Garden a week early. As for the women, it was announced this week that Rutgers will host N.C. State two days after the men’s game. The Wolfpack went 23-9 last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, so it will be a challenging game for Rutgers.
That’s it for now, except for a plug for the RFund and R B1G Build. A small contribution per month by fans or alums could really go a long way in the big picture. Today is the final day of the fiscal year for them, so either end the year or ring in the new one with a donation. Rebuilding the Rutgers men’s basketball team, as well as improving all of the programs within the athletic department, can be something we can all help with.
Have a happy July 4th everyone and remember, only four and a half months until the 2017-2018 season tips off!!