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Rutgers Basketball Recruiting: July Live Period Week 2 Recap

Five new offers were reported, plus plenty of updates to catch up on.

FloSports: FloHoops Nike EYBL Session Three Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

After the Rutgers men’s basketball coaching staff were virtually everywhere during a busy week one of the July live period, it should be no surprise they were working just as hard in week two. There were a flurry of new offers reported, as well as plenty of updates with current targets in the classes of 2018 & 2019. It’s time to tip things off and get caught up on all the Rutgers activity on the recruiting trail from this past week.

New Offers

Dahmir Bishop

The 6’4” shooting guard from Philadelphia in the class of 2019 was offered by Rutgers on Friday. According to Verbal Commits, Bishop also holds offers from Penn State, St. Joseph’s, Hofstra, NJIT and Bowling Green. He plays for Imhotep high school and backed up two players last season that are off to play Division I basketball this year, Daron Russell (Rhode Island) and David Beatty (South Carolina). Bishop will see a lot more opportunity ahead for Imhotep as a junior and he has picked up all of his offers this spring and summer playing for K-Low Elite on the Adidas Uprising AAU circuit. This is exactly the type of under the radar player with high potential that Rutgers needs to be on top off. Bishop could see his recruiting profile explode during his junior season, so credit Rutgers for offering now and expect them to try and get him on campus sometime soon.

Oscar Tshiebwe

Tshiebwe is teammates with Rutgers point guard target Mac McClung on Team Loaded and picked up an offer on Friday from the program. The 6’10” big man from Grundy, Virginia is a 4-star recruit in the class of 2019. This weekend, he has picked up additional offers from Clemson, Pittsburgh, and Penn State. According to 247 Sports, Tshiebwe also holds offers from Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia, who they project as the favorite to ultimately land him. Obviously, Rutgers liked what they saw and are pursuing the player described as having a high motor in this article by the Charleston Gazette. Steve Pikiell has talked many times about wanting players who love the game and are gym rats, which this quote from the article seems to perfectly describe Tshiebwe as one:

“He’s the real deal,” said West Virginia native and former Mountain Mission assistant Justin Dempsey. “I’d say he’s a top-40 player. He has a great motor and he wants to get better.”

He had a story about Tshiebwe’s motor.

“Last summer we were at West Virginia’s elite camp,” Dempsey said. “He played four or five games and then we drove the five hours back to Grundy. When we got back, he laced up his shoes and went to our open gym. He never gets tired.”

Ding, ding. It won’t be easy, but offering Tshiebwe is another example of Pikiell being fearless in going after a player he thinks can help the program, regardless of the competition involved in recruiting him.

Rutgers Offers Pair From Mass Rivals

The coaching staff has done a great job targeting the abundant, but often overlooked talent in the New England region. They honed in on Mass Rivals this week and it led to them offering two players.

Dallion Johnson

Johnson is a 6’2” guard that New England Recruiting Report ranks as the #13th prospect in the 2020 class for the area. He plays at prep power Phillips Academy in Massachusetts and Rutgers is the first to offer him. Expect his profile to keep growing the rest of this summer and into his sophomore season. Johnson is just the latest recruit that Rutgers continues to get involved with early on in the process. Check out his freshman year highlights below.

Wildens Leveque

Johnson’s teammate on Mass Rivals, Wildens Leveque, plays high school ball at Foxborough Regional in Massachusetts. There isn’t a lot of information online about the athletic big man in the class of 2019, but he certainly helped his cause by performing well this week.

Head coach Steve Pikiell was in Florida giving the program’s top target in the class of 2018, Montez Mathis, a lot of attention. Team BBC, whom Mathis plays for, and Mass Rivals had great weeks on the Adidas Uprising circuit and Rutgers certainly took notice. More on Mathis, #23 in white in the below picture, in a bit.

Elijah Taylor

The fifth offer that Rutgers reportedly doled out this week is high school teammates with Dahmir Bishop at Imhotep in Philadelphia. Taylor is a 6’7” forward in the class of 2020 and has already established a reputation as a physical, athletic player in the paint. Here is a tweet from Delaware Valley Hoops Report’s Ari Rosenfeld on Taylor’s play this week.

Taylor, who is on his way to becoming a top national recruit, will surely continue to make a name for himself as he enters his sophomore season at Imhotep. Again, credit Rutgers for pursuing Taylor so early in the process. Another Rutgers target who plays with Taylor on WeR1 is Eric Dixon, who visited campus back in June. The Philly area has long been an untapped area for Rutgers recruiting wise, so to see this staff making multiple offers to players in this region is a great development.

More News On Established Targets:

Multiple Rutgers Targets Involved Local EYBL Programs

On Sunday, the last day of the second week of the July live period, two prominent local AAU teams who play on the Nike EYBL circuit held a combine-type event for college coaches.

There are many Rutgers targets between the PSA Cardinals and NY Jayhawks and it was confirmed by Andrew Slater of 247 Sports that one of the Rutgers coaches was there, along with 50+ other schools.

In fact, it was assistant Jay Young, who you can see in this picture in the red Rutgers shirt in the front row.

Current 2018 commit Mamadou Doucoure and another target, Isaiah Mucius, play for the PSA Cardinals, while NY Jayhawks have Frankie Policelli, Samba Diallo and Majur Majak, all of whom are on the radar of Rutgers and have visited campus in 2017. All of these players are in the class of 2018 and all but Majak are ranked in the latest Rivals Top 150 rankings. Any of these players would be great additions to the Rutgers program, along with Doucoure. It will be interesting to see which of these targets will visit the program in August and the fall.

Bryan Antoine & Scottie Lewis Unattainable

While Rutgers has earnestly recruited the duo and top ten recruits in the class of 2019, the reality is Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine of the Ranney School will have their choice of programs at the next level. Antoine received an offer from Duke this week and the pair are seriously considering playing together in college. Schools like Florida and Maryland are heavily involved, with Kentucky is lurking. Credit Pikiell for giving it a shot, but it’s unlikely these two will give Rutgers any serious consideration once they start cutting down their list of choices.

Khalif Battle Transfers High Schools

Another class of 2019 recruit that Rutgers has offered made some news this week by announcing he is transferring to Gill St. Bernard’s, where his brother Tyus played before moving on to Syracuse. Battle, who plays for Team Final on the Nike EYBL circuit and was watched by Rutgers last weekend, will play with another target, 4-star guard Paul Mulcahy. Either player would be major additions to the program, but I think Rutgers has a better shot with Mulcahy.

Rivals Writer Predicts Rutgers Will Land Mulcahy

Speaking of Mulcahy, Rutgers has been working very hard on the talented guard from the 2019 class. He visited the program a few weeks ago and is a priority for the staff. One interesting tidbit that came out this week was from Corey Evans from Rivals, who predicted “Paul Mulcahy makes it cool to go to Rutgers”. It’s rare to see national recruiting writers have confidence in Rutgers with a Top 150 recruit like Mulcahy, so this also shows that Pikiell has impressed more than just prospects on the recruiting trail. Even so, it’s too early, in my opinion, to feel confident about any 2019 prospects. Hopeful, but not confident.

With Mulcahy, if Villanova ends up offering, I’d be worried for sure. It’s also possible that Jay Wright is now recruiting at such a high level that an interested 4-star prospect like Mulcahy never gets offered. I love to see Rutgers starting to get respect from recruiting services, but let’s give the staff time to work and produce results before jumping to conclusions, positive or negative.

Jalen Carey Recruitment Updates

While the Rutgers staff followed Carey closely last week at the Peach Jam, he also received a ton of attention from Syracuse and UConn. Carey told Adam Zagoria recently that both schools were working the hardest for his services. However, Carey also mentioned Rutgers to Alex Bozich from the Indiana site, Inside the Hall. Here is an excerpt from Bozich’s article:

In addition to IU, Carey mentioned Syracuse, UConn, Miami, Kansas, Seton Hall and Rutgers as the schools coming hardest in his recruitment. Carey said he definitely wants to visit Kansas and “probably” Indiana.

Rutgers certainly faces an uphill battle, but remain in his top ten list of schools after he visited campus in May and June. Whether he includes Rutgers in his final cut down remains to be seen, but credit Pikiell for making a serious run at the talented guard. After watching Carey quite a bit in week one, it was clear that Pikiell turned his focus to his top target in the 2018 class in week two.

Steve Pikiell Prioritizes Montez Mathis This Week

There were numerous reports, including the tweets above, of Pikiell watching Mathis all week. This shows Mathis how important he is to Pikiell’s vision for the program and that he is making the consensus 4-star and Top 100 recruit priority number one. Other schools targeting Mathis include UConn, Virginia Tech, Xavier, and Missouri, all of which he included in his final list of eight programs that he is considering. It sounds like UConn is the biggest threat for Mathis from a Rutgers point of view.

Russ Wood of Rivals tweeted that Mathis will cut his list to five at the end of July and he expects him to include Rutgers. Once the July live period concludes, it’s imperative for the staff to get him back on campus before the school year. I’ve said before, if Rutgers did land Mathis in the early signing period in the fall, it could really build momentum for the program in recruiting both the 2018 & 2019 classes.

The staff have done a great job of targeting many talented guards in the 2018 class, so if Mathis did go elsewhere, Rutgers would still be in good shape to land a solid prospect. However, there is no denying the thought of Mathis in scarlet at the RAC would be a major step in rebuilding the program. Check out highlights of Mathis from week one of the live period.

Geo Baker Assisting With Mathis

Freshman guard Geo Baker is dishing out his first career assist at Rutgers by actively recruiting Mathis via social media. Here are several interactions between the two talented guards.

That sound you hear is every Rutgers fan nodding their head in approval at the thought of Baker throwing lob passes to Mathis for dunks at the RAC. Even if it doesn’t happen, Rutgers fans should be excited to see Baker in uniform this season and beyond. It’s clear he will be a great advocate for Rutgers basketball for years to come and he could ultimately become the face of the program.

Mac McClung Blowing Up

Point guard Mac McClung, who visited Rutgers in June and received an offer, which was his first from a high major program. He has seen his recruitment blow up ever since. This ridiculous highlight below from week on of the July live period garnered a lot of attention, including making the top ten plays of the day on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

He was back at it again this weekend, putting together another highlight reel dunk.

There is substance to equal the obvious flash in McClung’s game, as he delivered a 14 point, 6 assist performance in that game the clip is from on the Adidas circuit this weekend.

SLAM Magazine also profiled McClung this past week, who in addition to multiple mid-major offers, as well as from Rutgers and Georgetown, is now receiving interest from Virginia, Gonzaga, Arizona State and Marquette, among others. While Rutgers is also targeting Marcus Zegarowski and Jalen Carey at the point in the class of 2018, McClung would be a great addition to the program. He is the latest example of an under the radar prospect that Rutgers offered first, only to see multiple high majors get involved later on. Getting McClung on campus in June was huge and it will be very interesting to track his recruitment moving forward. His athleticism, passing ability, and swagger would bring a lot of excitement to the RAC!

The Weekend...Not The Singer

Jimmy Salmon has been a force on the local AAU scene for decades and yesterday hosted an event, The Weekend, at Montclair State that saw many of the best high school teams in the state compete in front of several high major coaches.

No surprise that Pikiell was in attendance. He and the staff have been consistent in being seen at high profile recruiting events since their arrival at Rutgers. People forget that part of the perception problem with Rutgers was that their visibility under former head coach Eddie Jordan was extremely limited. Pikiell has made a point to change that and even during the season, was often seen watching local games on weekends after Rutgers had one of their own. There are no substitutions for hard work and this staff is proving if they do miss on certain targets, it won’t be for a lack of trying.

Also, two current Rutgers targets in Carey and 2019 forward Justin Winston performed well yesterday.

Final Assessment of Week Two

It was another busy week on the recruiting trail for the Rutgers staff. A few trends that have developed over the past year that are as follows:

  • Recruiting top players regardless of competition.
  • Establishing strong presence locally, but not putting all their eggs in NJ/NYC basket.
  • Identifying & offering under the radar prospects before most other high majors.
  • Targeting New England Region as untapped resource.
  • Diversifying offers and having options at every position in every class.
  • The staff will not be outworked for a recruit.

It’s going to continue to take time and progress on the court to completely turn the tide in recruiting for the program, but these trends are extremely positive and demonstrate the detailed approach that the staff is taking. Pikiell and the staff are battling past perception and a decade plus of losing before their arrival, but they’ve been working hard to sell their vision of the program.

With one more week left in the July live period, expect the staff to be scouring the country again, before setting up a huge August and September in which they need to get top targets on campus for visits. There are at least two additional spots to fill in the 2018 class along with Doucoure, but the reality is another one or two additional scholarships could become available, depending on how the last one is used for next season.

This staff has backup plans for backup plans and see the recruiting chess board several moves in advance. However the 2018 class shakes out, I’m confident it will bring a major upgrade of talent to the banks. It’s not a matter of if, but who, will be a part of it. Until next week....