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Why the Timing of the Ron Harper Jr Commitment was Crucial for Rutgers Basketball

Mamadou Doucoure, Montez Mathis, Mac McClung and Ron Harper Jr. give Steve Pikiell time to look forward.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Northwestern vs Rutgers Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

At the moment, Rutgers is full.

At this exact moment, if nothing changes, Rutgers would have four open scholarships to fill in 2018. Mamadou Doucoure, Montez Mathis, Mac McClung and Ron Harper Jr. fill those scholarships.

And guess what? It’s August.

That is huge. I can’t remember the last time a Rutgers basketball coach was essentially done with his recruiting before school starts in New Jersey. Clearly, coach Steve Pikiell has to keep recruiting players in case anything happens with transfers, players leaving early or anything that comes up in the course of a crazy college basketball season. But the top targets the Pikiell identified are now on board.

So what does that mean? Why is it huge?

Well, now the Scarlet Knights coaching staff can look forward. They can put as much energy as possible into the 2019 and 2020 classes to try and reel in some big fish.

Paul Mulcahy has been on Pikiell’s radar for what feels like forever. Get ready for the full court press there. Ismael Massoud is another piece that Rutgers has gotten on campus recently. They’ve chased Eric Dixon as well (see previous link). Aundre Hyatt is visiting soon. This is top, top talent.

The Rutgers rebuild is a long one and each class has to be more talented than the last. So far, Pikiell has been able to do that. He’s brought in underrated talent and talent like Montez Mathis. You can see the pieces being built bit by bit. The aggressiveness of recruiting this summer gave them some leeway now.

Now they can put the pressure on future recruits. The Scarlet Knights can look forward and truly lockdown a stellar 2019 class.

Every step Steve Pikiell makes forward is a building block toward the ultimate goal of making the NCAA Tournament. Pikiell came to Rutgers with the reputation as a program builder. He is doing that here.

Step one, change the way Rutgers looks on the court. Fans have seen this with their own eyes, as Mike Williams, Deshawn Freeman, and Corey Sanders have all seen their game elevated under the new staff. Step two was add talent to build a foundation. That foundation has been laid with guys like Eugene Omoruyi, Peter Kiss, Geo Baker, Issa Thiam, Souf Mensah and Myles Johnson. Sprinkle in Mathis, McClung, Doucoure and Harper, you’re looking even more like a Big Ten quality team.

And the best part? If you’re in on the ground floor, you get to watch all these players develop over the years getting better and better. I know that Brandin Knight, Karl Hobbs, Jay Young, Dave Van Dyke, and Pikiell will get these kids to get better each day. When you see it happen on the court, program building is a ton of fun to watch.

And with more time to look ahead because of these early commitments, now Rutgers can look toward a home run class in 2019.

Building a team is a process, and Pikiell’s process is accelerating more and more each day that passes.