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Rutgers Basketball Recruiting: July Live Period Week 3 Recap

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Several new offers were made & priority target Montez Mathis nears a decision.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The July live period ended this past Sunday, as the three consecutive weeks of AAU sponsored events created a flurry of recruiting activity across the college basketball world. As expected, the Rutgers men’s basketball coaching staff was pretty much everywhere. I covered a full rundown of week one here and week two here. They continued to be busy during week three, making several new offers, as well as checking in on some priority targets. Time to catch up.

New Offers

K’Vonn Cramer

Cramer is a 3-star wing in the class of 2019 from Delaware, who also plays with another Rutgers target in Khalif Battle on Nike EYBL’s Team Final. He picked up his first two offers from Rutgers and VCU last week. Cramer is the top player in Delaware in his class and has also generated interest from Temple and Villanova. He is an intriguing player to keep an eye on in the 2019 class and is a good player for Rutgers to get involved with ahead of his junior season.

Gob Gabriel

Gabriel is ranked the 23rd best player in his region by the New England Recruiting Report for the class of 2019. He is the little brother of Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel, who started 23 games as a freshman last season for John Calipari. Gob plays for the same AAU team that Geo Baker did, the DC Blue Devils. Like Cramer, Rutgers was the first to offer Gabriel last week. He soon received another offer from St. Bonaventure. Reports indicate he has grown a few inches recently and now stands at 6’8”, making him even more dangerous at the wing position. He is a prime candidate to blow up on the recruiting trail during his junior year on the prep circuit.

Warren Washington

Washington is a 3-star big man from California and the first player that Rutgers offered during this July live period that is in the class of 2018. He reportedly holds offers from Utah, Cal, San Diego State, and Butler, among others, per 247 Sports. Washington can finish near the rim with either hand and is known as a good passer. The 6’10 big man is an intriguing player and it will be interesting if Rutgers can persuade him to visit the east coast.

Chris Doherty

The 6’7” forward from Massachusetts has seen his recruitment really take off during the July live period. After entering the month with offers from Vermont, Towson, and Central Connecticut State, the New England Recruiting Report lists new offers from Florida Gulf Coast, Manhattan, Wagner, Hofstra, and UNC Wilmington. That same recruiting service ranks Doherty as the 19th best player in New England for the class of 2018. I’ve said many times before that I really like Rutgers targeting the prep circuit in New England and it could end up paying off in a big way in the years to come. Geo Baker is the first recruit that the program has landed from this area and he will certainly not be the last. Like Baker, Doherty appears to be an underrated recruit. He received some major praise from several recruiting reporters after his play last week.

And the brother of Chris Herren, the former Boston Celtic, chimed in as well.

As is becoming a regular theme under Pikiell, the Rutgers staff continues to identify quality, under the radar talent with toughness and this level of evaluations will prove valuable over time on the recruiting trail. Here is a clip of Doherty in action at last week’s Adidas Summer Championships, in which his New England Playaz team lost to fellow Rutgers target Mac McClung’s squad, Team Loaded VA, in the Finals.

Mac McClung Is Priority Target

Speaking of McClung, there should be no doubt that Rutgers wants him in their 2018 class. The staff has watched him throughout July and having Pikiell plus Young there proves he is a priority. The talented and dynamic playmaker has picked up some great experience on the AAU circuit this summer and performed well at times. He needs to improve his consistency, but he is an intriguing talent for sure. Pikiell is still searching for his point guard of the future. Expect the staff to make a major push to get McClung on campus in August.

UPDATE: McClung committed to Rutgers !!

Bryan Antoine Mentions Rutgers

Last week, I said the recruitment of 2019 megastars Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine have really taken off and both will have their pick of schools to attend at the next level. However, it was nice to read Antoine mention Rutgers in a recent article from Andrew Slater of 247 Sports.

Antoine was asked by Slater which school doesn’t get mentioned much in his recruitment, but has done a good job with him. His answer....Rutgers. What I fear is that too many longtime fans will harp on the negative view when the current staff lose out in the future on a highly rated and sought after recruit, looking at it only as a disappointment. To be blunt, to have one of the top 15 players in the country in the class of 2019 mention Rutgers, without them being brought up, should signal how different the state of recruiting is with the program under Steve Pikiell.

Being effective in recruiting brings with it a lower success rate than it does hitting a baseball. You can offer 30-40 recruits rated 3-stars or better. If you are Rutgers, landing three to four of those prospects would be a major windfall. Failure is not missing out on many top recruits, it is not landing any of them.

Changing the narrative about Rutgers basketball starts with having big time, national recruits take notice and visiting the program. The reality is this coaching staff is involved with almost a dozen Top 150 recruits in the class of 2018 and will be with Antoine’s class as well. They are getting multiple visits from national recruits. Rutgers wasn’t even in the same building, let alone the same table for these type of players as recently as a year ago. Be patient, positive momentum is slowly, but surely, building for the Rutgers staff.

Rutgers Watches Team Rio

Coach Pikiell watched Team Rio during the April live period as well and has recruited Noah Farrakhan from St. Benedict’s Prep for awhile now. He mentioned Rutgers as recruiting him hard back in January, along with Florida and Seton Hall. He also visited Rutgers last October for the Michigan game, when the program hosted dozens of recruits. Farrakhan is a highly coveted point guard in the class of 2020.

Jabri Abdur-Rahim is in the same class, but plays for Seton Hall Prep and is the son of former NBA star Sharif Abdur-Rahim. Rutgers offered him a few months ago and his offer list has exploded, per 247 Sports, with a dozen high major suitors. Both players will be names to follow in the coming years and having Rutgers focused on them this early speaks volumes about how hard the staff is working on the recruiting trail. They continue to have an eye on the future in targeting these top local recruits.

Rutgers Fighting For Montez Mathis

It should be no surprise that Pikeill and the staff made watching Mathis a priority during the entire live period this past month. What is a bit of a surprise though, is that Mathis stated on Tuesday that he will officially announce his college decision this Friday, August 4th.

What is interesting is that Mathis has previously stated not too long ago that he planned to take several official visits and wasn’t in a rush to make a decision. Something has certainly changed.

In the past week, pretty much every national recruiting writer has predicted Mathis will end up choosing UConn. A big reason for the shift in opinion is the recent hire of assistant coach Raphael Chillious. He was the coach who brought the 2017 #1 pick in the NBA Draft, Markelle Fultz, to Washington last season. I read somewhere that Mathis said Chillious has recruited him since the 6th grade, so that relationship does seem to be a key factor. However, Mathis also commented how close Pikiell has become with his family, particularly his mother.

I wrote last week about how much a Mathis commitment would mean to the program. There is no understating how huge it would be. However, it’s important to not panic if chooses UConn, either. What I mean is, Mathis would certainly accelerate expectations and the ceiling for the 2018 recruiting class. He would fill a major need on the court and could potentially be the face of the program in the future. However, as I mentioned above in this article, the staff is working hard on many high potential prospects. This is not an “all their eggs in one basket” scenario. It would certainly hurt to lose out on Mathis, there is no denying that, especially after how hard the staff has recruited him.

The real takeaway though is that Rutgers is battling national programs for top recruits and should be moving forward. UConn, while they are coming off a season of turmoil, won the national championship as recently as 2014. The fact that a program that has struggled for so long is even making fans from the 6th Borough (sarcasm alert) nervous ahead of the Mathis announcement is something to behold. These two programs have targeted many of the same recruits in the next two classes, so Pikiell will be battling his alma mater for a long time.

My take on Mathis is that I think this could still go either way. I don’t think it’s a sure thing that Mathis is dead set on UConn, although I admittedly am not as well connected as the national recruiting analysts. I also wonder how much of reputation plays into those writers predictions, meaning maybe they just aren’t giving Rutgers much of a chance in a recruiting battle with UConn due to past history. I love that Pikiell has made a serious impression on the Mathis family. That is something that bodes well for his ability to close out recruits, either in this instance, or in the future.

Mathis hasn’t acted like a prima donna recruit in the least. It doesn’t even sound like he is hosting a formal ceremony or live event to announce his decision. He seems to have an old school flair, both in his game and persona. He would be a major addition to Rutgers, no doubt. As Tom Petty says, “the waiting is the hardest part.” Until Friday...

Update: