Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press confirmed a rumor that’s been out there for months, as Steve Pikiell has filled the remaining scholarship for the 2017-2018 season with 4-star center Mamadou Doucoure, who will arrive one year earlier than expected.
He committed to the program last December and was originally part of the 2018 class, but Carino confirmed that Doucoure is currently enrolled at Rutgers. The program has not confirmed the status of the NCAA paperwork and whether Doucoure has been cleared to play right away. Rutgers isn’t likely to comment until the NCAA rules on Doucoure’s eligibility for next season, so it’s safe to assume his case is still being reviewed.
This is a major development for a program that needs more talent and depth added to the frontcourt. With Doucoure originally on track to graduate in 2017, only to reclassify to 2018 later in his high school career, it must have made it easier for him to ultimately switch back to the 2017 class.
Doucoure will add a physical presence immediately and has the potential to be a defensive force in the paint. He has the shot blocking skills to be a true rim protector and can be an effective rebounder from day one. He’ll need time for his offensive game to develop, which is common with most big men. However, he brings Rutgers much needed swagger in the paint and will be able to mix it up against the trees of the Big Ten.
Rutgers needed to improve depth in the frontcourt ahead of this season, so adding Doucoure now is crucial. With just Candido Sa, oft-injured Shaq Doorson, and freshman Myles Johnson being the only frontcourt players standing at 6’9” or taller, Doucoure adds a much needed option. Look for him to battle for a starting spot at center immediately.
The 6’9” big man was listed as the #114 top recruit in the recent Rivals Top 150 rankings for the class of 2018. He played high school ball with Our Savior New American School in Centereach, New York, as well as AAU ball on the EYBL circuit with the PSA Cardinals. Head coach Steve Pikiell has been working hard to build strong relationships with both programs since he took over Rutgers. Having Doucoure in the program now not only helps on the court, but off the court with recruiting as well. There are several players from Our Savior who are being recruited by Rutgers and that visited last month, which I covered here. As for the PSA Cardinals, one of their top 2018 targets is Isaiah Mucius, who Doucoure played with and has been trying to convince to join him at Rutgers. I’m not sure where his recruitment currently stands with the program.
In terms of the 2018 recruiting class, technically Rutgers has filled all remaining scholarships. The class is now comprised of 4-star shooting guard Montez Mathis, 3-star point guard Mac McClung, and 3-star sharp shooting wing Ronald Harper Jr. Don’t expect Rutgers to stop recruiting the 2018 class entirely, as it’s always possible another spot opens up after the season due to an early departure. What is key now is that the coaching staff can truly focus on recruiting an equally important 2019 class, which I reviewed here.
The talent infusion is happening in Piscataway and the Doucoure moves allows for that reality to be accelerated. Steve Pikiell continues to make savvy moves in upgrading the roster and re-energizing a program that is searching for its first winning campaign in over a decade. With practice for the 2017-2018 season less than two months away, the team just got even more interesting to think about in late August.