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Rutgers Men’s Basketball Recruiting Updates As April Live Period Begins

Multiple visits, 2019 priority targets, and 2018 class rankings are included here

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a busy week for the Rutgers men’s basketball program on the recruiting trail. 3-star guard Caleb McConnell visited last weekend and wasted no time in announcing his commitment to the program this past Sunday. More on what he brings to the table in a bit. In addition, I covered grad transfer candidates that Rutgers has reached out to in some degree recently.

Early this week, college coaches took advantage of the open period by making in-home visits to recruits. Steve Pikiell and his staff were active on that front with several high profile prospects in the class of 2019. Plus, news broke about a former 4-star recruit who visited Rutgers on Thursday. Let’s review everything that has been reported since McConnell’s pledge to the program last Sunday and finish with an assessment on where the 2018 & 2019 recruiting classes stand right now.

Home visit with Paul Mulcahy

The 3-star guard and top 200 recruit from Gill St. Bernard’s has been a top target for the Rutgers coaching staff pretty much since they took over the program two years ago, back when he was just a rising sophomore. Of course, as has been inevitably the case over the past few decades, once bigger name and more successful programs get involved, it’s an uphill battle for Rutgers to ultimately land top recruits they’ve pursued for a much longer period of time. The recruitment of Mulcahy has really blown up of late, as he has received offers from Xavier, Georgia Tech, Marquette, Florida, and UConn since the calendar turned to 2018. This week he received in-home visits from the following head coaches: Josh Pastner of Georgia Tech, Danny Hurley of UConn, Chris Collins of Northwestern, who offered Mulcahy previously, as well as Pikiell.

The 7th rated recruit in New Jersey in the class of 2019 also holds offers from Boston College, Temple, UMASS, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech, and SMU, per 247 Sports. Three schools that have shown interest and are still lurking in the shadows are Maryland, Notre Dame, and Villanova.

The 6’4” guard can play both guard positions at the next level, but has said previously he prefers to play at the point. It’s no secret Rutgers has been looking for their floor general of the future for a long time and they’ve held Mulcahy in high esteem with this class since the beginning. It would be a big win on the recruiting trail for Pikiell and the staff, but the competition has become steep in a very short time. Expect Rutgers to be active in watching Mulcahy on the AAU circuit this month and in July, as well as try to get him on campus for another visit in between. He has visited Rutgers multiple times in the past year, but it will be interesting to see if positive momentum will continue this summer, as the staff continue to make him a priority. You can watch multiple highlights of Mulcahy in action here.

Aundre Hyatt Meeting

Rutgers has also been in hot pursuit of talented 4-star wing Aundre Hyatt, who the staff have prioritized since last year, when he first visited the program last summer. According to 247 Sports, Hyatt holds offers from almost two dozen programs, including Florida State, LSU, Oregon, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Temple, USC, and Virginia Tech. Just this week, it was reported by Corey Evans of Rivals that Michigan head coach John Beilein had an in-home visit with Hyatt and that new Pitt head coach Jeff Capel came to see him as well. In addition, Adam Zagoria reported that the following schools, including Rutgers, met with his mentor this week.

Hyatt said the following about Rutgers to Zags in this recent article:

“Rutgers just wants me to jump in and enjoy the program. They said they’ll take me in either ’18 or ’19. It doesn’t matter. They just want a shooter.”

This is what makes Hyatt’s recruitment so interesting. He is technically a 2019 recruit, but has the potential to reclassify to the class of 2018 and be on a college campus next fall. It’s been said that Florida State and Rutgers are trying to convince Hyatt to do just that, per Corey Evans of Rivals.

It’s likely other schools are doing the same. What Hyatt ultimately decides remains to be seen, but there is no doubt he is one of the best shooters in either class. He has a smoothness about his game that isn’t taught and he is a good passer as well. In my opinion, Hyatt would have the biggest impact on the court for Rutgers than any prospect they are pursuing in the 2019 class. He is 6’6” and a highly skilled player who will be a major weapon on the perimeter for whichever program ultimately lands him. The competition is fierce for the White Plains, New York native who attends the Miller School in Virginia. Credit Rutgers for being a constant presence in Hyatt’s recruitment since the beginning and hopefully they can stay in it until the end. Here are some recent highlights of Hyatt from a EYBL scrimmage this past month.

And did I mention Hyatt can shoot? Check out these highlights, which profile his smooth stroke from behind the arc.

Texas Sit-Out transfer Jacob Young Visited Thursday

Steve Pikiell told me earlier this month that Rutgers was pursuing any and all options to upgrade the roster, whether they were high school players, JUCO guys, or transfers. Earlier this week, Andrew Slater broke news that was a bit surprising, as Texas point guard Jacob Young was visiting Rutgers on Thursday. Young is transferring and will have two years left to play after sitting out next season,

Young averaged 6.2 points on 41.3% shooting from the field and 32.3% from three-point range, as well as just under 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal in 16.8 minutes per contest last season for the Longhorns. The former 4-star recruit and 6’2” point guard did finish his sophomore season strong, as he averaged 13.3 points on 47.6% shooting over the final six games for Texas. In the Big 12 Tournament loss to Final Eight participant, Texas Tech, Young exploded for 29 points on 11 of 17 shooting from the floor and 6 of 7 from behind the arc. In the NCAA Tournament loss to Nevada, Young scored 8 points on 3 of 9 shooting from the field.

The interesting part about Young is that he is a scoring first point guard, which to be honest, isn’t what I expected the staff to pursue as they continue to build the roster. Pikiell has spoken about wanting to spread the basketball around more and utilizing multiple scorers that are now on the roster moving forward. Despite playing the seventh most minutes for Texas this past season, Young took the second highest percentage of shots of any player while on the floor. Young matches up more with the profile of a Corey Sanders type of player, a highly talented and potentially electric scorer that lacks consistency. It seems to counter the effort to become a more efficient shooting team moving forward. At this point in Pikiell’s tenure, it’s fair to trust his judgement after finding under recruited players like Eugene Omoruyi and Geo Baker, who are developing into key cogs on the roster. Incoming players Ron Harper Jr. and Caleb McConnell have the potential to become impact players as well.

Even so, the goal is to add as much talent and depth to the roster as possible and there is no doubt Young could step in as the starting point guard for thoe 2019-2020 season play off the ball with Geo Baker manning the point. Young would bring swagger and confidence on the floor with him, as well. No other suitors have been reported as of now, but it’s likely Young will take visits to other high major programs soon. Of course, it’s also possible the Rutgers staff is able to close on him this weekend. We will have to wait and see.

Update: Per a report from Andrew Slater, Young committed to Rutgers on Saturday.

Ismael Massoud A Priority

Another top target in the class of 2019 for Rutgers is 6’8” wing Ismael Massoud, who the staff have recruited since last summer, when the talented shooter first visited campus. He visited again soon after this past season ended.

Andrew Slater reported on Wednesday that Rutgers visited with Massoud for a second time this month and Pat Lawless reported Pikiell himself was the one who stopped by. Massoud is another versatile player who has the potential to be a great shooter on the perimeter. He is also a very good student, from New York City, and has a reputation of being a gym rat, which fit the profile Pikiell is looking for.

Massoud has a slim build and will ultimately need to bulk up at the next level, but his potential is massive. He has the length and versatility that Pikiell desires on the perimeter. Massoud has a great range and lift with his jump shot, as well as a natural shooting motion. He would be a major addition to the program and shouldn’t be considered a consolation prize if Rutgers lands him instead of Hyatt. Massoud is ranked 8th in the 2019 class within the Northeast prep circuit by the New England Recruiting Report. If his last name sounds familiar, it’s likely because Chris Ash is recruiting his brother, Sofian, a 2020 quarterback/athlete at Cardinal Hayes high school. Having the opportunity to play different sports at the same school could be a big selling point for the brothers. In regard to Ismael, he has received other recent visits from South Carolina, Stanford, and Georgia Tech, in addition to Rutgers. Other schools recruiting him include Minnesota and Seton Hall, among others. It will be important for the staff to continue building momentum with Massoud this summer.

Karim Coulibaly Another 2019 Target

The Mali native has been on the staff’s radar since last year, when they offered him in May 2017. Coulibaly is a 4-star, 6’8” post up forward is an intriguing prospect, as his offensive game continues to develop.

The lefthander runs the floor well for a big man and is still developing his body. He is a legitimate two way scorer already and could become a weapon from mid-range and beyond as well. He has the potential to become a beast in the paint at the next level, either way. St. John’s has been in hot pursuit for a long time and Virginia appears to a potential threat as well. It will be interesting to see how much effort Rutgers puts into watching Coulibaly this spring and summer.

2018 class updated rankings

Big news this week included updated 2018 class rankings from Rivals and 247 Sports. On the Rutgers front, incoming wing Ron Harper Jr. was upgraded to a 4-star recruit and is listed as 132nd best recruit in the entire class. Montez Mathis moved down 12 spots, but is still ranked 104th. Having both players ranked in the Rivals top 150 is noteworthy for the program, as communications head Kevin Lorincz highlighted on Twitter.

The rest of the current 2018 class for Rutgers includes highly touted JUCO player Shaq Carter and newly pledged 3-star guard Caleb McConnell. Overall, Rutgers has the 40th ranked 2018 class out of 351 Division I programs as of April 20th per Rivals. That is significant and could potentially improve as the staff still has two more spots to fill ahead of next season.

Coincidentally, 247 Sports also ranks Rutgers having the 40th best recruiting class in 2018. Their rankings are composite rankings comprised from multiple recruiting services. They list Mathis as a 4-star, with McConnell and Harper Jr. as 3-star recruits. Carter is listed as the 10th best JUCO player available.

While rankings are typically overhyped, as development is the true key at the college level, this is certainly a very positive step forward for the program. The coaching staff has earned these types of rankings through their diligence and resourcefulness on the recruiting trail these past two years. They’ll need to continue the grind with two more scholarships still available, as well as needing to fill the 2019 class and beyond.

More importantly, the 2018 class gives Rutgers a boost in athleticism, versatility and most importantly, talent. McConnell is an intriguing prospect whose versatility gives Pikiell a lot of parts to work with in the backcourt along with Geo Baker, Mathis, and Peter Kiss. All four of them stand between 6’4” and 6’5”, which will make Rutgers more difficult to match up against even in Big Ten play. It also means Pikiell can rotate all four players without giving up any height advantage. While all four need to continue to develop their shot, there is real potential for all of them to become consistent scorers who can create offense off the dribble, something Rutgers desperately needs.

Live Period Begins

With the live period beginning on Friday, there are several high profile events taking place in the next two weekends. Dallas, Texas is hosting most of them, including the Nike EYBL circuit, the Under Armour circuit, the JUCO Showcase, as well as Adidas Gauntlet qualifying tournaments, that are also taking place in Indianapolis, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. The Hoop Group Pittsburgh Jam is a big one as well. Expect the Rutgers coaching staff to be everywhere and highly visible. Adding McConnell prior to this week was important and allows the staff to hone in more on 2019 recruits, while they continue to work the transfer market. It will be interesting to watch how Rutgers fills the two remaning spots in the 2018 class, as they only have one spot opening in 2019 for sure with the only player on the active roster with just one year of eligibility remaining being Shaq Doorson. That’s why it’s likely they’ll look to add at least one grad transfer, which would ensure they’ll have at least two spots available in the 2019 class.

As for who they are targeting within the 2019 class, it’s obvious players mentioned above like Mulcahy, Hyatt, Massoud, and Coulibaly are priorities. While another previous top target in 4-star big man Eric Dixon is off the market after committing to Villanova this past week, everyone else who Rutgers has made a priority in recent months is still in play. There are also many other recruits that hold offers or have been tracked by the staff for quite awhile. Expect the staff to watch additional players from the New England prep circuit, as well as local players the next couple of weeks. It’s likely new targets will emerge as well. The hot stove of spring and summer recruiting is now in full swing and Rutgers is right in the mix for several intriguing and high impact prospects. I’ll have more updates after the next two weekends of the live period.