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Steve Pikiell’s Recruiting Success Pointing Program Towards Brighter Future

Finding the right players is the key to continuing to grow the strong culture already established

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Minnesota vs Rutgers Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday night, Steve Pikiell earned his biggest recruiting victory since taking over the Rutgers men’s basketball program back in March 2016. While 3-star guard Paul Mulcahy isn’t the highest rated recruit the current regime has landed so far, he is the most important. There are several reasons why this recruiting win will reverberate for years to come and be looked upon as a true turning point for Pikiell and the program.

Adding the versatile Mulcahy, who at 6’5” has the skillset and ability to play the 1,2, or 3, gives the roster for the 2019-2020 season the potential to be the most dynamic in years. Here is what the addition means to the program and the future, both on and off the court.

Pikiell Finally Lands His Point Guard Of The Future

After missing on previous point guard targets in Jose Alvarado, Mac McClung, who decommited from Rutgers last fall, and most recently, Tai Strickland, it seemed puzzling a coaching staff full of successful college floor generals in Pikiell, Karl Hobbs, and Brandin Knight couldn’t find one up to this point during their time at Rutgers. It was one of the few things that Pikiell and the staff could be criticized for in their time on the banks so far. However, Paul Mulcahy seems to be the best fit of any of those previous targets and is why he was recruited aggressively by this staff since taking over the program more than two years ago. While Mulcahy isn’t a great shooter and hasn’t proven to be a lockdown defender yet in his very successful high school career so far, there are a lot of positives and intangibles that point towards him being an excellent fit for the program.

Mulcahy offers tremendous versatility as a playmaker and fits perfectly with how Pikiell is building the team. He has the vision, the size, a pass first attitude, and the leadership that suits the staff’s ideal fit at point guard. Mulcahy is coachable and has big game experience at the high school level. Most importantly, his desire to make his teammates around him better, while having the skills to back it up, make him a true playmaker at the point, which is something that the program has been searching for well before Pikiell ever took charge.

Lineup Becoming Big, Dynamic & Versatile

Here is what the backcourt is set to look like for Rutgers in the 2019-2020 season:

Geo Baker 6’5”, Peter Kiss 6’5”, Paul Mulcahy 6’5”, Caleb McConnell 6’5”, Montez Mathis 6’4”, Jacob Young 6’2”.

Baker, Kiss, Mathis, and Young are all legitimate scoring threats, including from three-point range. Passing has been borderline abysmal the past two seasons and that should improve significantly with this future backcourt. All six players have ball handling skills as well, with Mulcahy, Baker, McConnell, and to some degree, Young, all having the ability to man the point at timesZ The depth, size and versatility within this group is truly high major caliber and will cause matchup problems in Big Ten play. Add in the fact that Pikiell will have big wings in Issa Thiam at 6’9” and Ron Harper at 6’6” at his disposal, there should be real excitement about the future of the Rutgers offense.

Progress Being Made In Recruiting New Jersey

While Pikiell and the staff have had success in landing 4-star and top 100 guard Montez Mathis, sought after JUCO forward Shaq Carter, and former 4-star Texas transfer Jacob Young, it’s been fair to criticize their lack of success in recruiting local talent. Landing Don Bosco star Ron Harper Jr. was a quality pickup, even more so after a stellar senior season that led to him being upgraded to a 4-star prospect last month. However, he wasn’t regarded as a top recruit in New Jersey for most of the recruiting cycle for the class of 2018. While it speaks to the vision and savvyness of the staff to jump on underrecruited players who can develop over time, Pikiell hadn’t landed a prominent recruit who was a big name in their respective class locally.

Mulcahy now checks that box and even though 247 Sports has him listed as the 7th best prospect in New Jersey in their composite rankings, he does land 167th overall in the 2019 class nationally. With programs like Xavier, UConn, Northwestern, Georgia Tech, Florida and Marquette all offering Mulcahy in recent months, this is a statement win on the recruiting trail for Rutgers. Although the other top players in the 2019 class in the garden state are likely out of reach at this point, landing Mulcahy certainly helps establish credibility with other quality recruits in his class year and with future classes as well. Remember, Rutgers was non-existent on the recruiting trail during the Eddie Jordan era. Pikiell had to takeover a brand that had no presence or identity. The staff’s diligence and progress on the court has changed that in a hurry and landing Mulcahy has helped solidify that in a big way.

Finding Players Who Want Burden Of Building A Program

It’s not easy to find talented recruits that have the right mindset to take on a challenge such as going to a program with a long history of losing. Putting belief in themselves to do what other players before them have failed to takes someone with the type of fortitude and character that is less common these days in college basketball.

Pikiell is finding players that embrace that mission. While the easiest route is to land multiple 4 & 5-star recruits, it’s unrealistic to expect that to happen at Rutgers right now at this point in the rebuild. It’s going to take multiple good players that are hungry and want to be at Rutgers for the right reasons that will ultimately change the direction of this program in a positive way. Geo Baker was first. Montez Mathis is next. Together with Paul Mulcahy committing now, Pikiell and the staff now have a strong core of players for the future that will ensure the culture he is building will continue to blossom. His ability to sell these players on his vision is vital to future success, as is the staff’s ability to develop them over time. Pikiell has now landed his top target in two consecutive classes and while the staff have been fearless in recruiting more heralded prospects, signing the one’s who want to truly be part of change at Rutgers is going to make the most impact overall.