The July live recruiting period is still two weeks away, but momentum continues to build in what is a pivotal offseason for head coach Steve Pikiell and Rutgers. Since the season ended in early March, the coaching staff have added versatile 3-star guard Caleb McConnell, former 4-star recruit and Texas sit-out transfer Jacob Young, who can score in bunches, as well as their point guard of the future in class of 2019 4-star playmaker Paul Mulcahy. All of these additions continue to move the needle forward on the recruiting trail in legitimizing Rutgers as a serious option for top prospects in future classes.
Just this past weekend, 4-star big man Xavier Foster from the class of 2020 visited the program. It’s likely other highly regarded prospects in future classes have visited in June as well, a typically busy recruiting month, they just haven’t been reported. Two of the best players in New Jersey in the 2020 class, 5-star forward Jabri Abdur-Rahim and 4-star center Cliff Omoruyi, have been targets of Pikiell and the coaching staff for awhile and it will be interesting to see how much Rutgers watches them in the upcoming live period. Perception is changing for the better with prospects in future classes and the past few months have been a big step in the right direction.
With one roster spot remaining for next season, it seemed most likely that Rutgers would fill it with a grad transfer player this late in the current recruiting cycle. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi guard Ehab Amin visited the program earlier this month, although he may be bound for Oregon (update: he made it official on Friday), and Iona guard Schadrac Casimir has been reportedly in the mix as well. However on Tuesday, a highly sought after target of Rutgers that seemingly had slipped away from public view, resurfaced in a major way.
4-star wing Aundre Hyatt, who has been a top priority for Rutgers after offering him back in December 2016, is set to make his official visit to the program this Thursday through Saturday, per a report from Adam Zagoria.
Aundre Hyatt sets official to Rutgers, still weighing reclass decision— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) June 26, 2018
The 6’7”, 210 pound Hyatt has received offers from Louisville, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Pitt and Texas Tech in the past two months and holds over two dozen total, per 247 Sports.
The talented swingman with a sweet shooting stroke graduated high school early this past spring, per this article. In Zagoria’s article on Tuesday, he wrote that Hyatt hasn’t decided whether he will reclassify back to the 2018 class, where he originally was, and enroll in college this fall, or stay in the class of 2019 and do a year of prep school. I’ve heard through the grapevine that powerhouse Brewster Academy was an option for Hyatt, a White Plains, New York native. Aside from Rutgers, Zagoria mentions Florida State, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall and LSU as “being in the mix” for his services. The general thought of late in Hyatt’s recruitment is that if he does stay in the 2019 class, he’ll likely generate more interest from top tier programs, as Duke and Michigan are two that have expressed interest for him in that later recruiting cycle.
The bottom line is Rutgers hosting Hyatt this weekend on an official visit was unexpected and is a significant development. I said a few weeks ago on our inaugural podcast that if Rutgers can’t land Hyatt this summer, the odds of winning the recruiting battle for his services in the class of 2019 becomes much more difficult. More exposure on the court will likely lead to increased competition on the recruiting trail, with even more high major programs targeting him. While adding an impact grad transfer would be a positive for next season, there is no question the possibility of landing Hyatt for the long term would be the better option.
Hyatt has the potential to be a top tier shooter at the next level and is already a legitimate threat from behind the arc, from mid-range, as well as having the skills to score and finish near the rim. Hyatt has a polish and smoothness to his game that you can’t teach and with improved strength and conditioning, I believe the sky is the limit for him. Although he has the ability to help Rutgers right away next season, even if he did want to redshirt for whatever reason, he’d compete for a starting spot in the 2019-2020 season. Potentially adding Hyatt to a roster already with Geo Baker, Montez Mathis, Jacob Young, and Peter Kiss in the backcourt, as well as fellow wings Issa Thiam and Ron Harper Jr., all of a sudden Rutgers would have multiple shooters and scorers for future point guard Paul Mulcahy to find on the break and along the perimeter. The program’s slogan of “Knight And Day” would certainly be applicable to the offense if that was the personnel, after years of being such a poor shooting team. Hyatt could be the best player out of all of them, based on his current body of work and potential to continue to improve.
There have been top prospects in every class since Steve Pikiell took over Rutgers that the staff has pursued in earnest, but ultimately fell short on. The difference with this regime is that Pikiell has gotten so many of them on campus and has completely changed the perception of the program on the recruiting trail since his arrival. In the past, it felt like a lost cause when previous head coaches at Rutgers aimed for 4 & 5-star prospects and it typically was. Just 27 months since Pikiell arrived on the banks, the program continues to be in the mix with top talent in every class and is ultimately landing some, with 4-star recruits Montez Mathis and Paul Mulcahy being the most notable so far.
Getting an official visit from Hyatt at the end of June, right before the July live period begins, at a time when he is still deciding on whether to go to college or prep school next fall, is extremely encouraging. Whether Hyatt ends up at Rutgers or not, it’s these type of small steps, like getting an official right now from Hyatt, that ultimately can lead to big wins for top talent over time. If Pikiell and the coaching staff can close on Hyatt this summer, it would be a massive recruiting victory and major statement for Rutgers, a program that was almost invisible in AAU and high school gyms as late as early 2016. Things continue to trend up for Rutgers men’s basketball and the biggest reason is the work Pikiell and the staff continue to put in on the recruiting trail.
Highlights from 2017-2018 high school season:
Highlights from AAU scrimmage against powerhouse Team Final in April: