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Rutgers Men’s Basketball July Live Period Week 1 Recap

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A new offer, updates, and lots of info here

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

The first week of the July live recruiting period, a time for college coaches to evaluate high school players in future classes, was a busy one. As expected, the Rutgers coaching staff was active in watching multiple prospects from multiple classes. The two highest profile events this past weekend were the Nike EYBL Peach Jam in Georgia and the Adidas Gauntlet Series in New York City. Head coach Steve Pikiell and his assistants were at both. Here is a recap of who they reportedly watched, as well as some updates on targets and other notable activity from the first week.

ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi started off the live period with that great tweet on Pikiell. His enthusiasm is infectious and it never hurts to have a national recruiting writer give an endorsement right as the live period is beginning. It didn’t hurt either that another national recruting analyst, Andrew Slater of the Athletic, commented on Biancardi’s tweet.

The point is the perception of Rutgers is changing on the recruiting trail and that could not be more evident with respected analysts like the two just mentioned talking about the program at the start of live period.

Aundre Hyatt Update

It was reported that Hyatt, who has yet to announce whether he will enter college this fall or stay in the 2019 class, will take additional official visits in the next month to Seton Hall, LSU, and Pitt per Adam Zagoria, who spoke with about his recruitment here. That’s probably not a good sign for Rutgers, as Hyatt made an official visit back in June. While adding the 4-star shooter would be a big win on the recruiting trail, Pikiell is in a great position with only one scholarship available in the 2019 class. If Hyatt chooses to play somewhere else, the staff have put plenty of time and effort into other targets in that class. It would seem by his run of visits that Hyatt is leaning towards reclassifying and playing in college next season. While Rutgers still has one spot available, finding the right fit in a long term player to fill it is more important. Hyatt might be that guy, but Rutgers made it clear this weekend they are in still in pursuit of another recruit they’ve long prioritized in the class of 2019.

Ismael Massoud Update

The wiry wing who can shoot from anywhere on the floor has seen his recruitment take off in recent months. While Massoud has visited Rutgers several times previously, not much had been reported about his pursuit of late. However, the coaching staff was in attendance for Massoud’s first game of the live period at the Peach Jam. Going three deep with Pikiell, Jay Young, and Brandin Knight sends a message. It’s clear sign they haven’t tapped out of his recruitment and are still pursuing him. Massoud didn’t have the best tournament, as he suffered a toe injury and even missed games. That shouldn’t have any negative impact on his recruiting moving forward, as he is already established as a top 100 recruit nationally.

Just since the end of April, Massoud, who is a strong student, has received offers from Harvard, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Illinois, Auburn, Texas Tech, Penn State, Arizona State, and Georgia, per 247 Sports. In addition, Massoud holds offers from Rutgers, Seton Hall, Wake Forest, Xavier, and Yale. Whether Rutgers is able to get the Bronx native back on campus remains to be seen and something to watch for after the live period concludes.

Peach Jam Targets

The Rutgers trio of Pikiell, Young and Knight saw more games and players than were reported, but I’ll do my best to sort through games and teams they were confirmed to be watching.

Nightrydas is a program from South Florida in which their U15 & U16 teams play on the Nike EYBL circuit. Whoever Rutgers was watching from this program, they were likely recruits in the class of 2020 (U16).

DeAnte’ Mitchell covers St. John’s recruiting for Rivals and is worth the twitter follow. He provided a lot of updates throughout and just happened to see the Rutgers staff often. One team I expected to check out this past weekend was the NY Lightning, specifically for one player in particular.

Rutgers was definitely checking out 4-star center Cliff Omoruyi from the class 2020, who I covered in detail last week in my live period preview. The 6’11” big man plays for the NY Lightning, who went 3-2 at the Peach Jam. He continued to rebound, defend and block shots over the weekend, but he wasn’t overly involved in the offense, taking just a few shots per game. It’s hard for frontcourt players to get fed in these tournament settings, as the playmakers tend to have the ball the majority of the time. Omoruyi does his best work near the rim. The rising junior has a ton of potential and expect Rutgers to pursue him hard. They’ll be able to watch him often next season at Roselle Catholic once the live period is over.

In addition, Rutgers was seen watching the NY Rens multiple times as well.

The Rens have a lot of talent, but went just 2-3 at the Peach Jam. They have national recruit Kofi Cockburn, who Rutgers has recruited, but are likely out of the mix for his services. The 4-star center from Christ The King in New York has over two dozen high major offers, with Syracuse, UConn, Kansas, and Pitt mentioned as some of the favorites in the battle for Cockburn. Rutgers was likely watching Kareem Reid, a 4-star forward who plays at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut, a school the coaching staff knows well. Reid was offered by Rutgers last July after visiting campus. UConn head coach Danny Hurley has been recruiting Reid for a long time as well, first at Rhode Island and since he took the UConn job as well. I’m not sure the interest that Rutgers has with other players on the Rens, but we may learn more as the live period continues. Reid is ranked the #2 player in New England in the class of 2020 by the respected New England Recruiting Report.

The trio of Pikiell, Young, and Knight were diligent while in South Carolina for the Peach Jam, including shown here at a U15 game (class of 2021). This picture below perfectly captures the grind this Rutgers staff continues to put in on the recruiting trail.

Aside from the results they’ve produced in landing players like Geo Baker, Montez Mathis, and Paul Mulcahy, a big reason the perception is changing is their ability to identify talent so early in the recruitment process. Part of that is having a eye for talent, but a big part is putting the work and time into being in the gym, in order to find the up and coming players who would be great fits for Rutgers. The old idiom of “a picture tells a thousand words” applies here, in my opinion. It’s also a benefit of the staff having just one scholarship available in the 2019 class and having the luxury to watch future classes in an empty gym. Make no mistake though, they earned that benefit.

In watching the NY Rens U15 team, it’s likely Rutgers was at a minimum checking out Kyle Rhoden, who plays high school ball at Central Regional in Bayville, New Jersey after transferring from Rutgers Prep. The 6’8” forward has a ton of potential and is a player to watch in the class of 2021. Having the Rutgers staff in on his recruitment early is a very good thing. He could become aother local player that ultimately receives a lot of high major offers as his scholastic career develops. If so, Rhoden would be just another example of a highly sought after recruit that Rutgers was pursuing very early on in the process. It will be interesting to see how involved they become and if Rhoden visits campus anytime soon.

Adidas Gauntlet Series

While there wasn’t as much reported about the Adidas event from this past weekend held in New York City at Pier 36, I can confirm Pikiell and Young were there. In addition to watching the two teams mentioned below, they identified a player they ultimately offered during week one of the live period.

Team New England point guard Bensley Joseph was offered by Rutgers after producing several strong performances over the weekend. He played for Arlington High school as a sophomore last season, but transferred to Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts and reclassified to the 2021 class.

Former New England Prep Circuit alum Geo Baker was quick to congratulate Bensley on twitter on receiving an offer.

(side note: It’s nice to finally see recruits using the most current Rutgers logo. I’m tired of seeing the old, gaudy logo from twenty years ago that most recruits still use when announcing the offer. No surprise the basketball program figured out how to fix that issue first.)

Joseph is from Arlington, Massachusetts and is listed at 5’11”, with Rutgers being the first school to offer him, per Verbal Commits. He is a player who could make a name for himself next season on the underrated New England scene and it’s great to see Pikiell and the staff get involved early for such an athletic and versatile point guard.

The last of the Peach Jam as we know it?

There has obviously been a lot of talk about the state of college basketball recruiting after the FBI investigation that began last fall and is still ongoing. Condeleeza Rice is leading a committee formed by the NCAA to evaluate the current system and make appropriate changes. One fear is that college coaches will be restricted even more so in when they can watch prospects play over the summer. This could have been the last Peach Jam that coaches were allowed to attend, which seems counterproductive. It will be interesting to see what changes ultimately occur and Rice took some criticism from several recruiting analysts/writers this past weekend for not taking time to attend a visit they are thinking of altering significantly. Here is a tweet from Zagoria. There were others writers who voiced their displeasure as well, I just lost track of them. The Zagoria story is worth reading below, as longtime basketball junkie and yoda like figure, Tom Konchalski, is quoted and gives strong opinions on the matter.

Current Rutgers Players showing support

Freshman guard and former 4-Star recruit Montez Mathis made an appearance and the Adidas Gauntlet Series in NYC to support his former AAU team.

Mathis had several strong performances in a few high profile games during last July’s live period and committed to Rutgers soon after. Having him go back to support his former team is great to see and also gives more insight on the type of person the program is adding with Mathis. There are certainly high hopes for his career on the banks.

Let’s end on a funny and positive note. Freshman Ron Harper Jr. showed his support for class 2019 commit and 4-star point guard Paul Mulcahy in regard to the comment about this recruit, Tyler Bertram of the NY Rens below.

Mulcahy is also known for wearing a headband and Harper was vocal in showing who he thinks is the best at it. There was no disrespect intended for 3-star guard Bertram in the class of 2021. It was simply one New Jersey recruit showing loyalty towards another more than a year before they’ll even be teammates. The culture and team chemistry that Pikiell is building can only thrive with the right people and players being in the program. Adding talented players is a must and several have joined the program that check that box, but also they seem to be a lot of likeable people who are eager to play together as well. An “us against the world” mentality seems to be brewing and that’s a very good thing for the future of Rutgers men’s basketball.

There were obviously other players Rutgers staff had their eye on this past weekend. We’ll learn more based on who they watch and potentially offer after next week. In week two of the live period, there are several events the Rutgers staff will likely attend. I can confirm they’ll be at the Big Apple Summer Showcase in Ardsley, New York, an event run by the New England Recruiting Report. Another they’ll probably check out the Hoop Group Elite event. In addition, some teams like the NY Jayhawks and PSA Cardinals are holding some combine events. There should be others as well. I’ll be back for another update after week two of the live period concludes.