July is a busy time in the college basketball recruiting world. During the NCAA’s designated live period, coaches travel all over the country to evaluate recruits during the next three weeks when AAU Tournaments and showcases take place. With the first week of the live period beginning this Wednesday, July 11th, here is a preview looking at what to watch for from a Rutgers perspective.
What To Watch For With Class of 2019
As of now, there is just one scholarship available for Rutgers in the class of 2019. That could change quickly if wing Aundre Hyatt, who took an official visit to Rutgers at the end of June, decides to reclassify to the class of 2018 and join the program this fall. With just one senior set to graduate after this season, center Shaq Doorson, his spot is reserved for point guard Paul Mulcahy, who verbally committed to the program back in May. While it was generally thought that Rutgers would fill the current scholarship available with a grad transfer for this coming season, allowing that spot to re-open for a player in the class of 2019, that changed with Hyatt’s surprise visit.
In addition, two grad transfers linked to Rutgers, Ehab Amin who visited in June, and Schradrac Casimir, have since committed to Oregon and Florida Gulf Coast, respectively. It’s not known when Hyatt will make a decision to reclassify or prep next season. as well as whether he will play with his AAU team, Boo Williams, during the live period. He is scheduled to take an official visit to Seton Hall per Adam Zagoria, after an apparent visit to Creighton never materialized. LSU has also been recruiting Hyatt, this although it’s likely for the 2019 class based on their current scholarship count.
No matter what Hyatt decides, head coach Steve Pikiell can afford to be patient. With a plenty of young talent joining the program this coming season and just one scholarship to potentially fill in 2019 as of now, there is no reason to panic if Hyatt doesn’t commit. The staff have done a good job of putting themselves in a position to focus on the class of 2020 during the live period, giving them an advantage against schools needing to fill multiple spots in the current recruiting cycle. The more Rutgers can stay out in front of pursuing players early on in their recruitment compared to other programs, the better.
While Pikiell and the staff will likely watch Mulcahy, their point guard of the future, during the July live period, it will be interesting to see who else they track. The biggest need moving forward is a wing who can shoot or a big man. I’d expect them to at least watch Ismael Massoud, a player they’ve had visit campus multiple times and pursued for a long time. While it appears Rutgers may be out of the mix now, that was also the prevailing thought about Hyatt. How much time they put into watching Massoud this month will tell us a lot about how involved they still are. His offer list has grown quite a bit and the 6’9” wing from the Bronx will have plenty of options to choose from.
Another player that Rutgers will likely be tracking this month in this class is Karim Coulibaly, a 6’8” power forward from Mali who attends Scotland Performance Institute in Pennsylvania and will be suited up for New World AAU during the live period. He fits the bill of a versatile player who can be used at multiple positions, something that Pikiell and the staff value. He initially visited the program back in May 2017 and has been a target for a long time.
Other big men in this class that have visited Rutgers previously include Wildens Leveque, Justin Winston, Tariq Ingraham, and Qudus Wahab. Nothing has been reported recently about Rutgers actively recruiting them, but that doesn’t mean the staff isn’t. We’ll know if they are still on the radar if Rutgers watches any of them in the next few weeks. It’s possible a new target or two in the 2019 class emerges as well.
What To Watch For With Class of 2020
As of now, Rutgers is set to have three scholarships open in the class of 2020 with the expected graduations of Eugene Omoruyi, Issa Thiam, and Shaq Carter. Whether Pikiell is able to close Hyatt out this summer or not, the staff is in an enviable position of having just one scholarship to need to fill in the current recruiting cycle. It will allow them to heavily focus on the 2020 class in the upcoming live period. There should be strong backcourt depth by the time the 2020-2021 season rolls around, as Peter Kiss, Jacob Young and Geo Baker will be seniors, Montez Mathis and Caleb McConnell will be juniors and Paul Mulcahy will be a sophomore. Due to that fact, the staff has targeted many local wings and big men in this class. It’s good timing for Rutgers, as there is a lot of local talent available at a time when filling out their frontcourt is a priority.
Jabri Abdur-Rahim is the top player in New Jersey in his class and is a legitimate top 20 recruit nationally. The 5-star wing who has visited Rutgers previously, attends Blair Academy and plays for Team Rio on The AAU circuit. The son of former NBA star Shareef Abdur-Rahim has a ton of suitors, so it will be interesting to see how long Rutgers stays in the mix. How much the staff watch him this month will give a sign of how much they are still pursuing him.
Another local wing that Rutgers is targeting is Zed Key, a 6’8” wing from Glen Head, New York. The staff offered him back in early May and he is a top target in this class. Key has visited St. John’s and Villanova, but as of now hasn’t received an offer from them. He did pick up one from Florida on July 3rd and was included in the most recent Top 125 rankings from Rivals, coming in at #116. He is a versatile player and another intriguing prospect that Rutgers jumped on relatively early on in the process. Expect them to give him plenty of attention during the live period.
Cliff Omoruyi, who is not related to current Rutgers forward Eugene Omoruyi, is a 6’11” center who attends Roselle Catholic and plays AAU ball for the New York Lightning. He projects as an elite shot blocker and rebounder. His recruitment has started to accelerate, as he received offers from N.C. State, Florida, and Illinois in the past month. He already held offers from Rutgers, Seton Hall, UMASS, and Syracuse, per 247 Sports. He’ll receive a lot of attention during this live period.
Steve Pikiell’s history with Roselle Catholic has been well documented after developing the under recruited Jameel Warney into a three-time America East Player of the Year at Stony Brook. Pikiell has a great relationship with Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff. Although former Roselle Catholic star Matt Bullock transferred from Rutgers this past spring after two seasons, there shouldn’t be any long or short term concern with that relationship, as Pikiell gave him an opportunity when few were available for him. As for the recruitment of Cliff Omoruyi, expect Rutgers to make him a priority in this class.
Elijah Hutchins-Everett is another talented and intriguing center in this class from New Jersey. He is from Wayne, plays high school ball at Immaculate Conception and has already showed an ability to score away from the rim with a solid mid-range jumper. The 6’10”, 4-star big man already holds offers from Villanova, Syracuse, Miami, Rutgers, Seton Hall, DePaul, and Minnesota, per 247 Sports. It’s likely his recruitment will pick up even more so this month.
Xavier Foster is the nephew of Rutgers football associate head coach AJ Blazek and visited the basketball program last month. He is the top prospect in Iowa in the class and is considered an Hawkeyes lean. Still, getting the 4-star forward on campus was huge and how much Rutgers prioritizes him this month is something to watch for.
Matt Zona is a 6’8” big man from Bergen Catholic who just picked up an offer from Rutgers in early June after visiting the program. His recruitment has been low profile so far, but he has the size and potential to develop into a solid high major player.
Rutgers enters the third July live period of Steve Pikiell’s tenure in the strongest position it’s been in years. It was last summer that the staff landed the commitment of their top target in the 2018 class, 4-Star guard Montez Mathis, soon after the live period concluded. This time around, they enter the live period in July already having their top target in the 2019 class locked up in Paul Mulcahy. Pikiell and the staff have been organized and relentless on the recruiting trail since their arrival over two years ago. The fruits of their labor has started to pay off and they could really produce even more positive results with the 2020 class. This month is key to doing just that and expect Pikiell, Jay Young, Brandin Knight, and Karl Hobbs to be very active during this live period.
The first week of action is highlighted by the Peach Jam in South Carolina on the Nike EYBL circuit and the Adidas Invitational in Indiana. We’ll have weekly updates throughout this month and for a full list of tournaments and events this month, click here.