While the Rutgers men’s basketball program only has two scholarships to offer in the class of 2019 as of now, it’s a crucial recruiting cycle for head coach Steve Pikiell. For well over a year now, the top three targets on the board for Rutgers in the 2019 class have been 3-star point guard Paul Mulcahy and 4-star wings Aundre Hyatt and Ismael Massoud. So far, Pikiell has shot 50% from the field. He first landed a verbal commitment from Mulcahy in May, which was a major victory for the program. Earlier this month, after receiving an official visit from Hyatt back in June and landing in his top three, Rutgers and rival Seton Hall ultimately lost out to LSU. Massoud is the lone remaining priority target in the 2019 class and Rutgers continued to make it clear during the July live period that he was very much still in their plans.
I detailed Pikiell and the coaching staff’s activity last month here, here and here. Every very week during the July live period, Rutgers watched Massoud throughout, which was consistent in how they’ve recruited him since the beginning. He also visited campus last spring after first visiting in June 2017 and received multiple staff visits as well earlier this year. The hard work that the staff has put in with Massoud has put them in a position to be a serious contender in the final stretch of his recruitment.
On Saturday, the 4-star wing and consensus top 100 player in the class of 2019 included Rutgers in his final five list of schools that he is considering. The news was first reported by Evan Daniels of 247 Sports, who also listed the dates of all five official visits that Massoud will take this fall. Interestingly enough, Rutgers is slated to be the last program that the Bronx native will visit:
“Massoud will start the official visit process with a trip to Harvard the weekend of September 8th. The very next weekend, Massoud will take his official visit to Auburn. He’ll then visit Wake Forest the weekend of the 22nd, Georgia Tech the weekend of the 29th and Rutgers on October 6th.”
While Massoud visiting Rutgers guarantees nothing and there is always the possibility he decides on another school before he travels to Piscataway, it’s typically an advantage to have a recruit visit your program last. As in any sales pitch, going last gives that organization the final word in the competition. How many times have we seen recruits have positive visits to Rutgers, only to see momentum fade away as the weeks roll by and more visits to other programs occur. We just witnessed that scenario in the Aundre Hyatt sweepstakes, as LSU was his last visit and took place six weeks after visiting Rutgers.
It’s an interesting final five for Massoud, who is recovering from a fracture in his fibula that doesn’t require surgery. He is a strong student and I’ve heard from multiple sources that academics are important to him and his parents in regard to his final decision. Harvard, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest, along with Rutgers, seem to confirm that he does want to attend an academically strong school. Auburn is the wild card, a program on the rise led by head coach Bruce Pearl, who is a excellent recruiter and has always had success recruiting in New York City.
The fact that Massoud is taking all five official visits in the fall makes it likely he will sign his letter of intent in the early signing period in November.
One possible advantage that Rutgers may have is that it’s the only school of the five that has offered Massoud’s brother Sofian, a 4-star athlete in football in the 2020 class. The younger Massoud reportedly holds grid iron offers from Rutgers, Dartmouth, Virginia, Boston College, and Temple at the moment. If the brothers have dreams of playing their respective sport at the same school, Rutgers gives them their best chance to do so.
Massoud had this to say about Rutgers to Daniels in his report:
“They’ve recruited me the hardest of all of the schools and the longest. Coach [Steve] Pikiell’s really on to something at Rutgers. It’ll be really cool to potentially stay and play in front of family and friends.”
Three significant positive points are mentioned by Massoud: Rutgers has made him a priority more than any other school recruiting him, he believes Pikiell is building a winner, and it’s the school closest to his family. The first and third factors are one’s that Rutgers has an edge on the other four programs they are competing against.
Massoud is a 6’9” wiry thin wing who plays for the MacDuffie School in Massachusetts and is known for his long range shooting. He is currently ranked as the 5th best player in his class in the New England Prep Circuit by the New England Recruiting Report and is listed as the 87th best prospect in the country by 247 Sports. However, what makes Massoud so intriguing for Rutgers is that his versatility, toughness and edge that he plays with reeks of a prototypical Pikiell player. This highlight below of him playing with the PSA Cardinals during the last week of the July live period is a perfect example of the type of grit and hustle Massoud would bring to Rutgers:
With just one spot to fill in the class of 2019, Massoud visiting Rutgers is a big step forward. The fact that it is the last of his five visits is encouraging. The weekend of October 6th is the blackout football game versus Illinois and the basketball team will be almost two weeks into practice for the season. It’s a perfect time for Massoud to visit and if Steve Pikiell can close him out, he will have added two huge pieces (along with Mulcahy) to the long term future of the program. It would also give Rutgers major momentum on the recruiting trail after a summer that the staff put in a lot of work with future classes. There is a long way to go until Massoud visits Rutgers, but as the dog days of August turn to fall, there is now legitimate hope he’ll officially be a Scarlet Knight by Thanksgiving.