Today, Rutgers landed Stony Brook’s leading scorer and grad transfer Akwasi Yeboah with one of their two remaining scholarships. Things continue to look up for the Scarlet Knights heading into year 4 of the Steve Pikiell era.
So, of course, I have thoughts:
Yeboah is a Very Nice Piece: You know the story by now, Steve Pikiell recruited and then redshirted Yeboah at Stony Brook. The hybrid wing/power forward then developed into the Seawolves’ leading scorer, one who had some of his best games against high major teams. But, I don’t want to raise the stakes on Yeboah’s role here. He’s not a one-and-done type who will come in and change the whole profile of Rutgers’ scoring. What he is is another piece—a guy who doesn’t have to carry the team, but needs to make his shots when the opportunity comes. He seems to be the kind of player Pikiell loves, a kid who does it all on both ends of the floor. Rebounds, can shoot it and can get to the hoop. Plus, there’s evidence he can defend players bigger than him. Look up his game against South Carolina last year when, at times, he was matched up on USC’s big center and held his own. I wouldn’t call Yeboah a Eugene Omoruyi clone, but there is a similar pattern here.
A Deep Team: This is one of the deepest Rutgers teams I can remember. When Eugene Omoruyi went down last year, Rutgers struggled to replace him and missed out on an opportunity for at least one more win. And then, when Geo Baker was asked to do too much, the team wore down late and stumbled to the finish line. Don’t expect that to happen now. There is depth at almost every position on the court. Jacob Young and Paul Mulcahy are here now and that eases up how often Baker and Caleb McConnell have to handle the ball as the lead guard. when a player takes a seat for a little while, you don’t worry about the offense going away. Rutgers can just keep rolling players at you. The only area where there isn’t as much depth is at the Center position, which brings us to...
There’s an Open Scholarship and an Open Seat on the Bench: This offseason is far from over. Pikiell still has an open scholarship and only two true centers. Myles Johnson showed a ton of promise, but is still developing on the defensive end. Mamadou Doucoure is coming off an injury that gave him a redshirt year. Shaq Carter can probably play center in a pinch, but I’m not sure you want to go for long stretches with him playing defense there. So, if you’re Pikiell, do you chase one more big man. Someone who doesn’t need to score, but can match-up against some of the Big Ten’s best centers and slow them down. And, how do you find that guy? With Jay Young leaving for Fairfield, Rutgers has a hole to fill next to Steve Pikiell. While information on the next hire has been hard to find, I have to wonder if Pikiell looks for someone who can be a pure recruiter? Maybe another defensive guru? Ideally, it’d be nice to find someone who can do a little of everything—and maybe even bring a player with him. Of course, this whole thing can go pear shaped to me, if Pikiell decides to ride with what he has and pursues a sit out transfer. Lots of exciting options here. In fact, lots of excitement for the rest of the year.
There Are Some Expectations Here: This is how you build a program. You add pieces and you create depth. You land your top targets. And then you fill in with other pieces that fit. And, you hope, when you have enough experience, you can break through. Easier said then done, but Pikiell is planning and scheduling like he’s eyeing a postseason birth. The floor should be the NIT. And, if everything breaks right, maybe you break the curse as well. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still time to enjoy the build while also embracing expectations. We can’t freak out if Rutgers loses an early game—it happens to almost everyone in college hoops. But there’s enough here to truly be excited. There’s enough here to look forward to what’s to come and maybe, just maybe, finally get over that .500 hump. Beyond that, can we dream big dreams? Let’s see how the rest of the offseason plays out. But November, yes November, can’t come soon enough.