Rutgers men’s basketball added a key piece to the roster on Sunday night as LSU transfer Aundre Hyatt announced his commitment to the program on Instagram.
The former 3-star recruit was a priority target of head coach Steve Pikiell and the staff during the 2018 recruiting cycle and he had taken an official visit. However, Hyatt ultimately chose to begin his college basketball career in Baton Rouge. The 6’6” wing from New York started 15 of 24 games for LSU this winter, as the Tigers went 19-10 and lost to Michigan in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 4.2 points on 44.7% shooting and grabbed 3.1 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game this past season. His offensive rating of 119.1 was the second best on the team for regular rotation players.
Hyatt did improve throughout the season and played his best basketball down the stretch in March. He scored 8 points and had 8 rebounds in a one point loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship, playing a season high 33 minutes. That was followed with his best performance of the season in LSU’s first round win over St. Bonaventure in the big dance. He registered his only double-double of the year, scoring 13 points on 50% shooting and pulling down 10 boards, along with 4 blocked shots, 2 assists and a steal in 32 minutes of action.
After Hyatt’s emergence, LSU head coach Will Wade spoke about his improved play after the win over the Bonnies.
“I trust him. He’s steady. You know where he’s going to be, and this is why as a coach you stick with guys. We went away from him a little bit there in the middle of the year, but he earned that starting spot,” said Wade. “It’s not like we just hand out starting spots like Halloween candy or something on Halloween, you show up and you get it. He had earned it. He had earned it in his preseason and how hard he worked, and as a head coach I trust that and we trust that. He came up. He came up huge for us. He came up huge for us against Alabama, he came up huge for us in this game here. That’s why you stick with guys.”
Hyatt entered the transfer portal less than two weeks ago and after the initial wave of players. He has three years of eligibility remaining despite entering his fourth year of college this coming fall. He had a previous redshirt year due to a knee injury and this past season counted as a free year per the NCAA ruling due to COVID.
Hyatt had interest from Texas A&M, Pitt, Penn State and Georgia and was the No. 19 available transfer from a week ago according to Evan Miyakawa’s rankings.
Pikiell empowers his players to be outspoken leaders in the community and Hyatt should fit that bill as well. He was one of six athletes at LSU to be on the executive committee for the Black Student-Athlete Association.
Adding Hyatt gives Rutgers a ton of depth at the wing position, as they are set to return Caleb McConnell, along with Jaden Jones, Mawot Mag and Oskar Palmquist. Of course, Ron Harper Jr. can still return if he removes his name from consideration for the NBA Draft by July 19. His return appears more likely than not, but Hyatt could play some four too.
Pikiell loves roster and lineup versatility, especially having the ability to matchup in different ways on the defensive end. Hyatt provides even more flexibility and is also an insurance policy if Harper Jr. ultimately goes pro early or after the following season. Hyatt also is a good fit with the program’s culture and has high major experience. This is a great addition to the roster by adding someone who will acclimate well to the team’s chemistry and be a key part of the core rotation.
Rutgers still needs to add a big man after the losses of Myles Johnson and Mamadou Doucoure, who transferred to UCLA and LaSalle respectively. Two top transfers that the coaching staff was targeting was John Harrar, who decided to remain at Penn State, and DePaul’s Pauly Paulicap, who decided to transfer to West Virginia. Finding a post up player to complement Cliff Omoruyi is the top priority. Dean Reiber could fill that role but depth in the frontcourt is still a concern. With two scholarships potentially remaining, it still remains a question of whether Rutgers will fill them both.
If Geo Baker and Harper Jr. return, Rutgers will have five players with starting experience along with Hyatt, a starter at LSU. In addition, there is a talented young group behind them highlighted by Jaden Jones and Mawot Mag. Add a big man and the projected outlook for next season should be a positive one.