Rutgers Basketball season is just around the corner and to preview it, I’m going to be going in-depth on all of the players that project to be difference-makers for the Scarlet Knights. This is going to be a multi-part series and I’ll start with the heart of this team, Paul Mulcahy.
Paul Mulcahy is the leader of this team. Gone are the days of Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. — this is Paul’s team. That’s why it’s so important for him to continue to improve. Last year Mulcahy averaged 9.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 5.3 assists while playing 32.2 minutes a night for Rutgers. That was a major improvement from 2020-21 when he averaged 5.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 27.3 minutes. He needs to continue on that path while continuing to do the little things. Paul Mulcahy has been the ultimate “glue guy” for Rutgers over the past few seasons and he has to continue to show those qualities on the court while improving his stat line.
The veteran captain is now in his 4th season and is primed for his best one yet. He has received high praise this offseason from teammates, coaches, and even revered Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
“If [Paul’s] worried about his future, the NBA is going to find what they like in him,” Izzo said. “He’s a tough kid [that] can guard anybody, but what I like most about him, he’s a tough S. O. B.”
Izzo saw all of that toughness firsthand last season when Rutgers blew past Michigan State 84-63. Mulcahy went for 15 points and 12 assists against MSU in the midst of a five-game stretch where he averaged 17.8 points and 7.4 assists while leading Rutgers to four straight wins over ranked opponents. Mulcahy was a dominant force during that stretch,
Mulcahy flashed major potential to be a game-changing player for the Scarlet Knights this season and is by far the best distributor on this team. He showcased that by finishing second in the Big Ten in assists this past season, the most by a Rutgers player in a season since Eddie Jordan and Rodney Duncan in the mid-1970s. A lot of Mulcahy’s assists came working the two-man game with big man Cliff Omuruyi as the duo hooked up for countless alley-oop lobs and buckets off entry passes. Expect to see a heavy dose of that especially with the development of both players.
While Mulcahy has had huge games like those mentioned above, he needs to work on becoming a more consistent scoring option for Rutgers. Over the final six games of the season, including the Big Ten and NCAA tournament games, Mulcahy scored in double figures just once and had more turnovers than assists in three of those games. If Rutgers wants to improve as a team this year, Mulcahy being a consistent option to score the ball is absolutely key. When Rutgers goes cold, who’s going to get them a bucket?
In years past it’s been Ron Harper Jr. or Geo Baker, but this year the ball will be in Paul’s hands. Whether he’s taking the shot or finding the open man, Mulcahy will be trusted to make the right decision to help Rutgers win the game. This team needs him to be a consistent scoring presence and to show the poise of a veteran guard.
Mulcahy’s influence on this team goes far beyond the box score. As a veteran and captain he’ll be leaned on to be a calming presence on and off the court for younger teammates. He fills the role of a mentor for the young guys on this team, and Mulcahy will need to be someone that can settle down his teammates when needed. We’ve all seen Geo Baker grab his teammates after a bad foul call or a cheap shot by another team. He’d give them a few words of advice and stop them from escalating the situation further. He’d make sure his teammates stayed calm and collected on the floor.
Now it’s Paul’s turn, he’s going to have to be the one to be mature in those moments, the one that younger teammates can look up to. This is perhaps the most underappreciated part of his role this season, and Rutgers will be a significantly better team if he can excel in it.
Season Prediction: 12 points, 6.5 assists 4.5 rebounds. All-Big Ten Second Team