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Rutgers men’s basketball offseason notebook 1.0

Potential moves within the coaching staff, some roster clarity and much more .

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 20 Illinois at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s college basketball’s Final Four weekend and that makes it as good a time as any to have the first offseason notebook for Rutgers. There has been some newsworthy tidbits to come out this past week or so regarding the program. Let’s tip things off here.

Assistant coaches in demand

On March 30, Jon Rothstein tweeted that Rutgers assistant coach Karl Hobbs was being considered for the head coaching position at LaSalle.

Hobbs was the head coach at fellow Atlantic 10 school George Washington from 2001-2011 where he went 166-129. He led the Colonials to one Atlantic 10 regular season title, two Atlantic 10 Tournament titles and three NCAA Tournament appearances. He then served as an assistant at UConn for four years before Rutgers the past six years, all under head coach Steve Pikiell. The 60 year old would bring plenty of experience to the Explorers, who having had a winning campaign since the 2014-2015 season.

One note from Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mike Jensen on Friday night was that former Temple and Penn coach Fran Dunphy was the front runner.

Dunphy is a Philly basketball legend who played at LaSalle in the sixties and was an assistant there twice in his career. However, he hasn’t coached since 2019 and he would be 74 at the start of next season. If Dunphy turns it down, Hobbs could be the next coach offered.

In addition to Hobbs, Adam Zagoria reported on March 31 that Brandin Knight was being courted to replace Shaheen Holloway as head coach at St. Peter’s.

Knight has never been a head coach but is a well respected assistant that is considered ready to take the next step in his career. His name has been in the rumor mill in previous years, but he has remained at Rutgers throughout Pikiell’s entire tenure.

Rutgers has had tremendous stability on the coaching staff since Pikiell’s arrival. Jay Young left after three years to become the head coach at Fairfield. He was first replaced by Steve Hayn and currently the third assistant is TJ Thompson. With Hobbs and Knight having been at RU all six seasons, an extremely rare occurrence in college basketball, it seems like the odds would have at least one of them on the move this offseason. More to come on both coaches and their status with the openings they are being linked to.

UPDATE: Per Adam Zagoria, both Knight and Hobbs appear to be staying at Rutgers for now.

Cliff Omoruyi will be back for 2022-2023 season

The former top 50 recruit put any speculation to rest on March 26 by making it clear on his Instagram page that he planned to continue playing for Rutgers next season. He wrote “Never early, never late. It takes a little patience and faith, but it’s worth the wait” along with the hashtag #notdoneyet following the text.

The sophomore center had a breakout season in averaging 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 28.7 minutes per game. He also shot 62.4% from the floor. Depending on how Big Ten rosters ultimately shake out, Omoruyi could be the best returning big man in the conference next season. He’s a key part of the puzzle who took major steps in his development this past season. Omoruyi stating provides stability for the program in an offseason where roster turnover was inevitable.

NBA Draft Early Entrants

Last offseason, there were an average of four players transferring out per team across Division I college basketball. Rutgers had four players transfer out in Myles Johnson (UCLA), Jacob Young (Oregon), Montez Mathis (St. John’s) and Mamadou Doucoure (LaSalle).

This offseason, the theme at Rutgers is declaring for the NBA Draft. Ron Harper Jr., Caleb McConnell and Jaden Jones all announced they were entering their names into the Draft pool. It’s important to remember that early entrants to the NBA Draft are now allowed to sign with an agent and maintain eligibility as long as who they signed with is certified by the league.

While Harper Jr. appears to be ready to move on, while it seems possible that either Jones and/or McConnell could return for next season. The key date to know June 1 which is the deadline for early entrants to remove their name from the draft and still maintain their eligibility.

Rutgers shines in the classroom

It was announced that Rutgers men’s basketball had nine players earn Academic All-Big Ten honors, which was the most of any team in the conference. Program records were achieved as the team fall term GPA was 3.082 and the team cumulative GPA was 3.24. In order to be eligible for the Academic All-Big Ten selection, student-athletes must be enrolled for at least 12 months at the member school as well as maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Geo Baker and Luke Nathan were both selected for the fourth time in their careers.

Steve Pikiell has made academics a priority and it is clearly making an impact. Eleven student-athletes on the roster (73%) earned a term GPA of 3.0 or higher. Twelve students (80%) hold a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. That type of consistency in academic performance is a sign that the program takes winning off the court just as important as on the court.

Transfer Portal Movement

April just began and there are just under 1,100 players in the transfer portal. The good news is that every indication is that Pikiell is prioritizing players in the transfer portal in regard to filling out the remainder of the roster for next season.

Over two weeks since the season ended and Rutgers hasn’t had any players enter the transfer portal yet. While it would be virtually unheard of in the current climate in college basketball for no attrition to occur, the program is on stable ground entering the offseason.

While the losses of Geo Baker, Ron Harper Jr. and potentially Caleb McConnell are all significant departures, the beauty of the transfer portal is having the ability to reload quicker than ever before. If Pikiell is looking to add 2-3 impact transfer players in the portal, expect him to do his homework and take his time to fill the crucial open spots on the roster

Current Roster 2022-2023

Backcourt: Paul Mulcahy (2), Jalen Miller (3), Derek Simpson (4)

Wings: Aundre Hyatt (2), Mawot Mag (3), Oskar Palmquist (3)

Frontcourt: Cliff Omoruyi (3), Dean Reiber (3), Antoine Woolfork (4)

Scholarships open: 4

Possible Return: Caleb McConnell (1), Jaden Jones (3)

A few skill sets that should be priorities for Rutgers with players added through the portal this offseason include foot speed and quickness from guards, a rim defender and rebounder, and shooters. Also finding at least one veteran player who can add leadership and big game experience would be positive as well.

There hasn’t been a lot of news this past week since my recruiting update with known targets. To read about them in more detail, click here. With the college basketball season ending in a few days, April should bring a lot of roster activity with transfers trading places throughout the sport.

It should be an exciting offseason in addition to it being such a crucial one. Contemplating the possibilities for next season’s team with the current players and their potential development, paired with multiple transfer players, makes this an intriguing offseason. Stay tuned for more updates on Rutgers basketball next week.

Lastly, if you are looking for a good podcast interview to listen to this weekend, check out one with Geo Baker. It was the final appearance of his NIL deal with the Scarlet Spotlight podcast hosted by Jon Newman and Danny Breslauer. Great insight here.