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Bailey is an Ace recruiter in Rutgers’ pursuit of Dylan Harper



Dylan Harper of Don Bosco comes down with the rebound in the first half as Don Bosco defeated St. Joseph 60-43 to win the semi final in the Bergen Jamboree played in Hackensack, NJ on February 11, 2023. Don Bosco Defeated St Joseph 60 43 To Win The Semi Final In The Bergen Jamboree Played In Hackensack Nj On February 11 2023. Photo credit Chris Pedota, / USA TODAY NETWORK

Following a dominant junior season at Don Bosco Prep, Dylan Harper is now ranked the No. 4 recruit nationally in the 2024 class per the 247 Sports composite rankings. Rutgers made him its top priority on the recruiting trail years before his rise up the national rankings. Of course, his suitors have grown in both volume and prestige. However, Steve Pikiell has been the constant throughout his recruitment.

Rutgers offered Harper in April 2021. That’s over a year before any of the final schools that he is ultimately considering.

Harper recently trimmed his list of schools to five: Kansas, Auburn, Indiana, Duke and Rutgers. He has already taken official visits to Duke and Indiana. This past weekend, Harper was interviewed about his recruitment while taking part in the USA Basketball Junior National Team Mini-Camp. Harper told Travis Branham of 247 Sports that he plans to visit “Two or three more to Rutgers, Auburn and Kansas. I will hit the remaining three.”

There is no doubt the competition to land the dynamic 6’4″ combo guard is at the highest level. However, Rutgers offers a unique situation for the consensus 5-star recruit who 247 Sports ranks No. 2 independently in the 2024 class.

Most Obviously, there is years of history with the program and his own family. Ron Harper Jr. left a lasting legacy as one of the key players to turn Rutgers into a nationally respected, winning program. Head coach Steve Pikiell and his staff have a great relationship with his family. Of course, Dylan’s big brother wants him to become a Scarlet Knight and take the program even farther than he did in recent seasons.

Success at Rutgers would be celebrated differently than it would be at the other four programs. Harper is considering. Kansas and Duke are true blue bloods. Indiana has been one in the past and has as much history as any college basketball program. Auburn did have a decade plus NCAA Tournament drought this century. However, they’ve won 20+ games in five of the past six seasons that includes four NCAA Tournament appearances and a Final Four under head coach Bruce Pearl. And let’s be honest, football will always come first on the Tigers’ campus.

Fortunately, there is someone well qualified in selling the idea of winning big meaning more at Rutgers to Harper. Also part of USA Basketball Junior National Team Mini-Camp’s this past weekend was 5-star big man Ace Bailey. The Georgia native committed to the program during a visit right after a 68-64 overtime win against Ohio State in January. Bailey told Brian Fonseca back when he committed that he and Harper “talk all the time”. He also mentioned the idea to Harper of being a modern version of the Fab Five together along with Bailey’s lifelong friend and teammate, Jamichael Davis who joins Rutgers for next season.

There was enough buzz from recruiting analysts from this weekend to conclude Bailey’s pursuit of Harper is ramping up.

On3’s Joe Tipton tweeted “5-star Rutgers commit Ace Bailey was in Harper’s ear all weekend long, recruiting him to be a Scarlet Knight.” Adam Zagoria tweeted “Class of 2024 Rutgers commit Ace Bailey also told me he’s working hard on getting Dylan Harper to Rutgers.” Barnham reported during an interview session with the media, Bailey “jumped in to crack some jokes and hype him up about Rutgers.”

And then there is Harper’s own admission.

”He’s always calling me, texting me, DM’ing me all the time,” Harper said of Bailey.

Both were named to 2022-2023 MaxPreps Junior All-America Team this week. While Harper is ranked No. 4 nationally in the 247 Sports composite rankings, Bailey is ranked No. 5 in the 2024 class. The idea of Rutgers landing two top five recruits together is a scenario that doubters will downplay. But it’s a dream that RU fans have a right to believe as possible. Now more than ever.

In the same interview, Harper said of Rutgers: “It’s home. Every time I go there there is always love and affection everywhere I go. The coaching staff really emphasized how they are recruiting me not just because of my brother but for me.”

It would be naive to think that NIL isn’t a factor in Harper’s recruitment. It’s partly why some analysts think Duke will ultimately win out for the multi-talented guard. Some fans are worried that Bailey is a risk to eventually sign with another program because of NIL as well. It’s fair to be concerned simply because of the nature of college basketball these days.

That being said, Harper is well educated in the recruiting process and business of college basketball. He saw his brother live it. His father had a tremendously successful NBA career. His mother was a great college player, has led an AAU program and is a coach as well. This is not the family’s first rodeo and ultimately it will come down to what Dylan feels is best for him.

How important are things like program fit, overall development and legacy for Harper? And how does Rutgers measure up in those areas in the talented playmaker’s mind?  Impossible to know outside of his inner circle.

Of course, Pikiell and his staff are working hard to put the program in a position to maximize the talent of both Bailey and Harper. They have built a program and are assembling a roster that the top recruits are obviously taking very seriously. That fact alone is significant in its own right. This is not a one off chase. Rather, it’s a strategic pursuit to elevate the program to great heights.

Gavin Griffiths, the highest ranked recruit to ever sign with Rutgers, is arriving this summer. He’s arguably the best shooter in the entire 2023 recruiting class and a consensus top 40 recruit. 4-star big man Baye Ndongo is also on the way and is just scratching the surface of his massive potential. And Davis, while a selling point for Bailey, is an athletic slashing guard who is also a willing and capable defender.

As for the rest of the 2024 recruiting class, consensus 4-star two way point guard Dellquan Warren is committed. He’s now ranked No. 85 nationally per 247 Sports and has a chance to be a elite defender who can push the pace directing the offense. With Warren and Bailey committed, the 2024 class is ranked No. 5 nationally early on.

Rutgers was also included in No. 6 recruit Naas Cunningham’s top five. RU is also firmly in the mix for a pair of wings in No. 28 prospect Donnie Freeman as well as No. 44 Tyler Betsey.

While shooting guard Kur Teng, ranked No. 39, chose Michigan State over Rutgers on Monday, it’s important to remember that Harper is the priority backcourt target not only for RU but the nation.

This is the new reality with the current state of recruiting for Rutgers basketball. Missing on a top 40 prospect could be followed by landing an even higher ranked recruit.

And of course, a younger core of Derek Simpson, Antwone Woolfolk, and Antonio Chol, an athletic wing the staff is high on, have one year under the belt with the program.

Rutgers is poised to take a significant step forward in the next few seasons. Dylan Harper is the prospect who can elevate the program’s ceiling and balance out an extremely talented core of elite prospects. It’s not just about program fit for the players, but how they all fit on the court as well.

Harper indicated this week he plans to make a decision towards the end of summer following the July AAU season. Having an Ace in the fold with Bailey, whose own potential is limitless, certainly helps Rutgers’ pursuit of a future star in Harper. Together along with the other high level players already in the program or poised to join soon, the future is looking as bright as the glory days of the 1970’s teams. Or if you listen to Bailey, potentially even brighter.

“He is telling me we can win a ‘natty’ [National Championship] together and I really believe we could,” Harper said of Bailey. “I am really going to take that into thought.”

For Rutgers fans, be patient and let Harper take as much time as he needs to think that dream over. As the saying goes, the best things in life are worth waiting for.

Thanks for reading the The Scarlet Faithful. For more Rutgers Athletics content from The Scarlet Faithful, follow us on Twitter and Instagram. You can also subscribe to our YouTube ChannelYou can subscribe to The Scarlet Faithful podcast on AppleSpotify, Pocket Casts and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. For advertising inquiries or to reach out directly, email at breitmanaaron@gmail



  1. FlaRef

    April 5, 2023 at 2:04 am

    Thanks for the insights on the recruiting trail for RU. Doesn’t seem NIL dollars are a concern for DH and Pike may hold the key in snagging him by adding Ace and his lifelong friend. Good read.

    • thevinman

      April 5, 2023 at 4:24 pm

      I would venture that NIL money plays a role but I doubt the kinds of players coach is trying to recruit feel the NIL dollars are the most important thing.

  2. pj43

    April 5, 2023 at 3:37 am

    Thanks for the insight on recruiting, Aaron. I hate to think that recruiting now comes down to NIL to the degree that it seems to be these days. How did collegiate sports get to this state? Oh, the NCAA butchered it. I forgot! Anyway, I may be naive but I like the way Pikiell recruits and his integrity. It’s reflected in the players we’ve seen during time at Rutgers. If a recruit’s decision comes down to NIL being the primary factor, then let him go elsewhere. A gun for hire probably ends up in the transfer portal, sooner rather than later anyway.

    • thevinman

      April 5, 2023 at 4:26 pm

      Oops, sorry I didn’t read your comment before making mine above. You said it better than I did.

  3. Henry Rutgers

    April 5, 2023 at 11:21 am

    I generally ignore recruiting news until they step foot on campus. It’s a left-over practice from reading about so many recruits over the years that ended up not qualifying, taking a fifth year, changing their minds and going elsewhere etc. It is, however, exciting to think about the possibilities. I’m not going to get too excited though. We’ve already renewed our men’s basketball season tickets and requested a couple more.

    Aaron, thank you for keeping the hope alive with informative, insightful and solid writing.

  4. thevinman

    April 5, 2023 at 4:22 pm

    Oh my God, as Rutgers fan it is so unreal to read a column like this. Who the hell could have imagined we would be in the position to have one of the top classes in the country? I sure as hell never dreamed such a thing! It is making me giddy!!! I realize nothing is set in stone but the transformation of Rutgers basketball since coach Pikiell took over is nothing short of astonishing.

    That photo of Dylan looks so much like Ron Jr.

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