In the locker room on Sunday after Rutgers delivered payback in beating Ohio State 68-64 in overtime, a surprise announcement was made. 5-star forward Airious “Ace” Bailey, the No. 6 overall player and No. 3 small forward in the 247 Sports Composite ranking, committed to Steve Pikiell and the program.
Brandon Knight posted the video of Ace Bailey breaking the news to pike that hes committing. Pike genuinely is the best man on earth! Look at how happy he is! pic.twitter.com/Jevit8LV2d
— PikeiStan (@kyk1827) January 16, 2023
Here are five things to know about the uber talented 6’10” Bailey, a Powder Springs, Georgia native.
Highest Rated Recruit In Rutgers Modern History
Bailey’s recruiting grade is 0.9967 which is extremely close to a perfect score. His rating surpasses that of 2023 signee Gavin Griffiths, whose grade is 0.9856. For years, the highest rated recruit for Rutgers was Mike Rosario, a former McDonald’s All-American out of powerhouse St. Anthony’s. He was a 5-star guard with a grade of 0.9855. While his Rutgers career did not go as planned and he ultimately transferred to Florida, he was the highest rated modern recruit to become a Scarlet Knight for over a decade.
Steve Pikiell has long talked about his dislike for recruiting rankings. However, he is now set to bring in the two highest ranked recruits in modern history to RU. It’s quite the statement for a coach that has built Rutgers from the worst high major program in college basketball to a top tier Big Ten team.
He Grew Up with Rutgers 2023 commit Jamichael Davis
Bailey plays on the same AAU team, Athletes of Tomorrow, that Jamichael Davis does. Davis committed to Rutgers in December after visiting for the Seton Hall game. The unranked 6’2″ guard actually grew up with Bailey in Chattanooga, Tennessee per Jerry Carino. Obviously, the fact that the two players are good friends was a big positive for Rutgers during the recruiting process. Italso shows that Bailey values his friendship with Davis. That’s obviously a positive character trait you like to see with such a highly rated recruit. And Davis is an intriguing prospect in his own right. The athletic guard held reported offers from Auburn, VCU and Wichita State. Their reunion at Rutgers is certainly a compelling reason for Bailey to want to become a Scarlet Knight.
Bailey Chose Rutgers over Blue Bloods
This was a true recruiting coup for Steve Pikiell and the coaching staff. Bailey held offers from both Kansas and Kentucky. In addition, he was heavily pursued by Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Oregon, to name a few per 247 Sports. Bailey visited last summer with his AAU team, this past fall on an official visit and this past weekend. His primary recruiter is assistant Brandin Knight. The staff didn’t expect Bailey to commit on this visit, but it was a welcomed surprise. There has been no reported NIL deal for Bailey to come to Rutgers as of now.
A Classic Pikiell Fit Despite the 5-stars
When Bailey was asked by Travis Branham of 247 Sports as to why he committed so early in the process, his was response was something that sounded just like a recruit who wants to play for Steve Pikiell. “So I can worry about school and working out,” Bailey said. “I just want to grind, get this decision out of the way and just work.”
Recruiting analyst Jamie Shaw of On3 had this to say of Bailey’s game. “What stood out the most in this game was the 13 rebounds he had. He played with a go-get-the-ball mentality, which translates while you sharpen everything else.”
When asked by Joe Tipton of On3 what Bailey was looking for from a program, it was refreshing. “I’ll be looking at how I bond with the team, the coaches,” Bailey said. “I will be looking at the location, how my parents will fit in the area. I want to see how the team communicates with my family and me throughout the process.”
Don’t be mistaken, Bailey has the size, length, perimeter skills on the offensive end and athleticism of a clear cut 5-star recruit. It’s just that he has the mentality that is rare among elite recruits. He is a willing defender who wants to win and doesn’t just rely on natural talent.
Brandon Jenkins of 247 Sports watched Bailey play in November. He gave this glowing review, which highlighted Bailey’s willingness to do the little things for his team to win the game.
“During my first impression of him taking the hardwood, his talent level was extreme and evident.To start out the game, he had his arsenal of scoring tools on display. He got off to a great start by knocking down a couple of long range jumpers and relying on his size to score over top of smaller defenders inside the arc.
As the game continued, his scoring quieted down and he started affecting the game more with his versatility. Whether it was grabbing a key rebound or making the extra pass, Bailey ensured that his mindset was geared towards winning the game.
The biggest takeaway from watching him play was his natural gifts at 6-foot-9. With his perimeter skillset, size, and length, Bailey fits the mold of the modern game with his ability to excel at either forward spot.
He has the upside to be a college-ready scoring option who will step onto a campus as a draft prospect with a high long-term ceiling.”
Rutgers landed a potential future first round NBA draft pick with a team first mentality. Leave it to Steve Pikiell to find that type of rarity in the current era of recruiting with NIL and the transfer portal. Bailey wanting to be able to focus on his development and not drag out the recruiting process is a big positive. He values his family and friends. And he plays with a high motor on both ends of the floor. Bailey almost sounds like the prototypical player that Pikiell could create. There are many reasons to be excited about him from a Rutgers perspective.
The best non-NIL marketing pitch for Dylan Harper
The 5-star guard from Don Bosco and younger brother of former Rutgers star Ron Harper Jr. has long been the top target in the 2024 class for Steve Pikiell. While Harper is ranked the No. 8 recruit in the class per 247 composite rankings, Bailey is just ahead of him at No. 6. While the rankings mean nothing in the long run, adding Bailey now sure does give Harper something to think about. The fact that Rutgers is going head to head with Duke for Harper, adding a top ten talent in his recruiting class is a big upsell. There is an obvious connection to the program and his family having a great relationship with Pikiell. Now seeing Bailey commit could be factored into how Harper and his family evaluate the program.
At the end of the day, if NIL is a top priority of Harper, Rutgers could have a hard time winning the recruiting battle. However, if it’s just one of many factors in Harper’s process to make a decision, Pikiell certainly made things a lot more interesting. With Bailey and 4-star guard Dellquan Warren committed, Rutgers is currently ranked No. 3 nationally in the 2024 class. Of course, it’s very early in the recruiting cycle. That being said, if they do in fact ultimately land Harper, Rutgers will have two elite recruits in the class It would certainly end up ranked a top ten class, if not higher, on a national scale. Don’t expect Dylan to make a decision anytime soon. However, landing Bailey makes Rutgers even more talented on paper. And that can only be a positive in Harper’s recruitment.
You can watch highlights of Bailey here.
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