Now that Cam Spencer has entered the transfer portal, there are two major questions about the Rutgers backcourt. Who will the staff add from the transfer portal and will Paul Mulcahy return for one more season?
Both will take some time to answer, but the first will likely take longer. With Mulcahy, like Cliff Omoruyi, the decision will be coming soon.
Mulcahy entered his name into the early entry pool for the NBA Draft last month. He has until May 31 to withdraw his name to maintain his last year of eligibility. Unlike Cliff, the NBA interest has not been at the same level. The real question for Mulcahy is whether he wants to return to Rutgers after the toughest season of his career?
Fighting through a shoulder injury most of the season, Mulcahy struggled the last month plus of the 2022-2023 campaign. After a brilliant performance at Madison Square Garden to beat Michigan State, the senior point guard was unable to get out of prolonged slump.
In the final 11 games of the season, he averaged just 6.5 points on just 37.5% shooting from the floor. The other 51 games he played up to that point back to the start of the 2021-2022 season, Mulcahy averaged 9.1 points on 43.7%% from the floor. He did average 4.9 assists with a 2.5 assist to turnover ratio, which wasn’t much of a drop-off from 5.1 assists per game and better than a 2.2 assist to turnover ration during the same period.
That being said, Mulcahy clearly wasn’t the same player. He struggled mentally and physically, both with pressure and injury. He was less vocal, less assertive while looking unhappy and uncomfortable. With Rutgers going just 3-8 during those last 11 games, all without Mawot Mag, no player symbolized those struggles more than Mulcahy. Criticism of his play was warranted, but with the understanding that the person was going through a lot. He became a target of a portion of the fan base and took a lot of blame, some fair and some not.
The idea of some that Rutgers would be better off without Mulcahy next season is ridiculous. And now with the unexpected departure of Spencer, his former roommate, he’s more important than he’s ever been.
There will be more opportunity for the entire backcourt following Spencer’s departure. Derek Simpson’s development should hopefully result in a greater role. Noah Fernandes is going to have more scoring chances and the ball in hands more. Jamichael Davis, expected to announce his signing with Rutgers soon, could even earn early minutes in his career that wasn’t much of a possibility with Cam on the roster. However, Mulcahy will still have the ball in his hands and play a prominent role if he returns.
With a more developed Simpson and the veteran Fernandes, he will have more support. He won’t have to carry as much of a burden in running the offense. Adding another shooter from the portal would help fill part of the void left by Spencer some too. Above all, Mulcahy’s mental and physical health is the key to him fulfilling his potential next season. The offseason can potentially help mend him in both areas. At the end of the day, he needs to want to be back. Fans need to remember how good he has been as well. He’s long been misunderstood and undervalued.
Cam Spencer’s game winning shot to win at No. 1 Purdue is the overwhelming memory of that game. However, Rutgers never would have been in position to win without his gutsy performance that included 16 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals and 0 turnovers.
When Rutgers was on the brink of a failed 2021-2022 season, it was Mulcahy who led the escape from hell that resulted in a historic four game winning streak over ranked opponents.
During the previous two seasons, Rutgers was at its best when Paul Mulcahy was playing his best too. And let’s not forget that Mulcahy is a original member of the core that brought the program back from the dead to national relevancy. With the early exit of Spencer on Friday, it also served as a reminder of how special it is that Mulcahy could finish his entire career in Scarlet. The wait isn’t over yet, but if Mulcahy does return, it would be a much needed offseason victory for Rutgers.
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