When it comes to recruiting, Rutgers men’s basketball head coach Steve Pikiell has always been the same. Prepared, diligent and visible. He’s always recruited highly ranked prospects. However, in the early years of his Rutgers tenure, he wasn’t mentioned as much when watching recruits at events like other coaches were. Back then, mentioning Rutgers being involved with a 4 or 5-star prospect along with Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and so on seemed like a fruitless task.
Now? He’s proven he takes care of his players and he can win at Rutgers.
Rutgers is firmly in the mix for national recruits on a regular basis. The highest signed prospect for Rutgers in years, high 4-star wing Gavin Griffiths, is on campus preparing for his freshman season. As for the 2024 recruiting class, Rutgers is on the verge of its highest rated class ever.
Pikiell currently has 5-star forward Ace Bailey, 4-star center Lathan Sommerville and 4-star wing Bryce Dortch verbally committed. Bailey is the No. 2 recruit in the nation per 247 Sports composite rankings. Sommerville is No. 83 and Dortch is No. 112. The 2924 class for Rutgers is currently ranked No. 2 overall.
And then there is another.
It’s no secret that Rutgers has long been after combo guard Dylan Harper for years. Well before he was the No. 1 recruit in the country and playing for USA Basketball at this week’s U19 FIBA World Cup.
Dylan was in middle school when his brother Ron Harper Jr. committed to Rutgers. The program had not yet taken off under Pikiell. Ron went from little hyped 3-star recruit with just one other power five offer to becoming an All-Big Ten performer and making mid-six figures on a two-way deal with the Toronto Raptors. Ron and Rutgers got better together.
Relationships are everything when it comes to recruiting. And Pikiell has built a very strong one with the Harper family.
On Friday, Adam Zagoria reported that Pikiell and top assistant Brandin Knight had traveled to Hungary to watch Dylan in the World Cup Quarterfinals. Team USA advanced to the semifinals on Saturday with the potential title game on Sunday. Harper had 4 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in 20 minute in Friday’s win.
First, Pikiell and Knight traveling overseas to watch Harper represent his country is a undisputed power move. It sends a very strong message how invested Rutgers is in landing the top recruit in the country. years ago, he traveled to England to recruit Akwasi Yeboah ultimately signed him at Stony Brook. That eventually led him to become a key player on the breakthrough 2019-2020 team for Pikiell at Rutgers.
It was also reported that the other four schools that Harper is considering have not attended the FIBA World Cup. They include Duke, Indiana, Kansas, and Auburn.
Steve Pikiell flying to Hungary to watch Dylan Harper play for Team USA on the world stage is symbolic. He wouldn’t be just another recruit coming to Rutgers. He would be at Duke, Indiana, Kansas. Pikiell has known him the longest & offered him first. He was the only coach there.
Regularly not even mentioned in the same breath of those schools on the recruiting trail, Rutgers is standing out in a major way for the top recruit in the country.
Second, it shows that Pikiell isn’t taking his relationship with the Harper’s for granted. He helped develop Ron into a pro. Rutgers was the first high major to offer Dylan over two years ago. They’re constantly in contact. And yet, Pikiell made the point to keep proving how important he is to the program and how hard the staff is working to recruit Harper.
When Dylan looked up in the mostly empty stands of Fonix Arena on Friday, he saw only one school there watching him play. It was Steve Pikiell and Brandin Knight of Rutgers.
Rutgers basketball head coach Steve Pikiell is currently in attendance for USA’s U19 World Cup matchup against Japan, notably watching the No.1 player in the c/o 2024, Dylan Harper. #FIBA #FIBAU19 #Rutgers pic.twitter.com/o9YBhh7Drj
— MAX (@maxescarpio) June 30, 2023
Recruiting never ends and Harper recently said he plans to make a decision sometime during his senior season at Don Bosco Prep. NIL is of course a factor. At the end of the day, it’s Rutgers who have the deepest relationships with Harper. It includes Ace Bailey desire to play with Harper and his own pursuit of him. But above all, Steve Pikiell proved once again on Friday that he‘s all in on Harper. Both his present and future, after seeing him grow firsthand since he was a kid.
Two of his key players in the rise of the program declared Pikiell’s worth as a coach and how much he cares following the season ending loss to Hofstra in March. I’m sure Dylan knows firsthand how Ron feels about his time at Rutgers.
Whatever Harper ultimately decides, Pikiell continues to show he’s the same coach and same recruiter Prepared, diligent and visible. And of course, he keeps pounding nails. Traveling to Hungary was the latest example of a coach grinding and doing everything possible to elevate Rutgers basketball.
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