Rutgers men’s basketball opens the 2023-2024 season on November 6. The new look Scarlet Knights will need its wings to produce on a consistent basis this season. With the intention to play faster, RU will be a bit different on both ends of the court. Here is a season preview for the Rutgers wings, which follows the backcourt preview.
6’6″ Aundre Hyatt; 6’8″ Gavin Griffiths; 6’9″ Antonio Chol; 6’8″ Oskar Palmquist
Aundre Hyatt is by far the most experienced player in this group. It’s his sixth year and third with Rutgers. He played a bigger role last season and is hoping to be even more of a factor this winter. He led RU in scoring in the overseas trip this summer, but also struggled against St. John’s in the double overtime exhibition loss. Hyatt has his some big shots in career and had a double double for LSU in the NCAA Tournament before becoming a Scarlet Knight. His biggest issue has been consistency, in particular with shooting. He’s an important player this season and it would be a big boost for him to be a more reliable contributor game to game.
Gavin Griffiths is a heralded freshman with a lot of promise. He will play big minutes this season and his shot making ability will get him plenty of scoring opportunities. He’s going to make rookie mistakes and learn a lot. However, his ceiling is sky high and should get better as the season progresses.
Antonio Chol redshirted last season after reclassifying late in the summer and ultimately choosing Rutgers. He’s a big bodied wing who has a quick release on his shot and has improved physically. Rutgers is high on him and he held his own in the exhibition game against St. John’s. If he can find a spot in the rotation this season, he will provide matchup problems for opponents.
Oskar Palmquist proved last season he could hit some big shots from behind the arc when called upon. His overall game is limited and he can be exploited by opponents for certain deficiencies. However, he’s a great teammate and culture guy, knows his role, and provides some stability at the end of the bench this season.
Rutgers will certainly pose some matchup problems for certain opponents with its length and size on the perimeter. Griffiths is athletic and mobile who will be a matchup nightmare to contain offensively at times. Chol added significant muscle making him a big wing to contend with. Palmquist has the ability to shoot threes over the defense. Hyatt is average in height but is strong and uses his body well on both ends of the floor.
This is a versatile group starting with Hyatt. His ability to play the 3 or 4 gives Rutgers options that are especially important until Mawot Mag returns and is able to play regular minutes. Hyatt can defend multiple positions as well. He’s also a good rebounding wing who brings a certain toughness and physicality to the team. Chol could become a bigger version of this but needs to prove it with his development this season.
Griffiths can handle the ball extremely well for such a tall wing. If Pikiell had a desire to play mad scientist, playing Griffiths at the 2 in certain spots would be doable. He’s also a dynamic scorer who can produce at all three levels from behind the arc, mid-range and at the rim. Griffiths is a top catch and shoot option while also being able to create off the dribble.
While Palmquist is primarily a catch and shoot player, he knows his role and doesn’t try to force things. That’s a skill in its own right. It allowed him to thrive in certain spots last season when Rutgers trusted him to hit big shots in key moments.
Rutgers is talented but mostly unproven on the wing. Hyatt is a wily veteran but Griffiths and Chol are very green. Palmquist has been with the program a long time but hasn’t logged a lot of minutes.
Obviously, Griffiths is going to get plenty of experience this season. However, Rutgers is going to have to ride the wave at times in letting him play through rookie mistakes. The same can be said for Chol, but his minutes will be more selective.
In addition, Hyatt has taken a leadership role this season. To make the leap to become a true team leader, he also needs to produce on the court in a consistent manner. He’s been streaky in his time at Rutgers in running very hot or very cold for extended stretches. Becoming a more complete player and relying less on shot making will be key, as well as improving his shot selection.
Can the wings deliver consistent three-point shooting this season? All four wings have the ability to knock down shots from behind the arc.
Hyatt shot 30.6% last season on 146 attempts and is only a 28.6% career shooter from deep. I do think he can improve this season and he needs to if he wants to shoot at a high volume.
Griffiths has 40% potential but obviously has to prove it. He has a quick release and is super smooth, but how he reacts to Big Ten closeouts remains to be seen.
The same can be said for Chol, who can really shoot it. He’ll need to start the season strong to build confidence and show that he can be a threat from three.
Oskar was solid last season in making 12 of 33 attempts for 35.6%. He made several big shots including two second half threes in the epic comeback against Penn State. His ability to stay ready with limited minutes is something that hopefully rubs off on Chol.
How this group develops defensively is key as well for Rutgers. For Griffiths to stay on the floor in crunch time, he has to be able to hold his own on the defensive end. Last season, Derek Simpson struggled defensively before making a real jump forward in the second half of the season. As he got better on that end, the more minutes he played. Griffiths will get more run initially based on his skill set and need. It’s a big adjustment from the high school level on the defensive end. It’s not just being able to be capable in man to man, but also understanding team defense concepts and being able to adjust to offenses. Chol has the size to be a problem defensively, but his footwork will be vital to his success on that end.
Lastly, the wings have to be willing rebounders and not get caught standing on the perimeter. How much they crash the glass on both ends of the floor is critical.
This is a group with high potential but plenty of questions too. Hyatt is a solid role player but can he take a step forward into becoming team leader who produces in the clutch is what Rutgers is hoping for. His ability to be consistent is a crucial thing for this team.
Griffiths is a high ceiling prospect and elite shooter who will need to work through the ups and downs of being a freshman in the Big Ten. Chol is an intriguing player and could earn a spot in the rotation. Palmquist gives Pikiell a proven role player who will be a positive influence on the younger players.
If the wings can make threes on a consistent basis, operate within the flow of the offense, develop defensively and add rebounding, this will be a productive group. Their ability to score in transition is the x-factor for this group.
Griffiths and Chol are the key towards the wings being a strength for Rutgers this season. The offensive potential is greater than last year with Caleb McConnell gone, but the defensive regression is a huge a concern.
Overall, I think this group can become a strength for Rutgers but will have some growing pains throughout the year. How Pikiell manages the wings in the rotation and their development will be interesting to watch for. Based on the backcourt and frontcourt, he could play just one true wing the majority of the time. It’s why Hyatt also being able to play the 4 is valuable. Balancing minutes will be a challenge, as will squeezing as much production out of the wings in the opportunities they do get.
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