Rutgers Basketball Recruiting Analysis

Each recruiting class is crucial for Head Coach Fred Hill in his efforts to resurrect the RU program and take Rutgers to the upper echelon of the Big East. The Scarlet Knights have so far received commitments from two very promising prospects for their '08 class, and are possibly on the verge of a third. They're also going down to the wire with the potential fourth member of that class.

To date, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 2008 recruiting class consists of two players: Christian Morris, the bruising 6'9, 270 pound Bronx native now playing at the prep powerhouse South Kent School in Connecticut, and Mike Rosario, the sharp-shooting 6'1 guard from St. Anthony's of Jersey City (and its legendary coach, Bob Hurley). Those two comprise the makings of what is potentially a very good Scarlet Knights recruiting class. But with two scholarships remaining for '08, Rutgers is far from finished - and who ultimately gets them will go a long way towards shaping the immediate future of Rutgers basketball.

There is a strong feeling among Rutgers fans and many area basketball observers that the third member of this class is going to be Patrick Jackson, a quite-promising 6'6 swingman from Brooklyn who will play his senior season at Boys and Girls High. Jackson is scheduled to take his official visit to RU the weekend of October 12th, and he will surprise no one if he commits to RU on the spot at some point during his trip. However, while the fate of RU's third scholarship appears very little in doubt, the ultimate destination of the fourth remains much less clearer.

While Westchester County's Jones boys - Mookie Jones from Peekskill, and Kevin Jones, from Mt Vernon – are certainly top targets to receive that fourth scholarship, the player that would seem in many ways to be the best fit and fill the most needs in RU's nascent rebuilding phase – and is indeed the player that Rutgers appears to be pushing hardest for – is Quintrell Thomas from St. Patrick's. Thomas lists RU among his final four choices (along with Maryland, Kansas, and UNLV) and if Fred Hill and his staff were to actually win this battle, it would rank as a monumental victory for the program that could potentially boost it as much off the court as on it.

While there is no doubt that the four freshmen that join Rutgers this year – Corey Chandler, Mike Coburn, Earl Pettis, and Justin Sofman – are necessary and welcome additions that will pay immediate dividends for the Knights, all four are guards and/or wings. Meanwhile, Rutgers loses three big men from last year's team – Ollie Bailey, Frank Russell, and, most significantly, Adrian Hill. To offset that, Rutgers adds just one player up front: returning fifth-year senior Byron Joynes, who sat out all of last year as a medical red-shirt.

To say that the return of a healed and healthy Joynes is important to RU'S fortunes this year is much like saying a car's engine is useful for its locomotion. After Joynes, Rutgers has just two players on its roster that qualify as either a power forward or a center: J.R. Inman and Hamady N'diaye. It is also worth remembering that the player that could have supplied much-needed help up front for Rutgers this year - Mike Davis - will instead be supplying it for RU's most dreaded enemy, Seton Hall. Davis wanted to come to RU in the worst way, but as they say, it couldn't get done. As I wrote at the time, it seemed that Rutgers was in solid position with four very coveted prospects, in addition to Davis: "There are four names in the '08 class that he must feel he's in an extremely good position with: Quintrell Thomas, Christian Morris, Devin Ebanks, and Samardo Samuels". (You can read the whole thing here.)

By now we've seen how most of this has played out. Ebanks is apparently set on venturing out to Indiana, Samuels has pledged his services to Louisville and Rick Pitino (although should Terrence Jennings choose the Cardinals as well, it will be interesting to see if all parties involved will feel the town is big enough for both), while Morris, of course, has committed to RU. That leaves Quintrell Thomas as the lone uncommitted player of the four – although this saga appears rapidly heading to a close.

If and when Patrick Jackson commits to RU, Fred Hill and his staff – Darren Savino, Craig Carter, and Jim Carr – will deserve massive amounts of credit for assembling at three positions (point guard, two guard, and small forward) a tremendous amount of depth and talent. With Jackson and Rosario joining Chandler, Coburn, Pettis, and Sofman, Rutgers will be looking good – and not just by the standards of a team that hasn't been to the NCAA's since 1991, but by the standards of a team looking to get back there and rise up in the brutal Big East. At all three positions, Rutgers would appear more than capable of matching up with any team in the country.

There are however, two other positions that are in need of attention. The void that will be left by Byron Joynes' departure after this year will be significant, which is why landing Christian Morris was so vitally important. An enormous factor in RU's immediate success will be the development of Hamady N'diaye. As of now, there still appears to be an enormous gap between his raw talent and his potential, but if he can begin to close that gap, he could lift Rutgers more than any other player on the team. It is realistic, though, to expect Morris to contend vigorously for the starting center spot when he arrives.

Beyond them, there will be just J.R. Inman, back for his final year. Thus, one can see the extreme importance of securing a commitment from a competent front-court player like Quintrell Thomas. As noted, winning this recruiting battle would pay dividends both on and off the court - and the off-the-court benefits that RU will immediately reap would appear to possibly equal anything Thomas might eventually do in an RU uniform. After all, most pre-season prognosticators have said that Rutgers is in, unfortunately, for a long season. Thus for Rutgers to finally win a recruiting battle – against the likes of Maryland, Kansas, and UNLV, and for a St. Patrick's product, no less - would go a considerable distance towards buffering the faithful from the pain of possibly another long winter of RU basketball woes.

Perception is very much reality as far as this goes, and if a Rutgers fan knows that this too shall soon pass - that RU has recruited a St. Patrick's product to go along with a St. Anthony's product, and that they and Christian Morris and Pat Jackson will be joining Chandler, Coburn, et al., next year - making it through one more long year should be relatively easy. However, should Thomas decide to leave RU at the altar, like so many before him, things can go from bright to potentially bleak in a hurry. Beyond Thomas (and the aforementioned Jones boys, both of whom appear a long shot), there is just one other prospect on RU's horizon: Dwight Miller, a player that seems to be at least the equal of Thomas. He apparently will be visiting RU soon, and the fact that he is a new name might cause one to think that the staff feels their prospects with Quintrell are not great.

If RU does not land Quintrell Thomas, perhaps Rutgers should re-think their recruiting strategy – at least when it comes to players whose last name is Thomas. Most recently, there was Hamady's countryman, Ibrahima Thomas, who chose to venture out to Oklahoma St. to be a Cowboy (must have something to do with riding horses). Going back a ways, there was Tim Thomas. Remember him? Down to us and Villanova, he was. We know where he chose to be a one and done at. In between, of course, there was that Lance fellow … you may have heard something about him. (Where'd he end up at anyway?) Considering how it's turned out with Lance Goulbourne, by the way, perhaps we should also think of adding players whose first name is Lance to the list.


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