Steve Pikiell Agrees to Extension at Rutgers

Rutgers fans rejoice. Head Coach Steve Pikiell has agreed to a long-term contract extension keeping him in Piscataway for the foreseeable future. This is huge news for a program that has been a laughing-stock in college basketball for many years, but is finely beginning to trend in the right direction. The number of years or salary of this extension are unknown right now. The deal is expected to be approved later today.

In 2016, Pikiell left Stony Brook after reaching the NCAA tournament and signed a five-year contract with Rutgers. His average salary on his initial deal was $1.6 million per year. While the school had him locked in until 2021, they were wise to extend him sooner rather than later. Pikiell is certainly moving the program in its most promising direction since 2013, when they were still a part of the Big East Conference.

Pikiell hasn’t turned RU into a powerhouse in two years on campus. He hasn’t made them a tournament team or a threat to win the Big Ten. No coach could have done that in two years with the program he inherited. What Pikiell has done however, was change that attitude within the locker room and outside perspective surrounding the program. In doing so, it’s led to the type of marquee wins that help move a program out of the basement.

In year one at Rutgers, Pikiell went 15-18 and 3-15 in the Big Ten. Those are numbers on par with that of Eddie Jordan in his tenure at RU. This year Rutgers is sitting at 11-6 and 1-3 in early Big Ten play. Only time will tell if this season is much different from last from a record standpoint, but it’s clear this team is different.

Corey Sanders hoists the Garden State Classic trophy after Rutgers shocks Seton Hall in Piscataway

One of those 11 wins came against in-state rival, Seton Hall. The Scarlet Knights upset the nationally ranked Pirates at home in December, claiming bragging rights in the state of New Jersey for at least one year. The win was followed by a court storming, something junior guard Corey Sanders said he hasn’t seen in his time on campus. And while wins like this are great for the program, Pikiell knows there is still a lot of work to be done.

And that’s another reason Rutgers was smart to lock him up. He’s a good recruiter.

Pikiell was fortunate to inherit Sanders, who has been the team’s leading scorer each of the last three seasons. This year however, Sanders is getting some help from the outside. Freshman guard Geo Baker has been great, averaging 11.6 points a game and leading the team with 3.7 assists per contest. Mamadou Doucoure has also provided solid role minutes in his first collegiate season. These are pieces that Pikiell and his staff brought in themselves. And there’s more help coming.

Pikiell has landed the commitment of John Carroll’s Montez Mathis, ranked the 93rd best player in the Class of 2018 by ESPN. Mathis, along with Baker and Sanders, will give Rutgers a three-headed attack from the outside. Mathis committed to Rutgers because he wanted to be a part in turning the program around. He will hopefully start a trend of top ranked recruits choosing Rutgers as a destination.

This isn’t an article handing out a participation trophy. Pikiell and Rutgers don’t get moral victories for winning one game or landing one recruit. There’s still a lot to be written in the story of Steve Pikiell and Rutgers Basketball. Today’s news told us that this story will be extended a couple of chapters. Based on the early recruitment, change in culture and overall vibe surrounding the program, Rutgers made the right decision in extending that story.

Elite Session 2: Summer Recap

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Elite Session 2 had more hype coming in than any other second session in the last five years. With another deep list of players coming in to Albright, the stage was set for a spectacular week of camp. Here are some of the things we took away from Elite 2.

Wabissa Bede was pound for pound the best player at camp

Standing in at 6’2, no guard was more productive than Cushing Academy’s Wabissa Bede. A member of the 2017 class, Bede was dominant with the ball in his hands. He found ways to get to the hoop, was hitting shots from the outside, and controlling the offense for his team all week long. He supported his good play at camp by walking away with camp MVP and Top 20 Game MVP.

Cushing Academy is stacked next season
Elite 2 MVP Wabissa Bede will be at Cushing Academy next season, and he won’t be alone. Aside from the point guard, wings Jarrod Simmons and Kimani Lawrence will be playing at Cushing next year. With three high majors playing on the outside, it should be a ton of fun watching them play together this upcoming season. Simmons, who told us he hears from Texas coach Shaka Smart quite frequently, and Lawrence both hold a handful of high major offers heading into their junior years. All three players cemented themselves as Top 20 players at camp, and future big time prospects!

Mamadou Doucouré is New York’s next big player

2018 Mamadou Doucouré is a name that will be relevant in the New York area for the next three years. A 6’8 forward, Mamadou currently holds offers from Connecticut, Pittsburgh and St. John’s, but will have many more coming his way. As Hoop Group’s Ari Rosenfeld wrote during camp, Doucouré showed an ability to protect the rim and rebound the ball. He was selected to the Top 20 Game, as well as named Most Outstanding Prospect at camp’s end. For more about Mamadou, you can read Ari’s full article here.

Mamdou Doucouré receives MOP of Elite 2 from Elite Camp Director Bryan Weber

Mamadou Doucouré receives MOP of Elite 2 from Elite Camp Director Bryan Weber

There were hundreds of college coaches at Elite 2

From high majors like Virginia and West Virginia, to terrific D3s such as Franklin & Marshall and St. Mary’s, college coaches were out recruiting for Elite Camp.
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Ryan Gomes Commits to Mount St. Mary’s

Mount St. Mary’s was the only Division I school to offer DC’s Ryan Gomes a scholarship. A few hours after Elite 2 ended, Gomes gave the Mount his verbal commitment to play ball there. It could not have come at a better time for Ryan, who had just capped a great week with an appearance in the Top 20 Game. The 6’10 big from Friends School earned a spot in the game, going up against some of the premier bigs at camp and shining. Showing toughness on both ends, and finishing well inside, Ryan was one of the most impressive post players at Elite 2. Mount St. Mary’s is getting a good big in their 2016 recruiting class.

More D1s need to jump on Tyrn Flowers

Ty Flowers was one of the best kids at camp with the least amount of offers. The 6’7 wing balled out during Elite Session Two, capping the week with a lights out Top 20 Game performance. His jump shot was working all week long as he was knocking down catch and shoot threes and making step backs look effortless. His performance during camp, mainly from his play in the Top 20 game, drew interest from USC, but more schools should be taking a look at the Sacred Heart senior. (Video from Next Best Basketball)

Samuel Japhet-Mathias showed flashes of high major talent

The list of schools offering Samuel Mathias is impressive; Cal, Seton Hall, Georgia Tech, Connecticut, Clemson, Oregon, Georgetown, Dayton, UMass and Providence have all offered. The 6’10 post showed why during camp. He does not rush inside. He’s big bodied and turns well over both shoulders. He had some of the prettiest moves of the week, showing coaches on hand why he has the offers he does. While other bigs like Chris Baldwin (Notre Dame Prep ’16) and Jimbo Lull (New Hampton Prep ’16) had good weeks, it was hard to find a better big at camp.

Underclassmen flourished

There was a ton of young talent at Elite 2. So much so that five players in the class of 2018 found themselves in the Top 20 Game at camp’s end. Rasir Bolton (Benedictrine), Tyree Pickron (Archbishop Wood), Justin Winston (West Orange), Noah Locke (McDonogh) and Mamadou Doucouré (Our Savior New American) all played in camp’s “top” game. What was more promising to see was how all five players go to school in different states, supporting how much talent Hoop Group brings in from all over. The basketball future is bright in the Northeast.

UMass will love Unique McLean

Unique McLean is a 2016 guard who has already committed to the University of Massachusetts. The 6’1 guard will bring an incredible amount of athleticism to the team that will have fans falling in love. He put on a show during Session Two, including one late night dunk off with PSA Cardinal teammate Hassahn French. Check it out here:


Unique McLean vs Hassahn French! Comment down below who won‼️ Video (🎥) by @nextbestbasketball


A video posted by Hoop Group (@hoopgroup) on

Northfield Mount Hermon restocks with young talent

NMH has a history of molding players for Division I basketball. Graduating five players to D1 programs for next season, and already having several 2016s committed, NMH has restocked with some underclassmen who appear to be following the same path as those seniors who just graduated. Calvin Whipple will return for his sophomore season, and will be joined by newcomers Nate Laszewski and Maxwell Lorca-Lloyd. All three players showed promising futures, making the Underclassmen Game at E2. Whipple and Laszewski are lights out shooters from deep while Lloyd, who re-classed to 2018 and has offers from Penn State, Seton Hall and St. Peter’s already, is a growing big man inside. Add to the mix 2017 Jerome Derosiers, another Top 20 Game All-Star, and NMH is set for another great year in New England.