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Three transfers that Rutgers men’s basketball should target

Sophomore center Clifford Omoruyi is 1 of 2 remaining starters from the Rutgers men's basketball team as the program's roster is primed to change with the graduation of five seniors. – Photo by Rutgers Basketball / Twitter

Prior to Rutgers men’s basketball’s regular-season finale against Penn State, five departing seniors and three starters were honored in front of a packed crowd at Jersey Mike’s Arena on Livingston campus.

Those three starters were senior guards Geo Baker, Ron Harper Jr. and Caleb McConnell, and with their departure, head coach Steve Pikiell will have his greatest offseason challenge yet since taking over the program in 2016 as he will look for transfers that can fill the extensive voids left by the outgoing “culture changers.”

The Scarlet Knights dabbled in the transfer portal last season, bringing in graduate student forward Ralph Gonzales-Agee and sophomore forward Aundre Hyatt, whose contributions were notable, but not overwhelming, in Rutgers’ second consecutive run to the NCAA Tournament.

Now, the circumstances have changed as this offseason will demonstrate not only Pikiell’s ability to recruit and attract talent but also whether this recent period of program success can be sustained with a new generation of players.

With all that being said, here are three of the top attainable transfers that could be suitable fits for the Knights next season.

No. 3: Andre Curbelo

What better way to kick off this list than with someone who has two years of Big Ten basketball under his belt already? 

Curbelo, former guard for Illinois, would be an ideal fit for a Rutgers team that is desperately in need of backcourt depth.

A rising junior who could be a multi-year option for the Knights at guard, Curbelo averaged 8.5 points (PPG) and 3.8 assists per game in 50 appearances for the Fighting Illini over the past two seasons.

Sure, the team already has a capable facilitator in junior guard Paul Mulcahy, but in the absence of Baker and Harper, Mulcahy will almost certainly need more guards flanking him to keep the defense honest.

Curbelo has a similar opportunity to mesh with sophomore center and budding star Clifford Omoruyi, having flowed well in an offense with the imposing Kofi Cockburn at center for two seasons.

He also has experience in difficult Big Ten environments as well as the NCAA Tournament, providing what should be a young Rutgers team an established floor general who knows his way around this gauntlet of a conference.

No. 2: Neal Quinn

While Omoruyi and sophomore forward Dean Reiber will both be back on the Banks come November, but in the Big Ten, a team can never have too much size.

A Garden State product himself, 7-foot-tall senior Neal Quinn of Lafayette would provide the Knights with a much-needed, multi-faceted alternative at center. 

Quinn led the Leopards in points, rebounds, assists and field goals last season and was named to the All-Patriot League second team. The Allendale, New Jersey, native also starred in Lafayette’s stunning upset of the Knights at Jersey Mike’s Arena on Nov. 22, 2022, scoring 12 points to go along with eight rebounds. 

While Omoruyi became more disciplined defensively in his second season, he still found himself in foul trouble from time to time, making another big man all the more crucial for Rutgers. 

Quinn’s presence would also allow Reiber, who is a threat to score but struggled defensively against big men as his role expanded last season, to develop outside of the paint and thrive as a stretch four.

No. 1: Ithiel Horton

Ball handling and size are certainly concerns for the Knights entering next season, but the program's focus has to be finding successors for the seemingly irreplaceable Baker and Harper on the offensive side of the ball. 

The top choice might have been Penn State’s Sam Sessoms, but Rutgers did not make it onto Sessoms’ list of top six schools, thus taking the program out of the sweepstakes. 

In light of this news, a solid alternative for the Knights would be to target another guard who has already been through the transfer process before, such as Pittsburgh’s Ithiel Horton.

Horton appeared in just 13 games last season but exceeded double figures in the scoring column six times for 9.8 PPG. His season-high with the Panthers was 25 points in a Feb. 9 win over Florida State.

Horton is a bit one-dimensional, not providing much of a threat as a distributor, rebounder or on the defensive side, but his ability to be a dynamic scorer who can produce at a highly efficient rate could very well be all that Rutgers needs.

With Omoruyi’s post play, Mulcahy’s passing and other complementary pieces back in Piscataway for another season, Horton would fit quite nicely on a roster that is simply seeking someone who can carry some of the offensive load.

The Knights and Seton Hall are both reported to be interested in Horton, a Roselle Catholic product who surely can find a substantial role back home in New Jersey.

Replicating the success of the last three years will be a daunting task for Rutgers in 2022-23. But by targeting transfers like Curbelo, Quinn and Horton while continuing to coach up and develop the young talent already on campus, the program is destined to maintain its newfound success.

For more updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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