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Top transfer targets for Rutgers men's basketball

Noah Fernandes and Zach Hicks are two potential recruits the Rutgers men's basketball team could add to its roster for next season.  – Photo by @UMassMBB & @247HSHoops / Twitter

College basketball's transfer portal opened on March 13. More than 1,000 Division I basketball players have entered the transfer portal since then, with more joining every day. The portal has kicked into even higher gear since the NCAA men's and women's basketball seasons have ended. 

If there was ever an offseason where the Rutgers men's basketball team and head coach Steve Pikiell needed to be active in the transfer portal, this is the one. Fifth-year senior guard Caleb McConnell, who has been a defensive anchor for the Knights over the past half-decade, has graduated and is no longer eligible. Junior forward Oskar Palmquist, sophomore guard Jalen Miller and junior forward Dean Reiber have all also entered the transfer portal.

Junior center Clifford Omoruyi and senior guard Paul Mulcahy are also not guaranteed to return to the team next season, as both have declared for the NBA Draft while maintaining their eligibility to return to the Scarlet Knights.

With three freshmen expected to join the team next year, and assuming both Mulcahy and Omoruyi return, that leaves Rutgers with two open scholarship spots for the 2023-2024 basketball season.

With the Knights already looking significantly different as a team heading into the summer, their performance next season will heavily depend on the players they can get via the transfer portal.

Pikiell has historically succeeded in the transfer portal by bringing in impact players like senior guard Cam Spencer, junior forward Aundre Hyatt and since graduated guard Jacob Young.

The following three transfers could be excellent fits for the Rutgers basketball program.

Noah Fernandes

Junior guard Noah Fernandes seems to be the most likely transfer for the Knights, as the player visited the team just last weekend. Fernandes may be a familiar name to Rutgers fans as he hit a game-winning three-point shot for UMass to defeat the Knights in the 2021-22 season.

Last season, he was limited to just 11 games due to a lingering ankle injury. 

As a guard, Fernandes would bring the quickness and athleticism that Rutgers desperately needs. He would also provide important depth to the team after the loss of Miller and the potential loss of Mulcahy.

Fernandes is a strong shooter, with a career average of 38.8 percent from beyond the arc. This past season, Fernandes shot a career-high 45.2 percent from three-point range, albeit in a small sample size. He could significantly bolster the Knights' offense, which had the third-worst shooting percentage in the Big Ten conference last season. Fernandes may be limited on defense since he stands at just 5-foot-11, but his shooting prowess would provide much-needed offensive spacing for Rutgers.

Zach Hicks

Sophomore forward Zach Hicks could also help the Knights' offense next season. The player from Camden started all 32 games for Temple last year.

Hicks may be the most well-rounded yet undervalued transfer still available, as he averaged 9.6 points per game while shooting 35.6 percent from three-point range and 34.8 percent from the field. Hicks can be a streaky shooter but could offer Rutgers advanced offensive court spacing as a stretch forward.

When Hicks finds his shooting rhythm, he can be an explosive scorer. In a matchup against Delaware State two years ago, Hicks set a program record by nailing 10 three-point shots on his way to a 35-point performance. 

Hicks is also aggressive on the glass, averaging 5.1 rebounds per game last season. The increased rebounding presence could help the Knights while junior forward Mawot Mag rehabilitates from an ACL injury he suffered last season. Hicks would need to improve his shooting consistency and defensive focus to truly be impactful for Rutgers, but he could immediately bolster the forward rotation if he played on the Banks.

Andre Curbelo

Junior guard Andre Curbelo transferred from Illinois to Saint John's University last season. He struggled with the Red Storm (18-15, 7-13), averaging just 9.6 points per game across 26 games with 16 starts. Curbelo also faced disciplinary issues last year and was suspended for a portion of the season. 

Despite those disciplinary issues, the former Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year knows the conference well from his two years with the Fighting Illini and has shown flashes of dominance during his three years playing college basketball. 

Curbelo can be a strong playmaker and distributor though he sometimes has mental lapses with the ball in his hands, as evidenced by his 2.7 turnovers per game. He could prove to be a creative depth piece for the Knights and see his role expand if Mulcahy does not return to the Banks.

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

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