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Catching up on Rutgers men's basketball's offseason

Head coach Steve Pikiell of the Rutgers men's basketball team has an eventful offseason ahead of him. – Photo by Alexander Jonesi / Flickr

Jon Rothstein, college basketball insider for CBS Sports, has a new famous saying about college basketball.

“We sleep in May,” says Rothstein.

While Rothstein may now be fast asleep, head coach Steve Pikiell and the Rutgers men’s basketball team will be wide awake as they face a busy offseason in May after an extremely eventful April. The Scarlet Knights are currently facing a crucial time as they try to get back to the NCAA Tournament in the upcoming season.

For those that cannot keep track of everything that's going on, let’s look at Rutgers’ offseason so far and the potential moves the team could and will make in May and beyond.

Assistant coaching search

On April 12, it was announced that associate head coach Karl Hobbs was leaving the Knights' program to join new head coach Damon Stoudamire at Georgia Tech. Hobbs will be the Yellow Jackets' associate head coach, the same position he had at Rutgers. Hobbs had been part of Pikiell’s staff at Rutgers for all seven years that Pikiell had been head coach. 

The move did not come as a major surprise, as Hobbs’ name had been popping up in head coaching and assistant coaching job rumors all last offseason and this offseason before the move to Georgia Tech.

The loss of Hobbs means there is now a spot open on Pikiell’s staff. There was a lot of interest for the Knights' associate head coaching job, but it has been reported that Pikiell has narrowed down his candidate list to three to four candidates and will make his choice soon.

One name to look out for is Jonathan Mitchell, the assistant coach at Stetson. Mitchell played as a forward at Rutgers for two seasons from 2009 to 2011. Mitchell is known as a good recruiter and would give the Knights an associate head coach that could coach the team's forwards, something they have not had since Jay Young was an associate head coach in the 2018-2019 season.

Transfer portal activity

Rutgers has been active in the transfer portal and has also lost players in the transfer portal. Junior forwards Dean Reiber and Oskar Palmquist and sophomore guards Jalen Miller and Logan Stephens have all entered the transfer portal.

Stephens was a walk-on at Rutgers and has still not announced where he plans on attending for upcoming seasons. Palmquist, who filled in for junior forward Mawot Mag when he went down for the season with an ACL tear, has also not announced where he plans on playing next season. 

Miller, who served as a defensive specialist in his two years on the Banks, announced on April 24 that he committed to play basketball for Oral Roberts this upcoming season. Reiber, who served as one of the Knights' backup forwards this past season, announced he was transferring to Charlotte. Reiber grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and will now be playing near his hometown.

Rutgers has only made one addition through the transfer portal so far, landing UMass transfer guard Noah Fernandes.

Going into May, the number of talented players in the transfer portal is dwindling, but look for the Knights to try and add a wing or forward player for depth.

Late drama in the 2023 recruiting class

Rutgers has experienced late drama in the 2023 recruiting class. Four-star forward Baye Ndongo de-committed from the Knights on April 27. While the official reason is unknown, Hobbs was Ndongo's lead recruiter, and Hobbs' departure from the program most likely influenced Ndongo's de-commitment. There is now speculation that Ndongo will join Hobbs and play for the Yellow Jackets. 

The Knights' recruiting class now just features forward Gavin Griffiths and guard Jamichael Davis. Ndongo's absence from the 2023 recruiting class leaves Rutgers a little shallow at forward. While Davis has also not officially signed his letter of intent, he is still projected to come to Rutgers.

The Knights have also had some late activity in the 2023 recruiting class, as they have emerged as a dark horse candidate for five-star forward Mackenzie Mgbako. Mgbako, a top 10 recruit in the 2023 class, was initially committed to Duke but de-committed on April 11.

While Rutgers has emerged as a dark horse candidate, the chances of Mgbako coming to play on the Banks are not high, as Mgbako listed four schools he plans to visit, and the Knights did not make the list. That is not to say Mgbako will not take a visit, but the chances are looking less likely.

Good vibes for the 2024 recruiting class

While the 2023 recruiting class took a hit, the 2024 recruiting class has started to heat up for Rutgers. The Knights already have the third-highest recruiting class in the country with commitments from five-star forward Airious Bailey, four-star guard Dellquan Warren and four-star center Lathan Sommerville.

Rutgers is also in hot pursuit of five-star guard Dylan Harper. The 2024 recruiting class without Harper is already shaping up to be the Knights' best-ever recruiting class, but if they are able to add Harper, it would give them two top-10 recruits. Previously, Rutgers has never landed a single top-10 recruit before Bailey.

Recently, though, Harper was on an Instagram live with fellow top 10 recruit Naas Cunningham, in which he pinned a comment from Cunningham that read "RU!" Cunningham also holds an offer from Rutgers. By no means is an Instagram comment indicative of a commitment, but the comment has added to the potential hype of the recruiting class. If the Knights landed both Cunningham and Harper, they would have the best recruiting class in the nation.

Will they stay, or will they go

Rutgers' roster is still incomplete as it awaits decisions from junior center Clifford Omoruyi and senior guard Paul Mulcahy. Both Omoruyi and Mulcahy declared for the NBA Draft while keeping their college eligibility. 

Very little has been heard about Omoruyi and Mulcahy's decisions, as they are in the middle of training for the draft. News on both players' decisions should be coming soon, though, as they have until June 1 to decide if they are pulling out of the NBA Draft. 

If Omoruyi and Mulcahy choose to return, it would provide a big boost for the Knights. 

A lot of off-season news has already taken place in April, and more news should come out in May. Around late May, Rutgers fans should have a better idea of what the roster will look like for the 2023-2024 season.

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

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