Fate of Jersey's 'Fab Five' Illustrates Recruiting Hurdles for Seton Hall, Rutgers | Zagsblog
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Monday / April 22.
  • Fate of Jersey’s ‘Fab Five’ Illustrates Recruiting Hurdles for Seton Hall, Rutgers

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    Back in the fall of 2015, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard and his staff made a bold move.

    They brought five young players from the New Jersey-based Sports U AAU program to campus and made a collective offer to the “Fab Five” of Naz ReidLouis King, Luther Muhammad, Jahvon Quinerly and Atiba Taylor.

    “They want to try to get all five guys,” Sports U coach Brian Coleman told me when the offer was made. “They feel like if they could get these guys that play together to stay home, it would be great for their state, it would be great for their team because they’d have a group of guys that are familiar with each other and they’re kind of looking at them as kind of like the next Michigan Fab Five.”

    Fast-forward two years and not only are the “Fab Five” all going in different directions, but none of them are likely to wind up at Seton Hall.

    Or Rutgers, for that matter. (Rutgers made the “Fab Five” offer under new coach Steve Pikiell last year.)

    By way of review:

    **The 6-foot-2 Quinerly committed to Arizona earlier this month.

    **The 6-10 Reid is down to LSU and Arizona, with LSU considered the heavy favorite at this point.

    **The 6-4 Muhammad has a final five of St. John’s, Ohio State, Xavier, Virginia and West Virginia and is currently taking visits.

    **The 6-8 King cut his list to eight on Tuesday, with Seton Hall among the eight.

    **The 6-3 Taylor transferred to The Patrick School and is not being heavily recruited by Seton Hall or Rutgers at this point.


    Let’s face it. None of this is Earth-shattering news. There were signs from the beginning that most of these guys would be recruited at the highest levels, and therefore Seton Hall and Rutgers would face stiff competition.

    Things really began to heat up last fall when the Arizonas and Kansas’ of the world began recruiting Quinerly, and schools like Louisville, UConn and Maryland began courting King.

    It’s always been tough sledding for Seton Hall and Rutgers, as I’ve been writing for the last 15 years.

    The list of top players to leave the state for blue-chip programs goes on and on: Tyus Battle (Syracuse), Isaiah Briscoe (Kentucky), Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky), Kyrie Irving (Duke), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Dakari Johnson (Kentucky)...and that’s just in the last few years.

    Class of 2019 stars Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine of the Ranney School are already being heavily courted by Duke, Kentucky and Florida, among others.

    “When you’re at a school like Seton Hall, I think you really have to focus on the type of kid that wants to stay local,” Willard told me a few years back. “Again, different kids want to get away. No matter what, New Jersey and New York kids, most of them have always gone away but ..I found some guys that really wanted to stay home and we focused on that. I think you really gotta be selective. If a kid’s taking a visit to UCLA, Stanford and Hawaii, you know he’s not going to be a kid that really wants to stay at home.”

    It should be noted that Seton Hall has been to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments thanks to a core of New York and New Jersey kids like Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Ish Sanogo. Seton Hall also recruited Isaiah Whitehead, now with the Nets. They should be in the mix for another NCAA Tournament bid this year with the core back plus the addition of a strong recruiting class.

    Rutgers, meantime, has had a recent run of recruiting success with 2018 pledges like New Jersey native Ron Harper Jr., Montez Mathis and Mac McClung, and they remain in the mix for 2019s like guard Paul Mulcahy of Gill St. Bernard’s.

    But going forward, Seton Hall and Rutgers will likely see their state raided of its best players (like Lewis and Antoine) by the Kentuckys and Dukes of the world.

    Of course, Kentucky and Duke out-recruit most every school, so that’s not unique to the Jersey schools.

    But if Seton Hall and Rutgers are to truly compete for big prizes down the road, they will have to try to land the best players in their own state. It’s a tough call. If you’re Willard or Pikiell, do you invest 2-3 years in the Ranney kids, only to see them fly off to a blue blood a year from now?

    “[Seton Hall and Rutgers] want to recruit New Jersey and New Jersey’s a big part of what they’re trying to do,” Hudson Catholic coach Nick Mariniello told me a year ago. “The metropolitan area is important, and for the locals to be successful they have to recruit from this area that’s got so many high-level players in it.”

    What should the locals do? Keep on plugging.

    “As Rutgers is doing,” Gill St. Bernard’s coach Mergin Sina said Tuesday. “Keep going to open gyms and showing up at high school games during the season. Both schools have the opportunity to recruit the best players in the state if the players and their parents feel that their kids are the core to the future of their programs.”

    Roselle Catholic coach Dave Boff, who once again has a loaded team with young prospects, including 7-foot 2020 big man Cliff Omoruyi (offers from Syracuse, Rutgers, Seton Hall), is putting a positive spin on it.

    “I believe the time for kids to stay home is coming soon,” Boff said. “Seton Hall has made a couple NCAA Tournaments in a row. Rutgers has just landed some big recruits and is upgrading their facilities so I think both programs are headed in the right direction. A combination of on court success and facilities is what it takes to compete with the other schools recruiting these kids.”

    The time is coming, he says. Time will tell.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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