After appearing in their first NCAA Tournament since 1991, Rutgers basketball became the talk of the nation. Following the season, the team's top two players, senior guard Geo Baker and junior forward Ron Harper Jr. entered their names into the NBA Draft. Both players hedged their bets by not hiring agents to test the waters of their NBA future.
For Baker, he was eligible for an extra year of eligibility after the NCAA granted graduating seniors one more year at school due to COVID-19 affecting last season.
Scarlet Knight fans were anxiously waiting to see if Baker and Harper Jr. would either continue through the draft process or return to Piscataway. Fans received their answers from both players as they each announced that they would return to Rutgers for the upcoming season before Wednesday's 11:59 p.m. deadline to declare their intent.
Dear Rutgers Nation… ❤️ pic.twitter.com/y4VMJjrBGm
— Geo Baker (@Geo_Baker_1) July 7, 2021
For Baker, his NBA future was unknown as he was not mentioned in many early mock drafts after the college season ended. Harper Jr., on the other hand, was a borderline second-round pick according to NBA Scouting Live.
Harper Jr. led the Scarlet Knights in scoring at 14.9 points per game while Baker became the 44th player in school history to score 1,000 points last season. The two helped rejuvenate Rutgers basketball when Steve Pikell started to rebuild the program from nothing after the disastrous coaching stint of school legend Eddie Jordan from 2013-2016.
Mood 😎 pic.twitter.com/JBE1gmpWiJ
— Rutgers Basketball 🏀 (@RutgersMBB) July 7, 2021
Rutgers Future Prospects
Even with the return of Baker and Harper Jr., the path for Rutgers to another NCAA Tournament will not be easy. The Scarlet Knights lost three crucial pieces to last year's success (Jacob Young, Myles Johnson, and Montez Mathis). However, the silver lining of Baker's return is that he does not count towards Pikell's scholarship allotment, so Rutgers has one more scholarship they can use to replace the departed players possibly. One big key to watch could be junior swingman Caleb McConnell and sophomore guard Paul Mulcahy who most certainly take on a more prominent role as the Scarlet Knights hope to return to March Madness.
The return of Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. will take pressure off the team as the Scarlet Knights will have upperclassmen leadership to lead the way. Scarlet Knight fans can rejoice and look forward to the 2021-2022 season.