PISCATAWAY – The top two stars of Rutgers basketball recently announced their plans to return for one more season.
Guards Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. both went to social media ahead of the July 7 deadline to give fans of the program a sigh of relief with Baker citing “unfinished business” and Harper Jr. captioning his post “one last dance.”
“Although last year was historic, the way it ended still doesn't sit well with me. We still have some unfinished business to take care of and I'm excited to get to it with Rutgers nation on my side. I'm back,” Baker said in a video posted to Twitter.
Dear Rutgers Nation… ❤️ pic.twitter.com/y4VMJjrBGm
— Geo Baker (@Geo_Baker_1) July 7, 2021
After losing guard Jacob Young (transfer to Oregon), center Myles Johnson (transfer to UCLA), guard Montez Mathis (transfer to St. Johns) and the future of Harper Jr. and Baker uncertain, fans feared the program would be hitting a hard reset.
Last season Rutgers earned their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1990 and first tournament win since 1983.
Getting back Harper Jr. and Baker are unquestionably great wins for the program, both of whom tested the waters on their 2021 NBA Draft stock before deciding to give Rutgers one more season.
"I'm glad that Geo and Ron had the opportunity to explore their opportunities through the NBA Draft process and have decided to return to Rutgers for another season," head coach Steve Pikiell said in a statement released by Rutgers communications.
"They were both able to chase their dreams and get valuable feedback that will undoubtedly help them as they continue to work towards their goals. Their impact on our program has been significant since the day they stepped on campus and to have them both back for another year is exciting for our program and all of Rutgers Nation.”
Mood 😎 pic.twitter.com/JBE1gmpWiJ
— Rutgers Basketball 🏀 (@RutgersMBB) July 7, 2021
Even with Harper Jr. and Baker deciding to return the question remains, can Rutgers make another run to the big dance?
Doing so would mean their first back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances since the 1975 and 1976 seasons.
Harper Jr. and Baker will provide great upperclassman leadership and there will be a few new faces as well.
Rutgers recently announced the incoming transfer of forward Ralph Agee.
Agee transfers to the Knights from San Jose State where he averaged 11.1 PPG on 56.9% shooting and 5.2 RPG in just over 26 minutes a contest last season.
Another big addition for @RutgersMBB as Ralph Agee officially becomes a Scarlet Knight today!
After averaging 11.1 points and 5.2 rebounds last season for San Jose State, he should make a key impact next season: https://t.co/aFg2R0fhsf
— Jordan Ozer (@jozer07) July 12, 2021
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Agee brings a true post scoring presence to the Knights and should prove valuable to the rotation of bigs on Pikiell’s squad.
Rutgers also welcomed transfer forward Aundre Hyatt from LSU who comes into the program with three years of remaining eligibility.
Pikiell described what Hyatt brings to the table in a statement released following the announcement of his incoming transfer.
“We are thrilled to officially welcome Aundre Hyatt to the Rutgers Basketball family,” Pikiell said.
“Aundre is a versatile and talented player who is fired up to come back to his home area and help Rutgers Basketball continue our ascension in the Big Ten Conference. His multi-positional skillset is a perfect fit for our playing style and his experience competing and winning at a high level for one of the top programs in the SEC will be a great addition to our locker room.”
We are very excited to officially welcome Aundre Hyatt to the Rutgers Basketball family!
— Rutgers Basketball 🏀 (@RutgersMBB) May 6, 2021
Aundre brings size and length to Rutgers with a 6-foot-7, 225-pound frame that includes a 7-foot-4 wingspan.
In fact, Rutgers has plenty of size among its current roster of scholarship players.
Of the 13 scholarship players, all but two stand 6-foot-6 or taller which gives Pikiell plenty of matchup advantages entering the 2021-22 season.
Pikiell will have the luxury of having several players who can guard multiple positions and disrupt offenses with their size and length.
The road back to the NCAA Tournament surely will not be easy with the difficult conference Rutgers plays in, but if the team stays healthy and plays together, they should have a great shot at dancing once again.
Geo and Harper Lead Rutgers Beginning November 18
The Scarlet Knights tip off the season in non-conference play when they take on the Blue Demons at DePaul University on Nov. 18.