After Head Coach Steve Pikiell’s first season showed signs of optimism for Rutgers men’s basketball, the offseason started with leading scorers Corey Sanders and Nigel Johnson announcing their decisions to leave the program, for separate reasons.
Sanders declared for the NBA draft; he announced his decision at the end of his freshman season, but then withdrew his bid.
The standout point guard opted not to sign with an agent, and because of this, he can return to Rutgers on May 24. However, there is still a chance that Sanders stays on the banks. The sophomore guard had a standout freshman season, averaging almost 16 points per game, three less than this season. NBA scouts would appreciate the extra season to up his scoring and assist numbers, which also dropped between his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Nigel Johnson, who transferred from Kansas State to Rutgers, will transfer immediately following graduation and is eligible to play at another NCAA Division 1 school. Johnson is a versatile guard who can shoot the three and has a decent mid-range jumper. He was second to Sanders with 11 points per game.
The 6-1 guard had an inconsistent season. In the last five games, Johnson shot a stellar 57% from behind the arc. Against Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, Johnson scored a game-high 21 points. However, coach Pikiell had to bench the guard early in the season.
The Scarlet Knights also lose big man C.J. Gettys, as he graduates in May. Some key returning players include redshirt sophomore Ibrahima Diallo and Shaquille Dorson, who will have more minutes without Gettys. Diallo, originally from Senegal, has the potential to be a productive scorer. Dorson can have more of a defensive presence next season; he has the potential to be a solid defender.
Rutgers will look to build on what Coach Pikiell considers a “successful season.” The team lost close games to the likes of top-tier programs such as Michigan and Wisconsin, a step above the Eddie Jordan era.