What a week for Rutgers basketball, and not exactly in a good way.
Both leading scorers from 2016-17, Corey Sanders and Nigel Johnson, appear to be on their way out of New Jersey.
Kansas State transfer Nigel Johnson announced that he would be receiving his degree from Rutgers, but transferring to another school for his 2017-18 campaign. Since he will be a graduate, he’ll be eligible to play right away at another Division-1 school under the graduate-transfer rules.
After much thought and consulting with my family , I've decided to graduate and transfer . I am… https://t.co/pRsAAG2YZU— Nigel Johnson (@TakingFlight_23) March 24, 2017
As of now, there are no rock solid destinations for Johnson and his final year. However, with degree in hand, he may want to head back home (Northern Virginia) for his curtain call. The area is flush with big-time college basketball, as Georgetown, Virginia, George Washington, and George Mason, are all within driving distance. Fellow Big Ten school, Maryland, is also very close, but I can’t imagine him transferring within the conference.
Nigel Johnson averaged 11.3 points per game in his lone season ‘on the banks’, trailing only Corey Sanders (12.8 ppg).
In Corey Sanders’ case, he will do the same thing he did last year and enter his name into the NBA Draft. Luckily, he opted not to hire an agent (again), leaving the door open for a return to Rutgers in 2017-18.
On Corey Sanders testing the NBA waters, look at it like a job interview. Never a bad thing to gain that experience & learn from it. #RHoops— Aaron Breitman (@aaron_breitman) March 23, 2017
Honestly, I see him as a fringe second-round pick, with late first-round potential. It would be in everyone’s best interest for him to return, as the team definitely needs him, and he can improve his draft stock with a solid year.
Due to his size, he will need to prove himself as a pass-first point guard if he returns. His current situation reminds me of Chris Herren’s final year at Fresno State, where Jerry Tarkanian put him in a position to showcase his ability to facilitate, rather than score.
Herren wound up as an early second-round selection (33rd overall), which is exactly where Sanders could climb to if he does in fact return.
(Here is a great article by Rolling Stone from 1998 detailing Herren’s career at Fresno State.)
The Scarlet Knights have a slew of other players returning from last year, but if Sanders doesn’t return, the program could be taking a step back in 2017-18.