Mike Taylor headed to Piscataway, N.J., to attend a college football game and left with his future planned out.
The city’s top shooting guard took his second unofficial visit to Rutgers and took in the Rutgers-North Carolina football game alongside fellow New York City prospects like Daniel Dingle, Kamari Murphy and Kerwin Okoro and Rutgers commits Kadeem Jack, Myles Mack and Derrick Randall.
Before halftime, he was sold by the raucous atmosphere and drawn to the program. So before he headed back to Brooklyn, he verbally committed to new Rutgers coach Mike Rice, joining what is almost certainly now a top 10 recruiting class with Jack, a former Rice star now at South Kent, the Bronx native Randall, and Mack, a combo guard from New Jersey.
“I was thinking about us all there,” he said. “I think we can do good things in the Big East. We can put Rutgers on the map.”
The 6-foot-3 Taylor, who led The High to its first city title in 31 years last March, chose the Scarlet Knights over Virginia Tech, South Carolina and South Florida. Taylor credited the relationship he developed with the coaching staff, notably the fiery Rice who made the NCAA Tournament the last two years with Robert Morris and nearly upset Villanova last March with a group of scrappy overachievers, and assistant Van Macon, an established city recruiter formerly of Hofstra.
“He contacted me and told me I was his No. 1 shooting guard for [the Class of] 2011,” Taylor said of Rice. “It made me feel special.”
Taylor’s commitment caught Boys & Girls assistant coach Elmer Anderson off guard; not because he chose Rutgers, but because he figured Taylor would want to visit the other schools. Rice’s recruiting class impressed Anderson, like it had Taylor.
“You have a coach whose desire is to surround himself with players that are going to contribute right away and he also went out and got players from winning programs,” Anderson said. “That’s a sign of a good coach, and also it’s being lucky. … When you look at it, you say to yourself wow, what a recruiting class. Mike Rice got the job at the right time with the right players, with the right assistant coaches. Now Rutgers is headed in the right direction.”
Ultimately, Saturday afternoon at Rutgers Stadium overwhelmed Taylor. The entire student body was into the game, he said, hanging on every play. He envisions the scene at the RAC — also known as the Louis Brown Athletic Center — being even more intense in the winter.
“It’s gonna be more crazy for basketball,” he said.