Why did Dylan Harper commit to Rutgers? Five-star recruit spurns Duke to team up with Ace Bailey

Was Wednesday one of the biggest days in the history of New Jersey basketball? If Dylan Harper plays to his potential, it very well could turn out that way.

Harper, the No. 2 player in the class of 2024, announced his commitment to Rutgers over Duke and three other finalists, giving the Scarlet Knights a loaded recruiting class heading into the 2024-25 season.

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It wasn’t long ago that Rutgers was an afterthought on the basketball court. The Scarlet Knights went three decades between NCAA Tournament appearances from 1991-2021, with only five winning seasons in that span.

Rutgers was coming off a dismal 7-25 season when coach Steve Pikiell was hired in 2016, but Pikiell turned out to be the perfect for the program. Now, he’s managed to land not one, but two premier high school talents in the same class.

MORE: What to know about 2024 No. 1 recruit Cooper Flagg

Here’s a closer look at what led Harper to choose Rutgers over more traditional basketball powerhouses.

Why did Dylan Harper commit to Rutgers?

Harper was long considered a realistic target for Rutgers despite the allure of Duke and other more common destinations for elite recruits. The five-star guard has both geographic and family ties to the university, and Pikiell aggressively recruited him for multiple years.

Harper is an in-state recruit, as he plays at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., about 90 minutes from Rutgers’ campus in New Brunswick. He was able to get familiar with the Scarlet Knights’ program through his brother, Ron Harper Jr., who helped lead Rutgers’ resurgence under Pikiell.

Ron, Jr. spent four seasons with the Scarlet Knights and was the team’s leading scorer in three of them, taking Rutgers to the NCAA Tournament twice. The Scarlet Knights likely would have earned a bid in 2020 as well if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ron, Jr. authored a pair of unbelievable moments for Rutgers, draining a buzzer-beater to upset No. 1 Purdue in 2021-22 and sinking Indiana at the buzzer later in the same season. His success gave Dylan a window into how raucous Jersey Mike’s Arena, also known as the RAC, can be when Rutgers is winning, and winning is certainly the goal with two elite freshmen joining the team next season.

MORE: Updated 2023-24 Wooden Award odds

The commitment of forward Ace Bailey, who ranks No. 3 on ESPN’s recruiting rankings for the class of 2024, certainly contributed to Harper’s decision. Bailey committed to Rutgers in January and signed his letter of intent in November.

Harper called Bailey during his announcement, showcasing the strong relationship the two already have. “It’s going to be crazy, it’s going to be big, man” Bailey could be heard telling Jalen Rose, who hosted the event.

With his announcement on Wednesday, Harper made Rutgers the first school other than Duke to land two of the top three players in the same class since ESPN’s database launched in 2007.

Harper is the son of longtime NBA player Ron Harper, though the elder Harper didn’t have direct ties to Rutgers before Ron, Jr. attended the school. Ron, Sr. was born in Ohio and spent his college days at Miami (Ohio). 

2024 NCAA basketball recruiting rankings

Here’s a look at the top 10 players in the class of 2024, according to ESPN.

Player Position School
Cooper Flagg PF Duke
Dylan Harper PG Rutgers
Ace Bailey SF Rutgers
Tre Johnson SG Texas
V.J. Edgecombe SF TBD
Fiory Bidunga C Kansas
Jalil Bethea SG Miami
Isaiah Evans SF Duke
Derrion Reid SF TBD
Carter Bryant PF Arizona

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