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Sunday, June 30, 2013
Rutgers finally making moves in N.J.

By Jared Shanker

When Kiy Hester (Wayne, N.J./DePaul Catholic) released his top seven three weeks ago, he was actually listing his runners-up. The ESPN 300 recruit knew he would be committing to Rutgers and hoped it would be sooner rather than later.

The same can be said for fellow ESPN 300 member Adonis Jennings (Erial, N.J./Timber Creek), who released a top eight just days before committing to the Scarlet Knights.

The common theme: Both are in-state prospects -- two of the best, too -- and both are headed to the hometown school. They are the first ESPN 300 recruits from New Jersey to pledge to Rutgers since Darius Hamilton did on the eve of signing day 2012.

“It’s an honor to play for my home state,” said Hester, who committed Friday and just two days after Jennings. “I’m born and raised here. It’s definitely an honor to play in front of my family and friends and a place I have a big fan base. I have a lot of love in New Jersey.”

Last week could be looked at as the turning point for Rutgers’ 2014 class when it comes to in-state prospects. Before Jennings committed, the Knights’ highest-ranked in-state prospect was three-star Justin Nelson, No. 14 in New Jersey. Both Hester and Jennings are known throughout the state and spent 2012 on championship teams (Hester has since transferred schools).

Through the first half of the 2014 cycle, Rutgers was struggling mightily in state. Not only were the Knights missing on the top in-state prospects, they were not even in the conversation or among the finalists. Hester thinks that could change now.

“Definitely me and Adonis committed, we’re two of the big names in the state,” Hester said. “You don’t got to go out of state to win games and championships. You can stay home. There’s a lot of good athletes in Jersey. It’s the home state ... and we can make a dynasty and make things happen.”

Of the six remaining uncommitted four-star prospects from New Jersey, the Knights have a good shot at three. Hester is working on a few of them already, most notably Noah Brown and Juwann Winfree.

“I’ve been texting Juwann and Noah before I even committed about who they like,” Hester said. “We all stay in contact. We’ve been talking. We can build a special class here.”

If Rutgers, which already has the nation’s 23rd-best class, can pull together a program-defining class, it will have begun the last week of June.