Torrel Harris, the father of 6-foot-8 Long Island forward Tobias Harris, had established a close working relationship with Craig Carter. Rutgers was the first school to offer Tobias, when he was in 8th grade.
But Rutgers announced that former Lehigh and East Stroudsburg head coach Sal Mentesana had been hired as an assistant coach and Carter, the captain of the last Rutgers team to make the NCAA Tournament (1991), had been shifted from assistant to the new job of “recruiting coordinator.”
“We are very disappointed that Craig will not be [an] assistant coach at Rutgers,” Torrel Harris said. “We feel he was a great person who’s honest, respectful and full of basketball knowledge.
“He has spent lots of games following Tobias. Besides myself, Craig was the next person who saw all of Tobias’ game.
Carter and Harris are both African-American, but Torrel said that was not the critical factor in their relationship.
“It is important for Tobias to respect and have a great relationship with any assistant coach, be it black, white or any race,” he said.
His potential list of colleges includes Kentucky, Tennessee, UConn, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Maryland, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Rutgers, St.John’s, Virginia, Kentucky, Louisville and West Virginia.
He is in the process of whittling his long list down to five schools and will announce it at some point after Friday’s Boost Mobile Elite 24 event at Harlem’s Rucker Park.
Torrel said the family had been planning a Sept. 15 in-home visit with the Rutgers staff followed by a potential official visit, but was uncertain whether those would now happen.
Division 1 basketball staffs are permitted three assistant coaches and only three total coaches, including the head coach, may be out on the road at any one time. They generally hit the high-profile summer events like the LeBron James Academy, the Reebok All-American Camp, Five-Star and others.
But in his new capacity, Carter will not be permitted to travel to such far-away events.
Still, Rutgers head coach Fred Hill said Carter will run the program’s recruiting operations.
“Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program,” Hill said. “Craig Carter has always been a tremendous ambassador for Rutgers Basketball. He has done a terrific job of building and cultivating relationships in the Metropolitan area. Craig will oversee and coordinate all of our recruiting efforts going forward.”
Meantime, Kimani Young, the AD of the New Heights AAU program, said the shuffling of the Rutgers staff could also impact the recruitment of a player like JayVaughn Pinkston, a 6-6- forward out of Bishop Loughlin High and the top player in New York City in the Class of 2010.
Pinkston visited St. John’s unofficially on Tuesday and also went to Tennessee and Villanova recently. He’s also considering Arizona, Marquette, Rutgers and Seton Hall, among others.
“The fact that Craig Carter is no longer actively recruiting and on-floor coaching, does that effect Rutgers ability to recruit a player like JayVaughn Pinkston? The answer is absolutely,” Young said.
“Craig and I go back 20 years. This business is built on relationships and the only way you get those legitimate sit-downs and legitimate opportunities to recruit a kid are through relationships.