Recruiting 2011: Typical Angst and Insanity

The 2011 hoops recruiting was similar to that of years past, it was filled with surprises.

I know that recruiting young athletes to play for your college is a tricky deal in every respect. As a fan, surveying the comings and goings from the outside, it is nerve-racking and emotional torture as each decision is reached. For Maryland fans, basketball recruiting usually takes them to new levels of agony and confusion, more so probably than any other school that I can think of in past years. And 2011 is no different in the soap opera sagas of many of the prep players that the Terps have tried to land at College Park. It is the stuff that nightmares are made of.

Having already suffered through some of the weirdest recruiting stories this decade with Maryland, 2011 was no exception. Certainly the share of commits and de-commits (Shane Clark, Terrence Jennings, Jeff Jones, Bobby Maze, Tyree Evans, Gus Gilchrist, Terrence Ross) have been enough to send any sane fan who follows recruiting to the ledge! The constant battle between Gary Williams, Debbie Yow and the admissions office did not facilitate matters either. That relationship could not have been any chillier in the North Pole. There have been recruits whose cars have broke down magically and others who have just said publicly, “I want to wait until spring to make a decision” before accepting a Duke offer (yeah, Andre Dawkins, remember that!). There has been the general sizzle of Lance Stephenson sniffing around College Park, which would have been damn exciting if nothing else. I guess the moral is to take everything a 17-year old diva tells you with a huge grain of salt.

2011 has been no exception in the drama department. Again there have been some strange twists and turns in the road. The most frustrating recruitment on this year's laundry list is without doubt that of Adjehi Baru. Maryland and the staff did the homework, put in the time and pursued Baru long before he exploded into top-40 status. They looked like the leaders along with Virginia Tech for the longest time. Then in this fuzzy warm world of college basketball, an old “friend” named Bobby Cremins offers the son of Baru's guardian a scholarship to play at College of Charleston. Naturally since the son was on Rivals and Scouts, let me see, top-500 list. Some package deals are understandable. This is one struck me as very murky, certainly if the guardian had Baru's best interest at heart, playing for North Carolina or Maryland was certainly a better choice in terms of a college and pro career. All's fair in love and war, I guess.

More drama was to be had in 2011 because we are Maryland basketball. Bernard Sullivan promised to visit Maryland before making a commitment, which of course meant that he would cancel the visit a few days before and recommit to Clemson. Maurice Harkless promised to visit Maryland, which of course meant he cancelled two days before the scheduled visit and committed to Steve Lavin and the Red Storm. Mikael Hopkins publicly stated he absolutely wanted to get away for college, so naturally he commits to Georgetown, a whopping 10 miles down the road. Antwan Space was wooed mightily by Arkansas and Missouri but said he was saving “the best for last”, that much prized visit to College Park. So naturally he committed to Florida State, sans any visit to Maryland and definitely out of the blue. Jabari Brown flaunted with Maryland, talking them up and then dropping them from his list just a week later. Greg Lewis lost his patience with Maryland and opted for Rutgers (the way things panned out, if he had waited, we would be on bended knee at this stage, holy mackerel). Even Greg Whittington's commitment to the Hoyas was an untimely blow to our depleted and needy front line. Okay everybody, on the count of three, take your aspirins.

I guess you have to keep telling yourself that these are essentially children who have their parents, siblings, friends, posse, AAU coach, high school coach and other “interested” parties pressuring them for two or three years of their life. They have my sympathy and at the same time, my ire. Nothing surprises me anymore.

Terps lost their share of legitimate battles for the likes of Trevor Cooney, Scott Wilbekin, Dorian Finney-Smith and Johnny O'Bryant (who went to be with his AAU buddies, now that is the criteria for any decision) which left a throbbing pain in the typical area. And now we are waiting on the final decision for Desmond Hubert, a shot-blocking gazelle from New Jersey. Hubert has played it slow but honest, so no recriminations forthcoming when his choice is made.

2011 was not all bad, quite the contrary. Nick Faust exploded over the summer and despite a new list of elite suitors, committed to play for the hometown Terps. He projects as a solid freshman guard with the potential for the highest of honors. Sterling Gibbs is a great young man, who made an early verbal and stuck by it. He is an underrated winner who stuffs the sheet with points, assists and steals. Martin Breunig is a forward with unreal potential, great ball skills who only needs to fill out and get stronger. Again, the potential for the highest of honors and accolades are there for him as well. We welcome them all with open arms.

This is just a typical year in the on-going saga known as Peyton Place. Correction, Maryland recruiting. Hopefully in 2012, we can target and land the players that Gary Williams feels gives him a chance for another title soon. We know the man can coach. If the recruiting ever catches up, even at this late stage in his career, watch out. As Jim Calhoun showed, you are never too old to win a championship. Of course, how you get there is definitely up to the individual but that is a whole different subject indeed. For now, again, welcome all you 2011 recruits, much success and warmest regards from one of the many fanatic fans crazy enough to follow this stuff.


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