2012 will have to be a much better effort if we are to avoid the stigma of missing the post-season altogether. Though seriously, how a 19-win team with 7-9 record in a top league like the ACC does not even get an NIT invitation seems totally ridiculous. Still, that is exactly what happened and it stung.
2012 has started with a veritable bomb. Justin Anderson, 6-7 wonder from Montrose Christian, committed to Maryland. That was the best news of the fall, without a doubt. Anderson is an elite athlete with emotion and passion, a defensive gem who is refining his game as we speak. He is top 30 material based solely on his defensive skills and freakish physical ability. He has shown marked improvement during several stretches of AAU ball and may be creeping back into the top 25 again where he belongs. Perhaps with that swagger, the staff is aiming higher than it has in the past. Here are some of the key players that the staff would love to get a commitment and LOI from.
Shaquille Cleare, 6-9 center from Texas, is right at the top of the list. One quote from his recent appearance in the Double Pump AAU event in Lakewood, Colorado sums his game up. Once the big man gets the ball, he goes up strong to the basket and usually doesn't miss. He's a smart passer in the interior and has a good skill level for a post his size. His soft hands and feet make him that much better of a prospect. The fact that a player his size has both a power and finesse game is impressive. The Terps have struck in Texas before but not at this level. The task of getting Cleare away from the Texas schools and the Big-12 in general is a mighty one. Right now, Maryland is in the top three on his list, though the onslaught of the big boys has yet to begin. If Maryland can stay there when the likes of Kansas, Texas and Arizona start making in-roads, we have a decent chance. The staff has done the work here, including the ball coach. Cleare definitely reminds me of Kendrick Perkins when he was in High School.
Amile Jefferson, 6-7 power forward from Philadelphia, is also at the top of Maryland's dream list. No doubt that he is already being tabbed as Big East material, with Villanova definitely a major contender. Interesting thing is that Villanova has a commitment from 6-6 PF Savon Goodman, who basically plays the same style and in the same areas of the court. Whether that affects Jefferson's decision regarding the Wildcats is hard to say. Certainly teams like Georgetown, Syracuse and Pittsburgh would love to see that happen. Jefferson's game seems more like an ACC-type forward that can glide and create with great finesse and basketball savvy. Basically, Jefferson is probably a player that can go where ever he pleases, so the Terps have their work cut out here! Not to be a pessimist but fighting that many elite schools might be too much to overcome for the staff.
Mitch McGary, 6-10 from New Hampshire (Prep), is another major target for the Terps. He is a space-eater, adept with both hands inside and has improved on both his grades in class and his game on the court. He is a player who can step outside for a jumper but truly understands he is a post player. He is a four-star top 40 type who is rising fast. The offers are going to start rolling in. Teams like Maryland, Arizona and Florida are all going to make a heck of an effort for his signature. My guess though - Texas is a school that McGary really wants to hear from (he is from the Lone Star state). They could be hard to beat if he ever gets a solid offer from the Longhorns.
Wally Judge, 6-9 transfer from Kansas State, is a name that Maryland fanatics have been drooling over since his name hit the transfer wire. He is a high-flying hometown guy who is looking to make a move soon. He was a 5-star power forward when he signed with Kansas State. Under Frank Martin, he just could never get it together. Some say that Frank Martin and Gary Williams are similar in temperament, so how that translates will remain to be seen. Also, DC Assault is involved with Judge's transfer destination and that never bodes well for Maryland basketball. If he makes the reported visit that has been planned, that would help immensely. Rutgers and Kentucky are always mentioned in passing when Judge's name surfaces.
Arnaud Adala-Moto, 6-5 SF/SG from Alexandria, Virginia (my hometown, sigh), is becoming a hot name on the summer circuit. He is a high flyer (his dunk at BOO is You-Tube legendary material) and scorer who can play on the same court with Anderson and anyone else. If he stays consistent over the summer, expect him to be a top-40 caliber player which we should never turn down, regardless of position. My guess is schools like Georgetown, Syracuse, Connecticut and perhaps Duke might start to get very involved if Adala-Moto continues to surge.
The following players are definitely on the radar. They have ties to Maryland in terms of recruiting, though perhaps not at the serious level and desire as the names mentioned above. They are as follows:
Cinmeon Bowers, 6-7 PF from Wisconsin, is a bull of a forward in the Charles Barkley mode. He is a definite man inside, though there have been some question regarding attitude on and off the court. He has transferred to King HS in Wisconsin. Marquette may be a leader now.
Zach Auguste, 6-9 PF prepping in New Hampshire, is a talented big man with range on the jumper. He is an unknown quantity now, just needs to be consistent over the summer to get into the top 60 range. Boston College and Notre Dame have been pursuing him so far.
A.J. Hammons, 6-10 at Oak Hill, is a Midwestern transplant. He is a big player in the paint, doesn't seem to have a lot of gas in his tank right now. He is definitely a space eater and has good hands in the paint. Indiana is probably the leader for him at this stage.
Michael Carrera, 6-6 PF at Montrose Christian, is just that, a 6-6 power forward. He has solid hands and carves out space at the HS level, but don't see enough hops or ability to separate in his game. If Terps were deep and experienced, he'd be a great guy to offer a scholarship for. Sadly, we are not in a position for that risk. He seems suited for GMU or GW at this stage. I hope he proves everyone wrong, he is a nice kid.
Kevin Larsen, 6-8 PF at Montrose Christian, bears watching. He has the physical tools but has yet to develop any consistency in his game. If you could Carrera's game in Larsen's body, now you'd be talking! He could develop though into a top 100 player, the tools are there to be sure.
Charles Mitchell, 6-8 PF from Georgia, is a prospect the Terps have been looking very hard at. If he blows up, might be hard to get him out of SEC country. Georgia did a great job last year getting the top player in Georgia (Pope, 6-4 SG from GA) to stay in state. They might be making that a prime goal under Mark Fox.
Omar Calhoun, 6-3 SG from NY, is an elite prospect who is having a sensational summer. Terps have been mentioned in passing but he is definitely a Big East priority and our staff is not really hunting 6-3 and under guards at this stage.
Jerami Grant, 6-7 SF from Maryland, is having a great summer as well. Maryland and DeMatha seem to be at odds lately, so I don't expect we'd be all that involved in a normal year. And this year, really focusing on the big men, look for Grant to land in the Big East or maybe a southern ACC school.
James Robinson, 6-4 G from Maryland, is a real player. Smooth and in control on the court, he will make a heck of an addition for a team in need of a crafty, heady lead guard. He would be an ideal guy for me but barring attrition, I don't see any spots for guards at this time. I suspect that Notre Dame or Ohio State might be his final landing place.
Twymond Howard, 6-5 scorer machine from Mississippi, is a player that has listed Maryland in his top 3 at one time. That list has since ballooned to a list of SEC and Big-12 schools, so I don't think the Terps have pushed too hard in that direction. Still, a top-30 talent should always be checked out so who knows how the summer will play out.
And I guess it truly is a case of who knows what will happen. As with Maryland basketball, we will give out three ships in 2012 and the remaining two might not even be on this list. It would not surprise me, knowing the volatile nature of recruiting. One day it's a young man praising your staff and setting up a visit, next day he commits to another school out of the blue. That is the nature of the beast. Let's just hope Maryland can have the success we need to get back into the top 10 and in the national title conversation once again.