Renaissance Man Emerging at John Carroll

BEL AIR, Md. -- John Carroll Coach Tony Martin loves the fact his prized sophomore, Michael Tertsea, is athletic, stands 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, and sports a 3.6 GPA in the classroom. But there's so much more to like about the engaging Nigerian import with the easy smile and even easier manner in his second year at the Bel Air power.

BEL AIR, Md. -- John Carroll Coach Tony Martin loves the fact his prized sophomore, Michael Tertsea, is athletic, stands 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, and sports a 3.6 GPA in the classroom. But there's so much more to like about the engaging Nigerian import with the easy smile and even easier manner in his second year at the Bel Air power.

Tertsea, who got close to his averages Jan. 23 in a 63-52 win over Mt. Carmel -- with nine points, 11 boards and three blocks -- reeks of upside with his long, athletic frame, as well as his ability to step out and knock down 15-foot jumpers too. Already, Maryland, Virginia, Miami, Clemson, Xavier and George Washington have either stopped by the gym or contacted Martin about Tertsea, who had gone a bit under radar nationally as he has yet to play summer AAU ball on the circuit.

But Martin's face lights up most when he talks about Tertsea the individual, who excels in drawing and entertaining his classmates when he breaks into traditional African dance (as well as ‘hip hop'), and has sacrificed much in his basketball odyssey. Tertsea has gone more than two years without seeing his mother, Felicia, and maybe another two until she visits the States, hopefully, for the first time for his graduation ceremony in 2016. Tertsea himself has yet to return to his homeland after nearly three years in the States.

"Great kid. Only child. Great mother in single-parent situation," Martin said. "Great faith, very religious kid, and a great student. He has it all. And an incredible dancer as well ... man, he can put on a show, be it African, tribal, modern. And he is an artist and he can draw, too. The kids love him. So he is doing really well here."

Tertsea said he just wants to play hard for his teammates, starting with his passion on the boards and defense, "so as to do everything possible to just play aggressive and show my teammates I will do whatever I need to do, to play higher than I can, to deliver for my teammates."

Tertsea said he likes his rebounding game and ability to alter shots, as well as his emerging post game, but he said he still needs work on his ball-handling and decision making.

He began playing basketball in Benue, Nigeria, at the age of eight, and arrived last year to begin his freshman campaign at John Carroll.

Off the floor, he can mesmerize fellow students with his dancing ability in traditional African forms, like the "Abonto" and the "Alanta," which he does regularly, displaying his nimbleness and good feet for a big man.

Tertsea also loves drawing, depicting the scenes and people he sees each day in his new country. One day he would like to study economics at college.

Tertsea won the battle of the bigs Jan. 23 against Mt. Carmel, as their prized sophomore power forward, 6-8 David Erebor, never got in rhythm and finished with nine points, three boards and two blocks on a night he shot 4-of-9 from the field. Most of that production came late as his teammates could not feed him in the post. Erebor is also an athletic, physical specimen, but very, very raw.

Tertsea still has plenty of developing to do as well, a reserve last season who is starting to come into his own now for 16-11 John Carroll, which also faced Mt. Carmel Jan. 24, this time at the Essex school. While he moves and anticipates well, as well as sports a smooth shooting stroke (Tertsea was 3-of-6 from the field, 3-of-4 from the foul line last night with a pure stroke), Tertsea must gain bulk and strength as he can still get moved off the blocks easily.

He altered several shots as well, but at other times would lose rebounds for lack of strength when he just couldn't hold on as opponents snatched it from his hands a few times. He had a few power moves he finished, as well as some put-backs, while he also sees the floor well and passes well out of the blocks. Tertsea just needs to add upper and lower body strength to be more of a force with his back to the basket so he doesn't get easily moved.

"Yeah, I don't like people pushing me around [laugh] because I am tall. I don't have the size (strength) yet of others, so before my junior year I think I will put on a lot more weight," he said.

But Martin sees a still-developing, inside-out threat in Tertsea, who he projects as a possible college four man with the ability to stroke jumpers to the three-point line. Tertsea is averaging some 10 points per game, eight rebounds per game and two blocks per game this season.

"He's been pretty much a double-double guy for us," Martin said. "He has the prototypical size, he's the kid that everyone wants, 6-9 and really bouncy, and he actually has really good footwork. He just continues to get experience, and he's got to put a little bit more weight on. He's put on about 20 pounds since he has been here so he's 210 now. So hopefully he can get up to about 230 as he's just a sophomore."

And Martin said that stroke may soon become more of a staple of his game. Tertsea's free throw mechanics were smooth and without hesitation Jan. 23.

"He has a great stroke. He is actually shooting about 65 percent, which in high school is not too bad for a big guy," Martin said. "I have had guys shoot 35 percent. He can really step out and shoot the ball and he's hit a lot of mid-range jumpers, 15-feet, for us. So I think he is going to expand and when he gets to college he will hit the three."

Said Tertsea:

"I wasn't good at shooting before, but when I came here they worked on my shooting form and they were telling me I should put my elbows up and not fade away."

Terps assistant Coach Bino Ranson has attended a few games last season and this year, and Tertsea's first offer came in from UMBC this year. Last year as a reserve, Tertsea averaged about five points, four rebounds and one block per game.

"I think what everyone has said (among college coaches) is how much better he has gotten from last year to this year," said Martin, who has had several import big men come through his program. "But I think he is best to come through so far [as far as upside potential]. I think he could be a really big wing. That's the kind of potential he has."

Tertsea also works out with pro trainers at the nearby Arena Club, constantly building up his strength. His arms go on forever, and he can be the ultimate rim protector with his length and ability to move his feet.

"I think he has a great post game coming on. I think he has great footwork, so we will see how far he can take it," Martin said.

In the summertime, Tertsea has worked at youth basketball camps at John Carroll. But this summer he will play some AAU ball, which should raise his national profile.

He visited Maryland for Maryland Madness this fall and came away impressed. Previously he had seen a few schools like Penn in the Ivy League unofficially.

"[Maryland] was very cool. They have a nice, big program with some good players with a lot of size. I like Maryland, I like Duke, Georgetown, Michigan, Miami, schools like that," said Tertsea, who is just embarking on his college recruiting process.

Either way, John Carroll for now, and one day some college, will have something of a "Renaissance Man" in Michael Tertsea, who is still only scratching the surface.

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