It's quite evident that Maryland needs some grit and toughness, those so called "glue guys" that may not be the smoothest or most athletic, but bring all the intangibles to the table. Last weekend, Terps head coach Mark Turgeon identified such a player when he trekked down to Petersburg, Va., to watch Cape Henry Collegiate (Virginia Beach, Va.) take on Trinity Episcopal in the VISAA semifinals.
During an 82-65 Cape Henry route, junior forward Christopher Clarke dropped in 23 points, grabbed six rebounds, recorded four assists and swiped two steals. Needless to say, the 6-foot-6 wing caught the eye of the Terps' head man.
"Coach Turgeon offered me like right after the game. We weren't allowed to talk, but he talked to my coach, Mark Hall, and he told him how he liked the way I played and how he wanted to offer," Clarke said. "It meant a lot. I was real appreciative of it. It's a great school, a great program. They play in the ACC now, the best conference in basketball, and they're going to the Big Ten, which is another great conference. ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, it's all major conferences, and I would like to play on a big stage."
Thus far Maryland is one of Clarke's first big-time offers. He refused to anoint them as the "biggest," but said the Terps are right up there with Kansas State, another recent offeree, and earlier favorites Creighton and Iowa State. He also holds verbals from East Carolina, Virginia Tech and Old Dominion, though numerous high-majors throughout the Big Ten and ACC are keeping close tabs.
"I'd probably say Maryland, Kansas State, maybe Creighton, Iowa State, those are the four of the offers I have that I'm sort of looking at, but it's still early," Clarke said. "With Maryland, it's close to home and I have a lot of family in the area. I took an unofficial visit there, and Coach Turgeon showed me his background in the game and how it trickles down to the founder of basketball. He knows a lot, and he can teach me a lot. There's a lot to like about Maryland."
Though Turgeon tends to take the lead with the Terps' top targets, it was Maryland assistant Bino Ranson who first identified the Virginia Beach wing back in 2013. Ranson had been down to see Clarke play and apparently gave him high enough marks to convince the headman to take a look.
"Coach Bino, we have a good relationship," Clarke said. "I don't talk to him a whole lot, but he's been down to see me, he knows me. It's pretty good with him, he's a good guy."
Clarke plans to return to College Park at some point for another visit, though he's unsure exactly when. He said since he's already seen the school once and knows about the coaches and basketball program, he wants to find out more about the academics.
As for other potential trips, Clarke pointed to KSU, Iowa State and Creighton as possibilities for now.
"Kansas State, I feel the same way about them as I do Maryland," Clarke said. "It's a great program, I like their coaches, I like the school. I've never been there, though, so I have to see what it's like there.
"Creighton and Iowa State, I'll put them up there too. I've watched games of both of them, and I like how they play, and their coaches have stopped by a lot. They're really good people and great coaches. But that's all I can base my knowledge on right now until I see the schools."
Clarke went on to say that he'd like to play in an up-tempo system that allows him to run the floor.
But even if he seems to favor a school or two following unofficial visits, he has no plans on coming to an early decision. He said it's still very early in the recruiting process and he's willing to wait it out.
Last season Clarke helped Cape Henry to a 26-1 record by averaging more than 20 points, seven assists, 12 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and three steals.
"Basketball IQ is probably my strong suit, and I usually don't have many turnovers and make the right play," Clarke said. "I'm unselfish, I like to pass a lot, I'm a slasher, I rebound, I play defense. I guess my weakness if you want to call it that is I have to have more confidence in my shot and shoot more consistently."
After beating Trinity Episcopal in the semifinals, Cape Henry advanced to the VISAA championship game before falling to Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.). It was a bitter end to a highly successful season for Clarke and Co.
"I was disappointed, because I wanted to win the whole thing and we came up short," Clarke said. "But I‘m still pleased with what we accomplished this year. 26-1, that's pretty good right there, and now and we're ranked nationally. Now we just have to pick up where we left off."
Terps Pursuing VA Beach Wing
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