Ohio's No. 1-ranked boys' basketball team, Shaker Heights, is in the midst of a championship push, and junior power forward Esa Ahmad is doing his part to make sure his school ends its season on top. During Shaker Heights' March 1 Division I Solon District sectional final against Lakeside, Ahmad dropped in 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds in an 88-54 thrashing, sending the team to the district semifinals against Bedford.
"We've been playing real well, and we've got a big one [March 4]," said the 6-foot-7, 210-pound Ahmad. "Two more wins and we win the whole thing. We just have to stay focused, continue playing like we have been and get the job done."
While Ahmad's main focus right now is on delivering Shaker Heights a title, he did take some time out after practice to discuss the latest and greatest with his recruiting. The stretch-4 recently secured offers from Iowa State and Maryland, and now holds scholarships from the likes of Rutgers, West Virginia, Miami, Iowa, Xavier, Dayton, Clemson and UNC Charlotte, in addition to UMD and ISU. Meanwhile, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois have been in close contact, with Ohio State, Kentucky and Louisville also keeping tabs.
The Maryland offer came in Jan. 10 when Terps head coach Mark Turgeon and assistant Dustin Clark came up to personally extend the verbal. Clark had been tracking Ahmad for some time, taking in several games and staying in contact with both Ahmad and his head coach, but when the Shaker Heights forward met Maryland's head man he was particularly impressed.
"Coach [Turgeon] gave me and my family a whole presentation, and I enjoyed that. He was talking about how they're moving to the Big Ten, talking about their school history, things like that," Ahmad said. "He showed me how I'd fit in with the program, how they play, their style, his plan for me there. It was real good; I think Maryland is a great school, and I know [the coaches] really want me there."
Ahmad admitted he hasn't seen much of the Terps this year, nor is he privy to the inner workings of the program beyond what Turgeon showed him. He did say, however, that he has a close rapport with Clark and has continued to stay in touch with him in the month-plus since receiving the verbal.
"I talk to Coach Clark like every other day, either texting or talking," Ahmad said. "He's a real good guy, a real cool guy. We just talk about the recruiting process, school, everything."
The Ohio big man hasn't been to College Park yet, but he'd like to visit at some point in the next couple months. So far he's been able to take in Xavier, Dayton, Rutgers and Clemson, and is trying to see West Virginia, Miami and UMD, in addition to a return trip to Piscataway, N.J.
"I'm going back to Rutgers because I really enjoyed it there and it was a nice campus. I liked everything about it," Ahmad said. "I'd like to see all the schools that have offered or might offer, but that won't be possible. I'll try to get to Maryland, WVU and Miami, though, and see what others come up if I get offered during AAU season."
Ahmad said he's heard from assistants at Maryland, West Virginia, Rutgers and Xavier the most. While others such as Indiana or Wisconsin could easily work their way into the game, the Shaker Heights product noted that the Terps, Mountaineers, Scarlet Knights and Musketeers have made a big push as of late.
Even so, Ahmad refused to claim any early leaders. But he did say, right now, "I do like WVU, Miami and Maryland a lot."
"I could see myself playing at those schools, just their style of play," Ahmad said. "They're up-tempo teams, that's what I like. And their coaches, they have good coaches."
The power forward grew up watching Kentucky, Syracuse and Duke, though that won't have any bearing on his recruitment. Of those, only the Wildcats have shown interest to this point, and Ahmad admitted it's been mild.
"Just the tradition of those schools, that's why I like them," Ahmad said.
Ahmad said he's looking forward to showing out with All Ohio Red on the AAU circuit this summer. Then, depending on what offers he secures, he'd like to have his college decision made by the early signing period in the summer.
"That way I can just get it over with before my senior year," Ahmad said.
Ahmad averaged 27 points, 12.7 rebounds and five blocks this season.
During a previous Terrapin Times interview, his head coach, Danny Young, offered up this scouting report:
"He's a true stretch-4. He can post you up, score around the rim and also shoot the 3," Young said. "As a matter of fact, he's my best 3-point shooter, making over 50 percent from [beyond the arc]. And he can also drive it. He brings the ball up like a point guard and activates and starts our offense.
"He just needs to work on his athleticism and strength right now, along with just continuing to fine-tune the jump shot, ball-handling and all that stuff. I would say mainly explosiveness off the floor and making sure he's able to go, go, go and never take any plays off, ever, are the main focuses."
Terps Continuing to Push for Ahmad
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