BALTIMORE, Md. -- Comparisons to past locals are often good to get a sense and a gauge of a player's style and ability, especially when that prospect isn't quite a household name yet.
And former Baltimore standout big-man Andrew Fitzgerald, who went on to sign with Oklahoma, is a good comparison for Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) and Baltimore Elite AAU junior insider Taron Oliver.
A rugged big who can play back to the basket as well as face and shoot to three-point land (and like Fitzgerald could break out when his conditioning finally comes around), Oliver is beginning to make a name for himself out of the shadows of Louisville-bound Riverdale center Nanu Onuaku.
Oliver, at 6-foot-9, 250-pounds, is a District Heights, Md., native. But he began his AAU days with the Baltimore Elite 14-and-Under, went to Team Takeover for a year, and is now back with coach Bub Carrington's Baltimore club.
This past season at Riverdale he averaged a handful of points and rebounds after a year at the perennial powerhouse Montrose Christian in Rockville, Md. Oliver said it's been a learning experience playing at the two round-ball powers.
"At Montrose, I learned a lot there. I learned the importance of working hard and taking no days for granted," Oliver said. "Now am I continuing to work on my game and carry it over to Riverdale for the next few years."
"I had Taron at 14. And he reminds me of Andrew Fitzgerald. Never really in shape for high school, but super skilled. Can shoot, dribble, pass with the best of them as far as bigs go. Has a pretty stroke. His best days are ahead of him.
"So as soon as he gets to college and they get him on that college regimen he'll lose about 30 pounds....but can play, flat out play.
"Has the skill set, the IQ, is unbelievable. But just got to get on that college regimen with the trainers, the training table, watching his diet, running every day. And once he does that Taron is going to be good because he can shoot the ball."
This past season Oliver started at Riverdale, and he has begun receiving letters and interest from Wake Forest, Georgia, George Mason and Towson, while Maryland is well aware of him as well. As for the Terps, he hears about them every day.
"My dad [Taron, Sr.] is a Terps fan, a diehard Terps fan, and so I followed them a lot. He's always wanted me to go there. He is waiting for that offer, he wants it so bad," Oliver said of his pops.
Oliver said he has several unofficial visits coming up, with Wake and GMU already on the calendar for the coming month.
As for college positioning, Oliver said he projects as a "4" man, but if he continues to get in better shape he said he could play the "3."
"I can shoot, I can dribble, there a lot of things I can do that I am not displaying right now. But as the summer goes along I am going to bring it out day by day," Oliver said. "I am pretty versatile. I can shoot from outside but I can also create for others. Not very selfish. And I encourage my teammates, I like to get them excited."
Oliver said his father "watches the Terps religiously on TV. Every day he calls me and tells me what I should do, the moves I should do. So it's all a learning experience for me," Oliver said.
Oliver is hitting the EYBL tour with Baltimore Elite this spring, with Sacramento last month and Dallas last weekend.
"I think I have done well but I have to do even more. My team expects a lot out of me," Oliver said.
Oliver made the drive up from Washington, D.C., one night last week for Baltimore Elite's workout in the city. And despite arriving a few minutes late thanks to traffic, he came right in and drilled a few deep jumpers, while he was active around the rim with rebounds and put-backs, displaying the inside-out ability college coaches are intrigued by.
TT Baltimore Hoops Tour: Taron Oliver
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