It's been awhile. Time for another Hoops Dish Q&A, as we're only five weeks away from the start of practice at Maryland.
From a recruiting standpoint, how big a week is this?
Huge. You've got a crucial in-home visit with Esa Ahmad (Shaker Heights, Ohio) on Wednesday, and then host point guard Justin Robinson (St. James, Md.) on his official visit this weekend. It's your last real chance to make a positive impression with Ahmad and his family. With Robinson, the staff has an opportunity to showcase the university, and all it can offer the Terps' top point guard prospect.
How are we feeling about Ahmad right now?
I'm at peace with whatever Ahmad decides, because it's fairly obvious the Terps' staff has done everything possible to get this done. The young man has been on campus three times, apparently had a tremendous official visit, and no doubt head coach Mark Turgeon will make a strong presentation in the home on Wednesday. If Ahmad chooses Ohio State, one might surmise that he was going there all along. What will sting is if the 6-foot-7 forward chooses West Virginia. The Mountaineers have struggled in recent years, and you would think Ahmad would prefer playing in the Big Ten to the Big 12, but again, that's speculative. From Maryland's standpoint, it sure looks like they've done everything right in this recruitment, and that's all you can ask for.
What's our gut feeling on Robinson?
While Ahmad seems to be inching closer to a decision, we've seen no indication that Robinson is at that point just yet. He's only taken one of his five officials (to Virginia Tech), and the theme all along coming out of St. James School is that Robinson will proceed deliberately with the recruiting process. That tells us he may well take all his visits (Maryland, Providence, UNLV and Creighton remain). It could be late October before we know where this all ends. That said, I'd still be a bit surprised if he doesn't wind up at VT or UMD, though Providence coach Ed Cooley came in this week to visit him, and the Friars could be a darkhorse contender.
Will the Terps sign a big man for 2015?
Seems like they sure need to, given the departure of Trayvon Reed. Though our understanding is that big time pivot man Diamond Stone (Dominion/Milwaukee, Wisc.) is expected to visit College Park, we don't see him as a viable option. The consensus opinion with Stone is that he will land at UConn, or home state Wisconsin. Details are sketchy, but we still see mystery big man Ivan Bender (Croatia) as the most likely insider to wind up as a Terp. That said, no doubt the staff will continue to look for late blooming bigs, or possibly scan the JUCO ranks, but Bender still seems like the best bet at the moment.
Are we concerned about how 2015 recruiting will play out?
Yes, because of the scarcity of names on the list. Looking at my potential list of recruits in May, and looking at the list now, well, it does raise concern. Here are some players who have been scratched since then: Terry Henderson, Andrew White, Marcus Sheffield, Chris Clarke, Noah Blackwell, Glynn Watson, Danjel Purifoy, Allonzo Trier, Josh Reaves, Jaylen Adams, Donovan Mitchell, Terence Mann, Bryant Crawford, Prince Ali and Malik Beasley. Obviously, some of these kids were probably never coming to UMD, and some others were dropped by the staff. But strength is in numbers, and the numbers simply aren't there right now.
What's a best case scenario?
Probably Bender, Ahmad and Robinson, with a fourth player being added still not out of the question (six scholarships are available).
What are some backup options?
Ah well, John Crosby (New Hampton/New Haven, N.H.) Jordan Murphy (Brennon/San Antonio, Texas), Malik Ellison (Life Center/Burlington, N.J.), Kipper Nichols (St. Edward/Lakewood, Ohio), Christian James (Bellaire, Texas) and Tyrone Taylor (Hargrave Military/Chatham, Va.) are all technically still on the board, but we're not feeling particularly good about any of them at the moment. It appears that Markis McDuffie (St. Anthony/Jersey City, N.J.) can be taken off the list.
Early outlook for 2016 recruiting?
There are some good players looking at Maryland at this point (a number of point guards), but again, the on-court performance this season is going to tell us how seriously those prospects will consider the Terps. Kids have short memories, and what they recall right now is that the Terps haven't been dancing lately. So, for a number of reasons, this '14-'15 season is huge, for both the short term and long term success of the program.
It's awful early, but which Big Ten teams look like serious contenders on the national stage?
Wisconsin for sure. A number of programs lost major talent, but rest assured, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota all will be formidable opponents. The Badgers look like the only serious Final Four contender, but there's plenty of depth in the conference, and I don't see any road game "gimmies." Maryland's seniors are going to have to really step it up for the Terps to have a chance at dancing. The lack of experience at the point guard and pivot slots is worrisome.
TTDan's Hoops Dish
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