It's Letter of Intent week, and normally we'd have a lot to discuss, but not so much this year -- at least as far as the early signing period is concerned.
Point guard Jaylen Brantley from Odessa College (Odessa, Texas) is expected to sign his letter of intent, and we're still thinking that Ivan Bender, the 6-foot-9 power forward from Croatia, will do the same. There is still the possibility of him being here for the spring semester.
After that? I don't see much else happening. Diamond Stone, the 6-10 center from Dominican HS (Whitefish Bay, Wisc.), apparently will be announcing in the next week or two, although the exact date is still not known. Could he stun the world and opt for Maryland? It's extremely unlikely in our view, though some pundits like to perpetuate the thought that it could happen. If I'm a betting man, I am still feeling UConn, although his skills would fit quite nicely at Wisconsin as well.
The only other major targets are Maurice O'Field Midland College (Midland, Texas), and Yankuba Sima, 6-11 Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.). Both appear to be putting off their college decisions until the spring. We've not seen either in person, though it's fairly obvious that, on tape at least, both are big time athletes. And despite a nice core group that Coach Mark Turgeon has put together, the program's still lacking some elite athletes who can play over the rim. It's way too early to project Maryland's chances with either O'Field or Sima, but if the Terps somehow land one or both, suddenly what looked like a so-so class becomes pretty solid.
Sima would provide the shot blocking and defense that left with Trayvon Reed. O'Field gives you that strong, physical wing explosiveness that will depart with Dez Wells.
The Terps had 6-4 shooting guard Tariiq Jones from Montrose Christian School (Rockville, Md )on campus recently, and he's an under the radar prospect who just transferred in from Michigan. Jones is currently a 2015 prospect, who may or may not re-class. So he's another player to keep an eye on.
Again, we'd expect another handful of names to surface during the winter months, because even with Brantley and Bender signing up, that's still only nine scholarship players (barring attrition) on the roster for 2015. I would think Turge will want to add another player or two to that group, especially when you consider that Robert Carter might be a one-and-done player, and Jake Layman will be moving on before too long as well.
The point is, let's not put a label on this recruiting class until next Spring; a lot can happen in the meantime.
Some fans are asking, What did we learn after the two exhibition games? The cynic in me might reply, We learned that San Francisco State and Bowie State aren't very good. But, actually, it wasn't a great surprise to see this Terps team shoot the ball well. That's a good thing, though we can obviously expect some very uneven performances in that regard from the freshmen. What I liked, though, was the ball movement, and the willingness to share the basketball.
After watching some horrendous displays in the last couple years of players "doing their own thing," it's so refreshing to see Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Robert Pack (all first year players here) look for their teammates. Looking back at the last couple years, I overdosed on a combination of selfishness, and lack of basketball IQ, especially in the backcourt. Finally, it looks like we have some players who will make the extra pass, and do the little things needed to play winning basketball.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I didn't see anything from the bigs to get excited about, but as I predicted a month ago, I still think Jon Graham gives you the best chance of winning right now. You pretty much know what you'll get out of Graham, who leads by example, and never fails to give his all. Rebounding is going to be a problem it appears, and yet, he's shown a willingness to battle on the boards and defend. Plus, he's experienced. I haven't seen anything from Damonte Dodd or Michal Cekovsky just yet to indicate they're ready to take control in the paint. They will need time, so until they find their niche, I go with Graham.
My overall feelings on the team haven't changed though following the two exhibitions. Uncertainty down low, and inexperience at the point, are still my main concerns. But from everything I've heard, this team is a "together" bunch, a good group of kids who like each other and play well together. The program has lacked great chemistry, and it appears the culture in College Park has changed. Terps fans just have to hope these kids grow up fast, stay healthy and withstand the inevitable highs and lows that will occur. If they do, it has the potential to be a fun season.
Our list of 2016 prospects is still quite lengthy, but I see no change in Maryland's interest in: point guard Anthony Cowan (St. John's/ Washington, D.C.); guard Curtis Jones (Huntington Prep/Huntington, W.Va.); guard Brandon Robinson (Douglas County/Douglassville, Ga.); forward Corey Manigault (Paul VI/Fairfax, Va.); power forward Sedee Keita (22 Feet Academy/Greenville, S.C.); guard Tony Carr (Roman Catholic/Philadelphia); forward DeAndre Hunter (Friends Academy/Philadelphia); point guard Bryce Aiken (Patrick School/Newark, N.J.); power forward Mamadi Diakite (Blue Ridge School/Charlottesville, Va.); and point guard Alterique Gilbert (Miller Grove/Lithonia, Ga).
I have to think that, despite all the point guards listed, the Terps would still take Cowan over any of them given his interest; his family ties to the program; and the fact he plays at an Under Armour school. And, we should note, he's a fine player as well.
The Terps also like Markelle Fultz (DeMatha Catholic/Hyattsville, Md.) a lot, but I am hearing he will be a difficult get. I've actually heard Washington! as a possible landing spot for this rising star.
In any event, first things first: Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Wagner comes to town. Let the games begin.
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