I've always tried to be honest with Terps fans, so let me start by saying that, yes, I am greatly surprised at where this Maryland team is (11-1) just a couple days before Christmas. I looked at the schedule in October and figured that beating Arizona State was possible, but surely did not see victories over Iowa State (on a somewhat neutral court) and now Oklahoma State on the road. All three of those wins look impressive to the NCAA tournament committee come March.
Oakland is next up, and they recently took Pittsburgh to overtime, so obviously, with the Big Ten schedule looming, it's the proverbial "trap" game, especially after a long Christmas break. But this group seems to focus well, and I think they'll be ready. Next comes Michigan State on the road, and it's not known yet if their best player, Brandon Dawson, will play or not. He has a wrist injury. Beating MSU in East Lansing, Mich., is never an easy chore.
The Terps have 19 games left, and hopefully for UMD fans will enter their Big Ten schedule at 12-1. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but let's be honest here, the Big Ten is down somewhat, and there are a number of winnable games coming up. Hiccups are to be expected, but I could see Maryland (assuming they stay healthy) posting a 12-6 league record. Only Wisconsin seems to be a longshot win, and that game is in College Park, Md.
Again, the key is to get Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz back to 100 percent health, and go for it. Now, don't get me wrong, if Melo Trimble suddenly turns an ankle, all bets are off. But this team (isn't it nice to be able to use that term and have it mean something?) can do some damage in the league. I've said all along, in regards to recruiting, that making the Dance is the key to it all. Recruits are looking at Maryland making the postseason as a sign that this program is moving forward.
All I know is that this group of young men is a pleasure to watch. They seem to have a common goal, and are willing to work together to reach it. Yes, losing four seniors is going to hurt, but you've also got a young, talented nucleus returning next year. Some essential pieces are in place. Now head coach Mark Turgeon just has to fill in around those returnees, and hopefully for UMD this program can sustain this success for years to come.
With eight returnees next year, I am still looking for two additional spring recruits, and depending on the Ivan Bender (Capjina, Bosnia) situation, I wouldn't rule out three.
Yankuba Sima (Elev8 Sports Institute/Delray Beach, Fla.) still seems like the most likely big man recruit. Maryland, Baylor, Auburn, Louisville, and Arizona have all shown interest. Sima may not be an immediate impact guy, but is another long, athletic big man (6-feet-11) who excels on the defensive end of the court. Practicing against Damonte Dodd and Michael Cekovsky would benefit him greatly. Sima's been to College Park unofficially; we expect an official visit in early Spring.
You have to wonder what Diamond Stone (Dominican HS/Whitefish Bay, Wisc.) might be thinking right now. Could Maryland's hot start be a factor in his recruitment? It's been very quiet on that front, and though I still see Wisconsin or UConn winning out, until he eliminates the Terps, you have to think there could still be a chance.
Add West Charlotte HS (Charlotte, N.C.) rising insider Simeon Carter to the mix, as he lists SMU, Virginia Tech and Maryland as his three most ardent pursuers. Carter is a late bloomer, and will need to add on some pounds, but is a fluid, athletic power forward/center type with lots of promise.
The recruitment of wings here lately has become very interesting. We now have four names on the board: Maurice O'Field (Midland College/Midland, Texas), Kobie Eubanks (Elev8 Sports Institute/Delray Beach, Fla.), Jamall Gregory (Elev8 Sports Institute) and now Ricky Council (Moravian Prep/Lenoir, N.C.)
O'Field has indicated he will visit Maryland in March, and currently has Gonzaga, Arizona State and Marquette in the mix as well. O'Field has three years of eligibility remaining, and would come here as a sophomore, which could be an issue, as he'd be in the same class with Jaylen Brantley, Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens and Michal Cekovsky. That's a crowd to be sure, and we'll have to wait and see if the staff wants to space out the classes a bit.
Eubanks has yet to pare his list of schools, one that includes, Mizzou, Providence, UConn, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Michigan, Louisville and others. We saw Eubanks recently, and the kid is both a shooter and scorer. He's got a decent game off the bounce, and is strong enough to finish around the basket. Eubanks can play, though we suspect this recruitment could go well into the spring.
Gregory's game is different from the other wings. He's an elite athlete, a strong slasher, a willing defender, and an "energy" guy who could be described as a junkyard-dog type player. Does he provide an element that will be missing when Wells graduates? Absolutely. Does he sometimes get a bit too energized on the court? Absolutely. Gregory definitely brings an "edge" to the game, but at times, he does need to reign it in. Another question might be how well he can operate offensively in a slower tempo.
Council has blown up recently, going from a mid-major prospect from Durham, N.C., to someone who's now attracting interest from the likes of Georgia Tech, Michigan, Marquette and the Terps. We've only viewed Council on video, but he's an excellent athlete and a drop-dead long-range bomber, who recently scored 53 points in a game. Being from ACC country, it will be interesting to see if more teams from that conference extend offers.
Who would we take? That's a tough one. O'Field is not quite the shooter of Eubanks or Council, but seems to have everything else the Terps might want in terms of toughness, and athleticism. Again, will the size of that sophomore class be a factor? He'd be my first choice.
Eubanks has had some academic issues, and we're told by our Carolina sources that Council is a good student. That could be a factor as well. Gregory seems to be very interested in returning home for college (he's a Washington, D.C. native), but I sense he may be the least likely to wind up here. The bottom line is that the Terps have some very nice options -- any of these wings would help.
I'm liking what I see with the class of 2016, and if the Terps continue their winning ways, there is no reason to think the staff won't bring in a very solid three- or four-man class. The list is long, but as this year draws to a close, here are the prospects I think will get the most serious attention. (And keep in mind, it's inevitable more names will be listed as we move into 2015).
Anthony Cowan, 5-10, St. John's College HS/Washington, D.C.; Tony Carr, 6-4, Roman Catholic HS/Philadelphia, Pa.; Jamal Murray, 6-5, Orangeville Prep/Ontario, Canada; Curtis Jones, 6-3, Huntington Prep/Huntington, W.Va.; Brandon Robinson, 6-5, Douglas County HS/Douglasville, Ga.; Markelle Fultz, 6-4, DeMatha Catholic/Hyattsville, Md.
DeAndre Hunter, 6-7, Friends Central/Abington, Pa.; Kodye Pugh, 6-7, Boys' Latin/Baltimore, Md.
Corey Manigault, 6-8, Paul VI/Fairfax, Va.; Sedee Keita, 6-10, 22 Feet Academy/Greenville, S.C.
And yes, we have some '17s that we will be closely monitoring as well, who seem to be getting close Terps attention:
Jamir Moultrie, 6-0, Bishop McNamara/Forestville, Md.; Aaron Thompson, 6-0, Paul VI/Fairfax, Va.; David Beatty, 6-2, Archbishop Carroll/Radnor, Pa.
Eddie Scott, 6-5, Gonzaga College HS/Washington, D.C.; Tyler Foster, 6-5, Gilman School/Baltimore, Md.; Myles Douglas, 6-6, Friends School/Baltimore, Md.; Melo Eggleston, 6-7, Clinton Christian/Clinton, Md.; Andre Rafus, 6-8, St. Frances Academy/Baltimore, Md.; D.J. Harvey, 6-6, DeMatha Catholic/Hyattsville, Md; Cody Riley, 6-8, Sierra Canyon HS/Chatsworth, Calif.
Mohammed Bamba, 6-10, Westtown School/Westtown, Pa.; Zach Kent, 6-9, St. Andrew's School/Middletown, Del.; Daniel Mading, 6-9, The Rock School/Gainesville, Fla.; Anthony Longpre, 6-9, Glenelg Country School/Glenelg, Md.
Lots of names, and many more will be added, but the bottom line is always: Win and they will come.
As 2014 draws to a close, I am feeling good about the state of Maryland basketball. Again, a critical injury here and there, and things could go south in a hurry. And yet, so far at least, the Terps have survived serious injuries to Smotrycz and Wells, and kept on winning. It's a very good group of young men, who seem to understand the meaning of the word "team." It's a group that's easy to root for, and all those defections last summer seem like a distant memory right now.
With that in mind, it's time for me to take a step back and concentrate on some other areas of my life which need attention. I never say "never," but as it now stands, this will be my final Dish. It's just a matter of time really. Covering high school and college basketball is a year round deal these days, and I've spread myself a bit thin here in recent months.
What I've tried to do these past seven years is tell the truth. In some isolated cases, folks didn't want to hear that. But I'm not a cheerleader, and I've always tried to evaluate kids based on their talent and intangibles alone, not factoring in that they were potential Terps. In the end, the reader deserves the straight scoop, not some pie-in-the-sky, over-the-top assessment of a kid's ability.
With all that said, I don't plan on disappearing from TT, and hope to still post occasional nuggets and opinions from time to time. I've still got tons of contacts, and am not naive enough to think my phone won't still be ringing. And yes, I still hope to get out to some high school events as time permits, hopefully to see some future Terps.
Now's the perfect time to just say "thank you" to all the fans out there who've followed me over the years, and also to Keith, who gave me the opportunity to do something I loved.
I also want to give a "shout out" to Dave, the football guru who's picked up the hoops slack incredibly well in the past year. All the feedback from the readers has been welcomed, and especially that from those who disagreed with me on occasion, because that dialogue showed the passion that true Terp fans have for their teams.
I hope everyone has a great holiday season, and blessed New Year.
TTDan's Hoops Dish
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