Hardwood Notes: Terps Trending Up?

Another week, another round of Maryland hoops recruiting updates:

Another week, another round of Maryland hoops recruiting updates:

Terps Making Noise On The Small Forward Front

A couple weeks back, it seemed like Maryland’s most realistic small forward option was late-emerging Hoosier State product Brachen Hazen (Columbia City, Ind.). But head coach Mark Turgeon and the Terps are still resonating with some of their most coveted wing targets, despite the foreboding presence of bluebloods.

First and foremost, there’s the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Josh Jackson (Prolific Prep/Napa, Calif.). The 6-foot-7, 185-pound five-star has Maryland, Michigan State, Arizona and Kansas out in front, and was just in College Park, Md., for the first time Aug. 17. The visit reportedly went well, and Jackson should now be setting up an official visit to UMD (if he hasn't already).

While Jackson has personally gone mum on the matter (his mother is handling his recruitment), we’ve heard from several sources the Terps might just have the mojo to pull this off. In fact, there’s enough momentum and pro-UMD vibes that Jackson’s been elevated to “warm” on the hot board. (We might just be inclined to jack this up to "hot" following the official.)

The Michigan native plays for the Under Armour-affiliated 1Nation AAU squad, the connection giving Maryland a potential leg up in Jackson’s recruitment. Word from the AAU scene is he’s “feeling” the Terps and may even have them atop his personal leaderboard. Moreover, Jackson’s intrigued by the program’s direction and believes he can help the Terps win a title during his one-year-stay (most likely) in college.

That said, Arizona, the previously-assumed frontrunner, will have its shot with Jackson as well. Given head coach Sean Miller’s recruiting prowess, we’re certainly not counting the Wildcats out. But Zona’s Nike affiliation may hurt it in the end, and the same goes for Kansas and Michigan State, the latter two maybe battling for the third spot in the pecking order.

We’ll know more after Jackson’s upcoming official visits (none are believed to have been set in stone yet), but we think Maryland’s got more than a puncher’s chance moving forward. Stay tuned.

The second bit of good news came from longtime target Wenyen Gabriel (Wilbraham & Monson/Wilbraham, Mass.), who we thought had dropped Maryland a few notches after picking up North Carolina, Duke and Kentucky offers.

Not so fast.

While the bluebloods are on Gabriel’s mind, he’s by no means a lock to wind up with one of them. Gabriel -- who has a top-five favorites list of UMD, Kentucky, Duke, Providence and UConn -- indicated in his latest interview he’s well aware the likes of the Blue Devils and Wildcats could recruit over him in a year, limiting his opportunities to impact the program.

Duke, of course, already has five-star small forward Jayson Tatum (Chaminade/St. Louis, Mo.) on board and five-star forward Harry Giles (Wesleyan Christian/Winston-Salem, N.C.) likely to follow. Undoubtedly, head coach Mike Krzyzewski will continue to pursue Gabriel even after landing the two five-stars, but the Mass Rivals product might see the writing on the wall anyhow.

Meanwhile, Kentucky is Kentucky; the Wildcats will have their pick of the litter and are positioning themselves for several elite talents. So we’re not even positive whether head coach John Calipari’s offer to Gabriel is committable at this point.

If the above holds true in regards to Duke and Kentucky, we think Maryland has a real shot to pry away the 6-10 combo forward. Both Mark Turgeon and assistant Bino Ranson have made deep inroads, visiting Gabriel in New Hampshire; attending multiple games; and staying in consistent contact via text/social media. Their overtures, coupled with the school’s academics and a chance to shine soon after arriving on campus, could be enough to vault UMD to the top.

Let’s see what happens following Gabriel’s upcoming official visits. He’ll be in College Park Sept. 4 for the season’s first football game, Kentucky Sept. 25, and Duke Oct. 16. A decision should be coming shortly thereafter (both UConn and Providence are technically in the race, but are likely running fourth and fifth, respectively).

Want more positive news? The Terps are still in the game for DeAndre Hunter (Friends’ Central/Wynnewood, Pa.) too. Granted, the sense is Hunter’s aware he’s not the No. 1 priority for Turgeon and Co. (he bristled when the Terps offered after dropping out of contact for a few months), which could preclude him from winding up in College Park.

But, at the very least, he’s keeping Maryland under consideration. In fact, Hunter will supposedly be visiting UMD at some point this fall, an indication that Turgeon and recruiter Cliff Warren may be able to regain his ear.

It may or may not be lip service, but Hunter has always spoken highly of the Terps’ program, pointing to a standout initial visit last winter; Maryland’s up-tempo offense; and his rapport with Warren.

Hunter cut down his favorites list from 20 schools to 11 Aug. 16, the Terps expectedly making the cut, along with UVA; Arizona State; UConn; Notre Dame; Villanova; Miami; Alabama; SMU; and Oklahoma State.

But the feeling is UVA, which Hunter recently visited, may have the upper-hand, head coach Tony Bennett’s hard-sell ringing true. Hometown ‘Nova, which Hunter also just checked out, and UConn are firmly in play too.

The Key Stone State recruit is not ready to pop yet, however. We’ll wait until he finalizes official visits before writing him off.

As for the previously mentioned Brachen Hazen, the Terps and recruiter Dustin Clark are maintaining the relationship, with the recruit visiting College Park unofficially Aug. 20. Hazen has been eager to see Maryland firsthand, the initial trip ultimately determining if he wants to return for an official later during the fall.

But, as we mentioned last week, the sense is Hazen might not be as much of a UMD priority with the Terps trending for Josh Jackson; running first or second for Wenyen Gabriel; and in the game for DeAndre Hunter. Turgeon may wait to see what transpires with Gabriel before ratcheting up the pursuit on Hazen.

If the Terps back off some, recent offeree Clemson, which Hazen is visiting Aug. 21, could become the leader. Meanwhile, UCF has Hazen’s attention, with Ball State; Valpo; and St. Joe’s in the running too. Hazen will officially visit UCF and probably Clemson this fall -- an indication he could wind up at either of those two institutions -- while a UMD official could be in the works if all goes well Aug. 20.

One final name to note is someone our Scout analysts broached last week: Vance Jackson (Mater Dei/Santa Ana, Calif.). Recall, the 6-8 Jackson placed Maryland among his top five suitors, joining the likes of USC; Cal; UConn; and Memphis. Jackson noted how UMD was “a basketball school” and “produced pros” as the main reasons he had the Terps under consideration.

But we’ve heard Jackson is ultimately going to wind up at an in-state locale like USC or Cal. Unless he officially visits College Park (no guarantee), Maryland’s inclusion on Jackson’s leaderboard might be mere window dressing.

Note: Also note that class of 2017 small forward Myles Douglas (Paul VI/Fairfax, Va.) was back in College Park yet again Aug. 17. The Maryland offeree continues to talk up the Terps and may be UMD’s to lose. He event hinted it could only be a matter of time before he pops to Mark Turgeon (Douglas suggested April as a possibility).

It remains to be seen how hard Turgeon will push for the local wing (Douglas is a solid player, although not a surefire top-50 prospect), but the staff is showing Douglas the love, ensuring that he’ll be keeping the Terps under prime consideration.

Douglas also holds offers from Miami, Va Tech, Georgia Tech, Temple, West Virginia and Xavier. He was recently at Va Tech and enjoyed his stay, while he's attempting to check out Xavier and Villanova (no offer yet) during the fall. Douglas should be back in College Park multiple times for games this year as well.

You can read more about the Baltimore native HERE.

Anticipating Upcoming SG Officials

There wasn’t too much new to report on Maryland’s main shooting guard targets after last week, although Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa/Clifton Park, N.Y.) did schedule an official visit to Michigan Sept. 12. We previously surmised the Wolverines may be fading from consideration, but evidently Huerter will give Ann Arbor, Mich., a look.

Even so, we’re led to believe Maryland (Sept. 4 official) and Notre Dame (Sept. 25 official) are running one-two in the pecking order, the leader to be determined. The Terps are in a good spot here following Huerter’s initial College Park visit Aug. 2, the program’s academics; early playing time opportunities; renowned weight-training program; offensive system; and title chances ringing true. Now, Turgeon will have another opportunity to win over the New York product, making Maryland the only school to receive two visits.

Huerter’s final official to South Bend, Ind., looms, however, which is why the shooting guard hasn’t been elevated to “hot” on the hot board. Sure, there’s plenty of positive Terps vibes, but we’re leery of Notre Dame and head coach Mike Brey. Huerter had a rather telling comment when I spoke to him, mentioning how UND, “had a lot of guys like me there, so I know I’d fit in well.” Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the statement gave me pause.

Villanova, which will receive Huerter’s first official Aug. 30, is also in the game, but we don’t project him to wind up in Pennsylvania. Expect the New York recruit to choose between UMD, UND or maybe Michigan shortly after his Notre Dame trip.

Meanwhile, with Douglas County (Douglassville, Ga.) shooting guard Brandon Robinson, Terps’ fans know the deal. The 6-5 jack-of-all-trades is down to Maryland, Florida State, UNC and Louisville, with the former two far atop the favorites list.

Robinson, who officially visited U of L earlier this month, is set to see College Park Sept. 12 followed by Tallahassee, Fla., Oct. 10. The feeling is that final jaunt could cement Robinson to FSU -- if he hasn’t already been convinced.

Turgeon and Cliff Warren have done well with Robinson, developing a strong relationship; visiting him in-home; and scouting many of his games. But Florida State has done the same and has seemingly had the Georgian’s eye from the outset.

Maybe the Terps can alter Robinson’s thinking Sept. 12, but most believe he’ll be a Seminole before it’s all said and done.

The hope for Maryland fans is the FSU staff backs off Robinson a bit with four-star shooting guard Trent Forrest (Chipley, Fla.) and point guard C.J. Walker (Arsenal Tech/Indianapolis, Ind.) already in tow. Perhaps, if the ‘Noles don’t roll out the red carpet during Robinson’s official, the Terps can swoop in and land him. (For what it's worth, Robinson is leery of both Louisville and UNC because both entered the fray with late offers and haven't built up a relationship like UMD and FSU).

Finally, there’s Mario Kegler, who is transferring to Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.). At least publically, the elite-shooting guard is keeping Maryland in play. Late last week Kegler’s guardian announced UMD would be the recipient of an official visit, along with Indiana, Arizona State, UConn and possibly Mississippi State. The Mississippi native hasn’t locked down any dates yet, but it may not matter much for Terps’ purposes.

We’ve heard from a number of sources that, for various reasons that have little to due with Turgeon’s recruiting efforts, Kegler will not wind up in College Park. Apparently Kegler has a direct connection to ASU, making the Sun Devils a frontrunner, followed closely by UConn. Indiana, which recently hosted Kegler unofficially, is making a push as well, the Hoosiers possibly sitting third in the pecking order.

We’re keeping Kegler on the hot board in case there’s a turnaround, but we’re not inclined to elevate him above “cool.”

New Power Forward In Play?

In addition to Josh Jackson and Myles Douglas, a Zags Blog report surfaced Aug. 17 that four-star St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) forward Taurean Thompson visited College Park as well. The 6-9, 200-pounder does not hold a Maryland offer, but could be someone Turgeon is monitoring with many of UMD's other big-man targets heading elsewhere.

Thompson was injured during the recent evaluation period, which hurt his recruitment, but word is he's quite a talent. Arizona State, Oklahoma, Pitt, Rice, Rutgers, Temple, Seton Hall, St. Joe's, Xavier and others have thrown their names into the hat, however, with the Sun Devils and Musketeers reportedly resonating. We'll attempt to learn more about the situation later this week.

Off The Board

We removed shooting guard Markelle Fultz (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.) and power forward Sacha Killeya-Jones (Episcopal/Lynchburg, Va.) from the hot board this week. While neither has publically eliminated Maryland from consideration, it’s quite clear they will not be playing their college ball in College Park. Fultz is bound for either Washington, Arizona or Louisville, while Killeya-Jones will likely end up at Kentucky or UNC.

We’ve also written about shooting guard Rawle Alkins (Christ the King/Middle Village, N.Y.) in past editions, but never included him on the hot board. Well, we’re not going to write about him anymore either. There’s been no indication Alkins is showing Maryland any more than cursory interest.

Note: Five-star small forward Mustapha Heron (Sacred Heart/Waterbury, Conn.), who we removed from the hot board several weeks ago, committed to Auburn Aug. 16.

Under Armour Elite 24 Game

Terps fans might want to tune into ESPNU Aug. 22 for this final All-Star AAU event this summer. Many of Maryland’s main 2016 and 2017 targets will be competing, including:

Josh Jackson; Wenyen Gabriel; Mario Kegler; junior point guard Trevon Duval (St. Benedict’s/Newark, N.J.); junior shooting guard Hamidou Diallo (Woodstock, Conn.); junior shooting guard M.J. Walker (Jonesboro, Ga.); junior power forward DeAndre Ayton (Balboa City/San Diego, Calif.); and junior power forward Billy Preston (Prime Prep/Dallas, Texas). In addition, known names like Markelle Fultz, Rawle Alkins and others should be participating.

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