Hardwood Notes: Gearing Up For Officials

The latest in Maryland Terrapins hoops recruiting here:

The latest in Maryland hoops recruiting here:

Terps In The Thick Of Things For Forwards

For the third straight week we’ve heard more and more Terps’ buzz surrounding five-star swingman Josh Jackson (Prolific Prep/Napa, Calif.). The nation’s No. 1 recruit was at the Under Armour Elite 24 Aug. 21-22 , letting our Scout colleagues know that he could “definitely” see himself playing in College Park, Md.

Jackson, who visited UMD in mid-August, talked up the Xfinity Center; head coach Mark Turgeon; and Maryland’s system. Jackson likes how he could come to UMD for a year, play “his game,” and possibly help the Terps to a title.

It only helps Maryland’s chances that Jackson’s an Under Armour prospect, his mother, Apples Jones, the founder of the 1Nation AAU squad. Note that Jackson’s other primary contenders – Arizona (Nike), Michigan State(Nike) and Kansas (Adidas)– are non-UA schools.

In other words, connect the dots.

But we’re not ready to elevate Jackson to “hot” on the hot board just yet. Arizona, another locale Jackson has visited, is a foremost contender despite its Nike affiliation, the Michigan native speaking highly of head coach Sean Miller. Moreover, he’s scheduling officials to MSU and Kansas (he could very well officially visit UMD and Arizona too, but hasn’t set those in stone).

Expect Jackson to drag his recruitment out to the later signing period, meaning there’s bound to be plenty of twists and turns. Stay tuned.

The Terps are making inroads with another small forward target as well. There wasn’t much new to report on Wenyen Gabriel (Wilbraham & Monson/Wilbraham, Mass.) this week, but Turgeon and recruiter Bino Ranson have Maryland at the forefront of the 6-10 combo’s mind.

Duke may currently be leading for Gabriel’s services, but we’ll see what he’s thinking after five-star forward Harry Giles (Wesleyan Christian/Winston Salem, N.C.) joins five-star Jayson Tatum (Chaminade/St. Louis, Mo.) in Mike Kryzyzweski’s 2016 crop.

Gabriel’s a competitor, so the fact a pair of elite forwards are entering the Blue Devils’ class may not have an effect, but the New Hampshire native is also a realist. He may sense there’s more of an opportunity at a school like Maryland than at Duke.

Same goes for Kentucky, another program Gabriel’s heavily considering. The Wildcats just landed power forward Sacha Killeya-Jones and are bound to bring in another top-15 forward as well.

For now, though, it’s all speculation until Gabriel completes his official visits. He’s set to see Maryland Sept. 4, Kentucky Sept. 25 and Duke Oct. 16. UConn and Providence are also in play, but are probably behind the former three in the pecking order.

Meanwhile, we've been listing Mario Kegler (Oak Hill Academy/Mouth of Wilson, Va.) as a shooting guard, but he's really a small forward, his toughness on the wing more suited to the "3" then the "2." Regardless of position, the Terps would love to have him.

Kegler may have Indiana, UConn, Arizona State and Maryland atop his leaderboard. He should be taking officials to Bloomington, Ind., Storrs, Conn., Tempe, Ariz., and College Park before choosing between one of the quartet.

The Sun Devils could have the upper-hand, followed by the Huskies and perhaps the Hoosiers. The Terps remain in the conversation and could make some noise, but our sources have indicated Kegler is unlikely to wind up at UMD.

We’re monitoring the situation, though, because Turgeon is making a considerable run. You never know what can happen after an official visit.

Another small forward of note, Brachen Hazen (Columbia City, Ind.), visited Maryland unofficially Aug. 20. The Hoosier State product, along with his parents, couldn’t say enough about College Park and the staff. Hazen said Turgeon “told me I’m a Big Ten player,” while recruiter Dustin Clark said, “I could really fit well there.” The family spoke to the hospitality the coaches showed them, were impressed by their big-man development, and liked the offensive system as well. The campus, academics and Xfinity Center were also counted as highlights.

But, as we’ve written before, Hazen probably couldn’t commit right now if he wanted to. Turgeon and Clark will continue to stay in touch with him, but even Hazen seemed aware he wasn’t the staff’s No. 1 priority.

Given that, Hazen may eventually opt for Clemson, which he visited Aug. 21, or perhaps hometown Ball State or UCF.

The other two small forwards in play are DeAndre Hunter (Friends’ Central/Wynnewood, Pa.) and Vance Jackson (Prolific Prep/Napa, Calif.).

Hunter has Maryland among his final 11 suitors and could still visit College Park officially (he’s visited once before unofficially) in September or October. He said both Turgeon and recruiter Cliff Warren are in contact, the recruit supposedly heeding their words (lip service?).

But Hunter knows he wasn’t the Terps’ original target prior to their July offer, and he’s aware he’s probably not their No. 1 guy now, either. Which is why we’re projecting Hunter to wind up at UVA (the favorite?), Villanova, St. Joseph’s or maybe UConn. We’ll see if the situation changes following upcoming visits.

Vance Jackson, meanwhile, has expressed some interest in trekking east to College Park, but, until he does, we’re skeptical Maryland will gain much traction. In fact, we don’t sense Turgeon is pursuing in earnest at the moment. Regardless, Cal and USC may be Jackson’s frontrunners, with UConn and Memphis also in the game.

Guards Remain Status Quo

We’re in a holding pattern with Maryland’s two top guard targets until they begin taking officials, with both expected in College Park. Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa/Clifton Park, N.Y.) will be in College Park Sept. 4 and Brandon Robinson (Douglas County/Douglassville, Ga.) should be in town Sept. 12.

Huerter is likely priority No. 1 for Turgeon and Dustin Clark, the two making a potent push for the New York sharpshooter. The Clifton Park four-star was on campus Aug. 2 with his father, and was so impressed with Turgeon and the Maryland program he promptly scheduled an official. We're inclined to believe the Terps might just lead for his services at this time.

But a Notre Dame trip looms Sept. 25, Huerter’s final official before selecting his future destination. The Irish, as we’ve noted for awhile now, may be the team to beat given head coach Mike Brey’s pitch; the Notre Dame system; and the fact Huerter fits well into UND’s culture (as someone on the message board noted, Clifton Park is much more similar to South Bend, Ind., than it is to College Park).

Huerter will also officially visit Michigan Sept. 12, but the Wolverines may be third in the pecking order.

As for Robinson, he just recently cut down his favorites list and has FSU, Maryland, Louisville, Georgia Tech and Georgia in play. We’ve surmised this is a Seminoles-Terps battle, although our Scout colleagues believe the Jackets and Bulldogs have a shot as well.

Either way, Florida State will be tough to top – even with two other highly-rated guards already in the 2016 crop (Trent Forrest and C.J. Walker). Robinson may be taking his final official to Tallahassee, Fla., Oct, 10, and that final foray could push the ‘Noles over the top.

Maryland’s best shot at pulling Robinson may be to secure a pop shortly after his Terps’ official in September.

Notes: Elite five-star class of 2017 point guard Trevon Duval (St. Benedict's/Newark, N.J.) visited Maryland for the second time Aug. 25. Duval has had Terps' interest for quite awhile, speaking highly of the program when he visited last winter for a game at Xfinity Center. He plays for Delaware-based AAU squad We R 1, which routinely brings its recruits (including Terps' point guard target Quade Green from Goretti in Philadelphia, Pa.) over to College Park. Thus, we expect Duval and Co. to return to Maryland yet again this winter.

We attempted to contact Duval following his Aug. 25 trip, and he responded with a late-night text that read, "The visit went very well. Maryland is a great program, has great coaches and is a great school." We'll try to learn more about his most recent foray in the coming days, but at least the text sounded encouraging.

We do know from speaking to Duval previously he has UMD among his top contenders, along with Kansas, Louisville, Villanova, Syracuse (he's seen the Orange several times too) and Duke. It's very early in the process for him, but Turgeon has Maryland in good shape.

On another note, four-star wing/guard M.J. Walker (Jonesboro, Ga.) updated his status this week, listing Maryland as one of the schools recruiting him the hardest. “I like Coach (Mark) Turgeon. He tells me about what he thinks I can improve on. Some coaches they just tell you what you want to hear, but Coach Turge broke it down to me, and told me what I can get better at and I liked that a lot,” Walker said.

That said, Walker (who is still considering playing football in college), also mentioned that Florida is on him heavy, while FSU; Northwestern; and others are involved too. Needless to say, there’s a ways to go before this recruitment is completed.

Power Forward/Center Notes

Last week we mentioned Taurean Thompson (Brewster Academy/Wolfeboro, N.H.) as someone the Terps would be monitoring in the months ahead. Well, turns out the 6-10, 205-pound four-star ended up visiting College Park Aug. 16 at the behest of UMD-area recruiter Dustin Clark.

The oft-injured Thompson, who missed the latest evaluation periods with a broken rib, didn’t emerge with a coveted Terps’ offer, but it does seem like Mark Turgeon is intrigued. Fact is, many of Maryland’s 2016 power forward/center targets haven’t panned out, and the Terps would like to add one if possible.

Now, Thompson was apparently told he could become Turgeon’s foremost “4” target, but we’re not so sure that’s the case just yet. A couple of our Scout colleagues, who have seen Wenyen Gabriel play, believe the Mass Rivals recruit will eventually become a power forward. If true, Turgeon will probably wait to see what transpires with the Massachusetts product before moving on someone like Thompson.

Of course, the Terps’ headman might not have the luxury of waiting too long. Thompson may have Xavier atop his current leaderboard and could pop to the Musketeers following an official visit. Hometown Rutgers, a school Thompson has seen multiple times and is quite familiar with, is also firmly in play. It’s also conceivable SMU or Temple could make a run.

If the Terps do enter the fray in time, however, they would probably have a legitimate shot at pulling the New York prospect in. Thompson and his mother thoroughly enjoyed their stay in College Park, lauding the staff; the latter’s development of bigs; the direction of the program; the campus and more.

We’ll know more down the road, after Thompson’s been further evaluated.

Note: Class of 2017 power forward Billy Preston visited College Park for the first time last week. Afterwards, his mother said the visit “opened [Preston’s] eyes” to Maryland. The 6-9, 220-pound five-star recruit immediately took to Turgeon and assistant Dustin Clark, relating how the Terps are on the rise; have produced numerous quality big men; graduate their players; and more. Preston’s mother also said they loved the Xfinity Center and would be returning for a game this winter.

It’s early in Preston’s recruitment, and his profile is bound to continue growing (he already holds offers from Arizona, USC, UConn, ASU, Oregon, Baylor and SMU), but the Terps are in a good spot here. Preston’s an Under Armour recruit, he clearly liked the program and what it’s about, and, according to his mom, he’s eager to come back.

Two Terps Targets Head Elsewhere

We removed both Markelle Fultz (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.) and Sacha Killeya-Jones (Episcopal/Lynchburg, Va.) from the hot board last week, and a few days after doing so both ended up popping. But not to Maryland. As expected, the shooting guard Fultz chose Washington, while the power forward Killeya-Jones picked Kentucky.

Moving on.

In Conclusion…

If Mark Turgeon had his way given the current state of affairs, we believe his 2016 class would consist of: Anthony Cowan (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.), Kevin Huerter, Josh Jackson and Wenyen Gabriel. Which is certainly a realistic scenario if the pieces fall into place (i.e. Gabriel sees through the bluebloods; Huerter spurns the Irish; Jackson follows up on the Under Armour connection).

But if, say, Huerter doesn’t want in, Turgeon would surely take Brandon Robinson, another surefire impact guard.

A problem arises if the main forwards, Josh Jackson and Wenyen Gabriel, opt for elsewhere. Given what we know about their situations, DeAndre Hunter, Vance Jackson and probably Mario Kegler aren’t likely to wind up in College Park, regardless of the Terps’ intentions. And while Turgeon could probably land Brachen Hazen if he pushes, there’s a talent gap between the above recruits and the Indiana product.

As for Taurean Thompson, the jury is out until Maryland chooses whether or not to make a move.

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