Hardwood Notes: Terps Have The Momentum

After a week’s hiatus, Hardwood Notes returns with some great news for Terps fans. Check out the latest in Maryland hoops recruiting here:

After a week’s hiatus, Hardwood Notes returns with some great news for Terps fans. Check out the latest in Maryland hoops recruiting here:

Closing The Book On Guards

For awhile there, it looked a bit precarious for the Terps and their foremost guard targets. Washington pledge Markelle Fultz (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.) had fallen by the wayside, Rawle Alkins (Christ the King/Middle Village, N.Y.) was a pipe dream, Brandon Robinson (Douglas County/Douglassville, Ga.) seemed destined for Florida State, and Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa/Clifton Park, N.Y.) had a final official visit set for Notre Dame.

But credit head coach Mark Turgeon for closing the deal on the latter recruit. Realizing the sharpshooter Huerter was probably a goner if he took intended trips to Michigan and UND, Maryland’s headman, along with area recruiter Dustin Clark, put on the hard-sell during the recruit’s official visit Sept. 4-5.

Turgeon basically laid out the situation, bluntly letting Huerter know if he walked away sans pop, Robinson could take his spot. Remember, Robinson was supposed to officially visit College Park, Md., Sept. 12, and though thought to be favoring the Seminoles, who’s to say Turgeon couldn’t have changed his mind while on campus?

It’s a chance Huerter wasn’t willing to take. The New York product, along with his father, journeyed down to UMD twice in the last month, the recruit calling the school “everything I was looking for in a program.” Thus, a day after leaving College Park, he ended up committing, becoming the second class of 2016 Terps’ pledge, joining point guard Anthony Cowan (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.).

Huerter especially took to the staff, crediting Clark for his consistent overtures since April, and Turgeon for how he connected with the family. Turgeon visited Huerter in-home back in April, while both the headman and Clark watched him intently during the recent live periods. The coaches then hosted Huerter and his father for an unofficial back in August, which basically won the family over. The official visit only helped solidify their feelings.

Of course, Huerter also liked how he fit into Turgeon’s system, which will give the guard a chance to show off his versatility. Although Huerter’s known as a shooter, he wanted an opportunity to lead the offense; handle the ball; and show off his passing prowess. Apparently Turgeon told Huerter he’ll be able to do just that at Maryland, demonstrating exactly how he’d be used during the official visit.

Moreover, Huerter and his father were highly impressed with strength coach Kyle Tarp. Recall, at one point Huerter, who is only 17, was considering heading to prep school in order to build up his body. But after watching Tarp in action, and seeing the results, Huerter felt he could be ready for Big Ten ball after one offseason.

The Xfinity Center, the school itself, the educational benefits (Huerter is an academic-oriented recruit), and the overall direction of the program all played into Huerter’s decision as well.

You can read more about Huerter HERE and HERE.

So, with Huerter on board, Brandon Robinson is no longer a possibility. Shortly after news hit the Twitter wire Sept. 6, the Georgia guard texted in he wouldn’t be visiting Maryland Sept. 12. He will more than likely end up at Florida State or maybe Georgia Tech or Louisville.

As for the Terps’ class of 2017 targets, it remains to be seen how they view the Huerter commitment -- or if Turgeon continues to pursue in earnest.

Our gut is the Terps will no longer push for junior point guard Quade Green (Goretti/Philadelphia, Pa.), a 6-0 lead guard with an ever-expanding offer list. Green had UMD among his foremost suitors early, but Maryland may not need him with Cowan, Dion Wiley, Jaylen Brantley and now Huerter all locked in the next couple years.

But while Green may be affected, we don’t think Huerter’s commitment changes the status of the Philly product’s We R 1 AAU teammate, Trevon Duval (St. Benedict’s Prep/Newark, N.J.). A five-star talent with programs throughout the country in hot pursuit, Duval probably couldn’t care less who Maryland brings in. Nor do we think Turgeon and recruiter Bino Ranson will halt their pursuit. Fact is, Duval’s a special talent, and you do what it takes to bring him in, regardless of who’s already in tow.

Duval visited College Park a couple weeks back and may have the Terps among his top-five suitors. Syracuse, Villanova, Arizona, Duke and UNC will also be primary contenders.

Besides Duval, we’re keeping a few other 2017 guards on the board as well, namely M.J. Walker (Jonesboro, Ga.), Hamidou Diallo (Woodstock Academy/Woodstock, Conn.) and Lonnie Walker (Reading, Pa.). Each of the trio (all of whom are five-star recruits) have Maryland offers and two (M.J. Walker and Diallo) are Under Armour-affiliated recruits. We’re led to believe the Terps will keep pitching the program to all of them, while they in turn will continue considering UMD. Lonnie Walker has been in College Park before, while M.J. Walker and Diallo are considering visits later during the year.

That said, none are listed above “cool” on the hot board currently. While the Walkers and Diallo have mentioned Maryland in interviews before, they’ve also talked up the bluebloods and numerous other suitors as well. They’re currently open in their recruitments and will go through “the process.”

Those we removed from the hot board altogether were: Myles Cale (Appoquinimick/Middletown, Del.), Luis Hurtado (Sagemont/Weston, Fla.), Devontae Shuler (Irmo/Columbia, S.C.), Blake Harris (Carlisle School/Martinsville, Va.) and Mitchell Ballock (Eudora, Kans.).

Cale had visited UMD and expressed plenty of interest, but the staff chose to wait on offering. We’re not sure they will now with Huerter on board. Harris and Hurtado were two recruits the Terps watched during the evaluation periods, but neither was considered an immediate offer. We don’t believe UMD will remain in contact with them, either.

Shuler and Ballock are probably the most talented of the above group, but neither was projected to UMD anyway. Ballock has Kansas all over him, and Shuler hasn’t talked up Maryland in any interviews.

Small Forwards Coming Up Next

Well, Turgeon pulled off Huerter before he embarked on more official visits. Can the Terps’ coach pull the same trick with forward target Wenyen Gabriel (Wilbraham & Monson/Wilbraham, Mass.), who is set to visit College Park for the first time Sept. 12?

At this point, we’re not ruling anything out.

Gabriel has had naught but praise for Turgeon and recruiter Bino Ranson since they began going after him back in March. The 6-10 combo forward has a deep connection with Ranson, and appreciates how the Terps have made him feel wanted since well before he rose to five-star status. UMD’s academics, the chance to make an early contribution, and Maryland’s rise to national prominence all have Gabriel’s attention as well.

Given the above, coupled with Maryland’s momentum, we like the Terps’ chances. But if Gabriel does not pop Sept. 12, or shortly thereafter, it means Turgeon is going to have to fend off the bluebloods. The New Hampshire native is scheduled to be at Kentucky Sept. 25 and Duke Oct. 16, with the Blue Devils perhaps the greatest threat to UMD.

As I’ve mentioned in previous Hardwood Notes, the hope for Terps’ fans is Gabriel realizes he’ll likely be recruited over at both UK and Duke. The Wildcats landed five-star 2016 forward Sacha Killeya-Jones recently and are on track for more top-15 talents. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils have five-star Jayson Tatum (Chaminade/St. Louis, Mo.) in tow and five-star Harry Giles (Wesleyan Christian/Winston Salem, N.C.) probably on the way.

Meanwhile, the other forward target Maryland’s hot on the trail of, Josh Jackson (Prolific Prep/Napa, Calif.), has gone mum the last couple weeks. At the Under Armour Elite 24 event in late August, Jackson broke down his College Park visit and told our Scout analysts he could “see himself at Maryland.” But since then he hasn’t said much in the way of official visits, timetables, or the like.

We do know, however, that Jackson should eventually be checking out Arizona, Michigan State and Kansas, with a return to College Park also in the works. Of those, the Wildcats and the Terps are thought to be the two frontrunners.

As we’ve written before, we think Turgeon has a very good chance at bringing the nation’s No. 1 recruit in, mainly because of Maryland’s Under Armour connection. Jackson’s 1Nation AAU squad, which is headed by his mother, Apples Jones, exists solely because of UA. And of the programs Jackson is considering, only UMD is Under Armour-affiliated. 

Aside from those two prime targets, Mario Kegler (Oak Hill Academy/Mouth of Wilson, Va.) is technically still on the radar too. Kegler is supposedly setting up officials to Indiana, UConn, Arizona State and Maryland, and will likely choose between that quartet. But from all we’ve heard, the Terps aren’t going to be a major player here -- regardless of whether or not he officially visits College Park.

ASU could be the No. 1, with the Hoosiers and Huskies battling for the second spot. We’ll let you know if the situation changes, but for now Kegler’s not rising above “cool” on the hot board.

Fourth on the list is DeAndre Hunter ((Friends’ Central/Wynnewood, Pa.), who could be a Virginia Cavalier by this weekend. Hunter is officially visiting the ‘Hoos Sept. 12, and we wouldn’t be shocked if he popped while on campus.

The Terps, who have offered, are on Hunter’s leaderboard, but he hasn’t seemed that infatuated with the program since Turgeon and Co. backed off for six months before renewing their interest late. Hunter has yet to return to College Park since an initial visit last year, despite numerous opportunities to do so. His pro-Terps comments during interviews ring of mere lip service.

The tealeaves suggest UVA is the team to beat, followed by Villanova, St. Joe’s and possibly Connecticut.

Next up is Brachen Hazen (Columbia City, Ind.), who checked out College Park unofficially Aug. 20. Hazen has a genuine affinity for Maryland and the staff, but Turgeon probably wouldn’t accept his commitment right now even if the Hoosier State product wanted in. The Terps have too many other highly-rated targets on their board, and the jury is still out on Hazen’s potential.

Unless the likes of Gabriel and Jackson fall by the wayside, UMD will probably let Hazen go to Clemson (he visited there after Maryland), UCF or hometown Ball State.

Finally, we just removed Vance Jackson (Prolific Prep/Napa, Calif.) from the hot board after he Tweeted out he’d be taking three official visits to California, Memphis and UConn. Jackson had expressed some interest in Maryland, to the point where he was considering taking a flight east to College Park, but we never projected Jackson to be a Terp.

Power Forwards/Big Men?

While Wenyen Gabriel is being recruited as a “3,” don’t be surprised if he ends up in a stretch-4/power forward role. Our Scout colleagues, who have watched Gabriel extensively, believe he’s destined for the paint, despite what the Mass Rivals product is being told.

So, with that in mind, Gabriel could potentially fill the Terps’ big-man need -- and preclude them from pursuing someone like Taurean Thompson (Brewster Academy/Wolfeboro, N.H.). Thompson, recall, trekked down to UMD Aug. 16 and came away highly impressed with the program. He was comfortable on campus, believes he’d fit well into Maryland’s system, liked that College Park wasn’t far from home, and enjoyed being around the staff as well.

Thompson and his mother suggested that Turgeon and recruiter Bino Ranson would be keeping in contact, with an offer potentially materializing after further evaluation (Thompson has suffered two major injuries, including a broken rib that knocked him out of the recent evaluation periods). But unless Gabriel falls through, that scholarship probably won’t be presented.

If the Terps do miss on their No. 1 target, however, you could see Turgeon taking a much closer look at the talented but oft-injured Thompson. After all, UMD can’t wait too long to get in the game with Arizona State, Pitt, Temple, Xavier, Rutgers and now Syracuse (no scholarships left) in pursuit. Currently, Xavier (Thompson just officially visited there) could be the front-runner, with RU second in the pecking order.

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