Hardwood Notes: Terps Resonating

Another week, another official visitor, another Maryland hoops recruiting update . . .

Another week, another official visitor, another Maryland hoops recruiting update . . .

Gabriel & The Forwards

With Maryland filling out its class of 2016 backcourt with Anthony Cowan (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.) and Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa/Clifton Park, N.Y.), Terps’ head coach Mark Turgeon’s attention turned to the frontcourt last weekend. UMD played host to five-star combo forward Wenyen Gabriel (Wilbraham & Monson/Wilbraham, Mass.) Sept. 11-13, the first of the 6-foot-10, 205-pounder’s official visits.

Gabriel only briefly responded to inquiries regarding his College Park, Md., foray, mentioning he had an “awesome” visit and “loved” what he saw during his initial jaunt. The New Hampshire native said Turgeon, area recruiter Bino Ranson and the rest of the staff left a distinct impression, while he readily connected with the team, namely host Melo Trimble. But Gabriel, for whatever reason (too many media members contacting him? too busy at school? too much to think about), didn’t delve further into the trip, preferring to wait a week before breaking it down.

That said, Gabriel’s coaches said UMD remains a foremost contender, hinting the Terps are atop his leaderboard. His coach let on Gabriel senses there’s a terrific opportunity to contribute early and often at Maryland, not to mention grow as a person/player. Once again, Kyle Tarp came up in conversation, Maryland’s strength trainer resonating with a recruit (remember, Tarp’s workout methods were a primary factor in Kevin Huerter committing to UMD).

Our gut? Well, we’re keeping Gabriel “hot” on the hot board, if that’s any indication. But it seems like the Terps will at least have to weather the bluebloods before they can secure the five-star. Gabriel is on track to officially visit Kentucky Sept. 25 and Duke Oct. 16, while he’s apparently trekking to Connecticut Oct. 2 per a Twitter report.

Now, according to our Duke sources, head coach Mike Krzyzewski may not be making as potent of a push as orginially believed, despite going in-home with Gabriel last week. The feeling is the Blue Devils have their guys (Jayson Tatum and likely Harry Hiles) and are content with those two five-star forwards. 

Kentucky may still be lingering around, but the Wildcats too have a pair of highly-rated forward on board in Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard. It's questionable whether head coach John Calipari will pursue in earnest either.

The final major target on Maryland’s radar, small forward Josh Jackson (Prolific Prep/Napa, Calif.), has been eerily quiet of late. The 6-7, 185-pound five star was supposed to visit Michigan State last weekend, but chose not to do so. Jackson is expected to check out East Lansing, Mich., at some point this fall, but hasn’t given any definitive word on when that might be.

Which is basically the case across the board right now. As far as we know, Jackson still wants to officially visit Maryland, MSU, Kansas and Arizona, but has yet to nail down any definitive dates.

Granted, he could be close to scheduling his Jayhawks trip considering KU head coach Bill Self just went in-home with him Sept. 13. We’re not sure at this point whether the Jayhawks can leapfrog Maryland and Arizona in the pecking order, but Self’s an outstanding recruiter and reportedly left quite an impression on Jackson and his mother.

Turgeon, Wildcats’ headman Sean Miller and Spartans’ head coach Tom Izzo should  be stopping by the Jackson household as well (if they haven’t already). Regardless, it’ll be difficult to gauge exactly where the Detroit native stands until he begins journeying out and offering something more definitive beyond vague innuendos courtesy of his “people.”

We continue to like the Terps’ chances with the 1Nation Under Armour recruit, however. Turgeon has the ear of both Jackson and his mother, while the UA connection remains a major trump card that could give UMD an advantage over KU (Adidas), MSU (Nike) and Arizona (Nike).

While Jackson’s seemingly in a holding pattern, the third forward on Maryland’s radar just announced his upcoming official visits. Mario Kegler (Oak Hill/Mouth of Wilson, Va.) will be at Arizona State Sept. 18, Penn State Sept. 25, UMD Oct. 15 and Indiana Oct. 23.

Three of the above trips were expected, while the PSU jaunt is a bit of a surprise. Kegler hadn’t been linked to the Nittany Lions previously; the main four suitors figured to be the Sun Devils, Terps, Hoosiers and the UConn Huskies. But perhaps Kegler isn’t as interested in Connecticut (or vice versa) with the Huskies already having two class of 2016 forwards in tow.

Either way, Kegler’s top two contenders figure to be Arizona State (the presumed favorite) and Indiana. It should be noted, however, that Turgeon and Co. are making a push, the headman and recruiter Dustin Clark visiting Kegler in-home back in August. Maybe the Terps can stem the tide and turn the Mississippi native’s attention (and that of his handlers) following his College Park official.

But, from all we’ve been hearing, it’s going to be tough to top the Sun Devils for various reasons (for one, Kegler's an Adidas kid and ASU is an Adidas school). We’ll continue to monitor the situation, while keeping Kegler “cool” on the hot board for now.

Finally, there’s Brachen Hazen (Columbia City, Ind.), the Indiana product with a Terps’ offer that’s probably not committable at this time. Hazen took a visit to UCF recently and reportedly has the Knights under prime consideration. In fact, they could very well be the team to beat, followed by Clemson, a school Hazen checked out in late August.

Hazen still would like to take officials to UCF, Clemson and UMD, but we’re not so sure he’ll follow through with a return visit to College Park (he was last at Maryland Aug. 20). The Columbia City prospect is a smart kid, and he realizes he’s not No. 1 on the Terps’ board. So unless Turgeon ramps up the pursuit, Hazen might just focus on his two most ardent pursuers, UCF and CU (hometown Ball State is also in play).

Note: Small forward DeAndre Hunter (Friends' Central/Philadelphia, Pa.) came off the hot board Sept. 12 when he committed to Virginia while on his Wahoos' official visit. It was an expected development as Hunter practically declared UVA the team to beat after his initial foray through Charlottesville, Va., in early August. The Terps were on Hunter's leaderboard, but he elected not to check out College Park and never offered up more than lip service. Villanova finished second in the running

The Word On Taurean Thompson

The Terps haven’t offered the power forward Taurean Thompson (Brewster Academy/Wolfeboro, N.H.) yet, and, as we suggested last week, they're probably too late to enter the mix now. Syracuse evidently found another 2016 scholarship and now could be in position to land the 6-10, 205-pounder. Thompson will visit the Orange officially Sept. 25, and our ‘Cuse colleagues hinted a pop could materialize while on campus.

Xavier, which Thompson officially visited earlier, is also heavily involved. Before the Orange anted up, the Musketeers were the clear frontrunner.

Another program to watch out for is SMU after head coach Larry Brown stopped by the Thompson household Sept. 13. Thompson is considering visiting the Mustangs, but hasn’t scheduled a trip to this point.

Given these recent developments, we don’t see Maryland making much of a push. We chose to remove him from the hot board.

So, beyond possibly Wenyon Gabriel (more of a stretch-4 than a true interior guy), there's really no other potential paint presence on the Terps' radar. At least, none we've heard of to this point. Unless someone emerges late, Turgeon may be content to concentrate his efforts on the talent-laded 2017 class, with power forward Billy Preston (Advanced Prep/Dallas, Texas) -- an Under Armour recruit whose visited UMD and has high interest in the program -- headlining the frontcourt crop.

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