Head coach Mark Turgeon and the Maryland staff are mining the country for elite talents, and in mid-September the headman and assistant Cliff Warren trekked out to hoops hotbed Indiana. A week or so later, Turgeon extended an offer to one of the area’s elite class of 2017 recruits, five-star wing Kris Wilkes (North Central/Indianapolis, Ind.).
“What happened was the head coach had actually seen Kris play over the summer [with AAU team Indy Hoosiers], and he liked what he saw then,” said Wilkes’ father, Greg Wilkes. “Then Coach Warren came out a couple weeks ago and he liked what he saw too. After that, we got the call from Turgeon about the offer. I know Kris was very excited about it, and he’s looking forward to staying in touch with [the Terps].”
Greg Wilkes said it hit home that Turgeon himself personally visited Indiana a couple times. That prompted the two to begin doing their research on the Terps’ program.
“We honestly didn’t know a lot at first; we had no idea they were ranked so high this year and how well they had done recently,” Greg Wilkes said. “But what we found out is they’re really moving to the top of college basketball and continue to add key pieces to their roster. It’s a very good situation at Maryland right now, and we’re going to be watching them a lot to see how they do this year. We already really like the coach and how they play.”
In particular, Maryland’s up-tempo style, centered around its guard play. Although Wilkes is 6-feet-8, 190-pounds, he projects as a perimeter wing, who loves to run and gun.
“From what we’ve seen, it looks like a very good fit. It’s the type of style Kris likes to play,” Greg Wilkes said. “We’re looking forward to getting out there for a visit to find out more. We’ll probably see [Maryland] right before school lets out in the spring, around late May. It should be a great trip; I know Kris wants to see the school.”
While Kris Wilkes is certainly taking into account a program’s style, system, coaching and the like, there’s one key factor here that doesn’t always crop up for elite hoops recruits. And it’s a factor that just might help Maryland’s chances.
“The thing about Maryland is we found out they have a very good engineering program, which is a main interest for Kris,” Greg Wilkes said. “If a school does not have a good engineering program, he’s not going to look at them. It’s a priority; a lot of it is going to be about the school’s academics and its engineering school. He’ll look at that first and then go from there.
“A lot of people will talk about the one-and-done thing and not worry so much about academics, but that’s not Kris. He’s all for getting a great education. He’s focused on finding a school where, if the NBA doesn’t work out, he’s going to get a great degree. He’s looking for a school that he could see himself being at for four years, getting a degree and graduating. If [the NBA] calls, so be it, but he wants that assurance of being at a great school. He has a 3.5 GPA now, and that’s just as important to him as basketball.”
Maryland is hardly the only school with such a program, however. Nor is it the only school in hot pursuit. The five-star Wilkes already held initial verbals from Indiana, Butler, Kansas, Illinois, Purdue, UCLA, Vandy, Cornell and Xavier.
“Obviously he likes the Indiana schools, IU and Purdue. He’s been to IU several times; they offered him in eighth grade and have been recruiting him for a good while,” Greg Wilkes said. “We’ve been to Xavier a couple times, and that was good. We’ve been to Vanderbilt, and our Illinois visit was very interesting. Butler was a great trip too, and that’s a school we’ll be looking at.”
Greg Wilkes said he and his son don’t have any trips scheduled in the near future, but they’re actually taking an official visit to Cornell in early May. After that, they’re looking to hit Maryland, Kansas, Michigan and Georgetown, all unofficially.
“Some people may ask why we’d be taking one of five officials to Cornell,” Greg Wilkes said. “But Cornell has a terrific engineering program, and it’s an Ivy school, and plus it’s not easy to get to. It’s a school that has a lot of interest to Kris.
“But we like pretty much all the schools that have offered so far. We’re going to take our time and go out and see some of these programs.”
When the Wilkeses make their way to College Park, Md., Greg Wilkes said they want to get a better feel for the campus, the staff’s style and learn more about the school in general.
“Do the coaches have a good rapport with the athletes? Is it in a great location? Is Kris going to be comfortable there? How does Kris fit in with the other players? What exactly does the engineering program offer? Those are some of the questions we’ll be asking,” Greg Wilkes said. “Mostly, he’s looking for a place that’s going to help him mature as a man, a student and an athlete.”