Hardwood Notes: Gabriel Gone, New Offers, Madness Visitors

Here’s the latest in regards to Maryland hoops recruiting:

UPDATED Oct. 1 AT 12 p.m.

In a rather surprising move, senior forward Wenyen Gabriel (Wilbraham & Monson/Wilbraham, Mass.) decided to end his recruitment before taking his final three official visits to Uconn, Providence and Duke. Instead, he committed to Kentucky, the school he trekked to Sept. 25. Wildcats head coach John Calipari thoroughly impressed Gabriel during an in-home visit in late September, while the official visit hit home as well (Gabriel fell in love with the tradition and how Calipari develops players, plus he believes he'll have an opportunity to earn playing time despite the Wildcats having multiple forwards in tow).

The Terps finished second in the running, head coach Mark Turgeon and recruiter Bino Ranson putting forth their best effort to secure the 6-10 wing. Ranson has known Gabriel since his sophomore year, and Maryland was one of the first high-majors to offer him (Uconn and Providence were in early as well). Moreover, Gabriel loved his official visit to Maryland Sept. 10 and came away raving about the staff; Turgeon's system; the campus; and how the Terps have become a prominent national program. But when Gabriel left College Park, Md., without committing, it opened the door for the bluebloods to pounce. 

So with Gabriel off the board, look for the Terps to turn to four-star small forward Mario Kegler (Oak Hill/Mouth of Wilson, Va.), who is coming in for an official Oct. 16. We detail his situation below, although you can be assured Maryland will turn up the heat with Gabriel off the board. It may be difficult to top Indiana and Arizona State for Kegler's services, but we're not counting Turgeon out once Kegler gets on campus.

Another option is potentially Thik Bol, a JUCO "4" man Turgeon went out to see recenty at Iowa Western (Council Bluffs, Ia.). His situation is also detailed below.

But, honestly, if Kegler falls through, the Terps may opt to hold the scholarship and use it in the 2017 class. Maryland is in position with several intriguing wings and forwards, including Billy Preston (Advanced Prep/Dallas, Texas), Jaren Jackson (Park Tudor/Indianapolis, Ind.), Kris Wilkes (North Central/Indianapolis, Ind.), Jordan Tucker (White Plains, N.Y.), D'Andre Ayton (Balboa City/San Diego, Calif.) and others. Tucker, who we discuss below, is coming in for Maryland Madness, while Preston recently visited College Park.

What’s Up With Wenyen?

There’s been a flurry of actual news, opinions and innuendos floating around in regards to senior forward Wenyen Gabriel (Wilbraham & Monson/Wilbraham, Mass.) and his possible college destination. By now it’s fairly clear the 6-foot-10 wing is down to Maryland, Duke and Kentucky, but where each sits in the pecking order is a difficult call considering all the different sources we’re hearing from. Gabriel himself is playing this very close to the vest,  so it’s not an easy read at this point.

Here are the facts:

1.     Gabriel has now taken two official visits, first to Maryland Sept. 10 and then to Kentucky Sept. 25.

2.     Gabriel is set to officially visit UConn Oct. 2, Providence Oct. 9 and Duke Oct. 16 (the Blue Devils’ Midnight Madness event).

3.     The Mass Rivals product will take all five officials and then likely choose his college destination in November.

4.     Gabriel has hosted the head coaches of each of his five primary contenders, all of which left a favorable impression.

Here are the opinions from sources:

1.     Gabriel was smitten when Wildcats headman John Calipari and Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski came through to see him. He didn’t commit, obviously, but their messages stayed with him.

2.     Gabriel realizes there’s a possibility he could be recruited over at both Kentucky and Duke, but he’s competitive enough, and believes enough in his talent, to the point where he’s confident he’ll see the floor.

3.     Duke’s addition of senior power forward Javin DeLaurier (St. Anne’s-Belfield/Charlottesville, Va.), giving the Blue Devils two forward commits (Jayson Tatum is the other), would seem to knock the Durham, N.C., school down a peg. Furthermore, Duke is still after 4-man Harry Giles (Oak Hill/Mouth of Wilson, Va.), who is officially visiting Durham Oct. 30. But, again, Gabriel personally may not be worried about the incoming competition. Plus he’s heeding Krzyzewski’s words that he’ll be given an opportunity to shine, regardless of the other forwards in tow. (If Giles picks Duke before Gabriel decides, however, the Blue Devils will likely end their pursuit of the New Hampshire native).

4.     The Duke situation is similar to Kentucky’s, which has a pair of 2016 forwards in Sacha Killeya-Jones (Episcopal/Lynchburg, Va.) and Tai Wynyard (Rangitoto College/New Zealand). Calipari, though, has assured Gabriel he’ll have a chance to contribute right away, provided he earns it.

5.     Maryland remains firmly in play thanks to the work recruiter Bino Ranson and Turgeon have put in. Gabriel knows he’d have an opportunity to shine in College Park, Md., plus he loved Terps’ strength coach Kyle Tarp and his ability to prepare incoming recruits.

6.     More than one source told us the Terps are still in solid position to land Gabriel, but also mentioned that, “you can never count out Duke and Kentucky on the recruiting trail.”

So, what are we to make of all that? Well, it certainly makes us a little less confident heading into Gabriel’s final official visits. At the same time, we probably won’t know definitively which direction the forward is leaning until after that Duke trip.

In the meantime, we’ll continue digging and analyzing this recruitment.

New 2016 Target?

If Maryland misses on Wenyen Gabriel, it’s possible they could extend an offer to defensive stalwart Thik Bol, a class of 2016 junior college power forward from Iowa Western (Council Bluffs, Ia.). The 6-7 Bol has offers from Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Murray State, Arkansas State and other mid-majors, but Terps’ head coach Mark Turgeon was out to see him just recently. Coaches from Wichita State (the Shockers offered) and Nebraska have also checked in on the emerging big man.

Bol is extremely raw offensively, but he attacks the defensive glass and can block shots with the best of them (at least, at the JUCO level). It’s possible his paint presence alone could attract several high-major programs who are seeking a “4” or “5” to fill out their respective 2016 classes.

Bol is in the process of scheduling visits and has taken one official to Murray State. If UMD antes up, we’d expect him to give College Park a long look. According to his assistant coach, Bol was excited when the Terps came to see him and would be eager to check out the school.

Stay tuned.

Mining The Hoosier State

Maryland assistant Cliff Warren and Turgeon made their way to Indiana in mid-September, and ended up offering a pair of national talents after returning to College Park. Junior five-star wing Kris Wilkes (North Central/Indianapolis, Ind.) and junior four-star power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (Park Tudor/Indianapolis, Ind.) are now firmly on the Terps’ radar, and while neither figures to be an easy pull, it does seem like Maryland will be in the game for each.

Jackson Jr., the son of former NBA forward and Georgetown star Jaren Jackson Sr., may be the more realistic of the two recent offerees. The 6-9, 215-pounder is originally from the Silver Spring, Md., area and only moved to Indianapolis three years ago due to his mother’s job. Jackson Jr. grew up watching UMD (as well as Georgetown) and already knew plenty about the Maryland program before Turgeon offered.

Jackson Jr., who readily took to Turgeon and Warren after meeting them earlier in September, is intrigued by UMD’s up-tempo style; its location in the D.C.-metro area; and how the program’s returned to national prominence. The fact UMD brought in five-star talent Diamond Stone and has Melo Trimble running the point resonated with Jackson Jr. as well.

Expect both Jackson Jr. and Jackson Sr. to visit College Park during the fall before taking in an Xfinity Center game during the winter. If they follow through with both trips, it’s a clear indication Maryland is truly a prime player in this recruitment.

That said, Georgetown should be considered the favorite initially. Although the Hoyas’ style doesn’t exactly fit Jackson Jr. per se, fact is it’s Jackson Sr.’s alma mater and he has a close connection with head coach John Thompson III.

Butler, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Purdue and Xavier are also in play. The Jacksons have visited all of those schools, in addition to Georgetown, and had positive comments regarding each.

It’s also worth noting that Jackson Jr. plays for Indiana Elite, an Adidas AAU program.

You can read more about Jaren Jackson Jr. HERE.

As for Wilkes, the 6-8, 190-pounder is going to be difficult to pry out of the Hoosier State. Based on conversations with those who know him well, it would be surprising if he ended up more than 3-4 hours away from home, making IU; Butler; Purdue; Illinois and Xavier possible destinations. From what we’ve heard, though, Butler, Purdue, Illinois and Xavier are the current “players,” while Kentucky; Ohio State; Michigan; Stanford; and Duke would become serious contenders should any of those mainstays ante up. (Wilkes will apparently be taking an official visit to Cornell, but it would be a shocker if ended up there).

But it does sound like the Terps will at least have a chance to host Wilkes and his father. The pair are in the process of planning a College Park trip, perhaps in late May. Moreover, Wilkes’ father was adamant about finding a great engineering school, and kept harping on Maryland’s strong program.

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.”

The more cynical among us may roll their eyes at those comments -- and maybe they’re correct. But at least it’s a selling point working in Maryland’s favor.

Other factors that may ultimately help the Terps include their rise in the national polls, Turgeon’s ability to recruit elite talents, and the up-tempo style. Wilkes also was very impressed with Turgeon and Warren as recruiters, Greg Wilkes noting the character/personalities of each.

And it can’t hurt that Wilkes’ AAU program, Indy Hoosiers, is Under Armour-affiliated.

You can read more about Wilkes HERE.

The Maryland Madness Event

The Terps will host their annual Madness event Oct. 16, and there are bound to be more than a couple “name” recruits in attendance. We’re in the process of identifying who will be coming in, but already a few prospects have indicated they’ll be in College Park:

1.     Mario Kegler, SF, Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.): One of Maryland’s top two forward targets, along with Wenyen Gabriel, will be taking his official visit during Madness weekend. Kegler reportedly has the Terps under heavy consideration, although we still believe Arizona State, which he trekked to Sept. 18, has the inside track. Kegler did not take an official to Penn State Sept. 25 (he cancelled the trip), but will head to Indiana Oct. 23, with the Hoosiers perhaps primed to supplant the Sun Devils. Turgeon, who went in-home with Kegler earlier this month, is going all-out for the small forward, however, so we’re not about to count UMD out.

2.     Jordan Tucker, SF, White Plains (N.Y.) (2017): The four-star junior has talked up the Terps in the past, and the fact he’ll be visiting UMD lends credence to his previous comments. Both Turgeon and area recruiter Dustin Clark have done well with Tucker and could very well work the Terps up his leaderboard. But in-state Syracuse has Tucker’s ear, while UConn and Indiana are firmly involved as well.

3.     Myles Douglas, SF, Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) (2017): This three-star local Terps’ offeree has Maryland out in front and could be UMD’s to lose. But, as readers know by now, it’s questionable whether Turgeon would accept a Douglas commitment at this stage, especially with the Terps in the running for several elite 2017 forwards. Douglas also has Miami, Va Tech, WVU, Temple and Xavier in play.

4.     Jalen Smith, PF, Mount St. Joseph (Baltimore, Md.) (2018): The Terps will surely offer the local star Smith, who has Maryland atop his early favorites list. Like Douglas, Smith seems to be Turgeon’s to lose right now. Smith, who has visited College Park multiple times, loves the idea of playing for his hometown school and has readily taken to the staff.

5.     Prentiss Hubb, SG, Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) (2018): Another sophomore DMV recruit the Terps are keeping close tabs on. It’s possible Hubb could receive his Maryland offer at some point in the new few months. If Turgeon decides to pursue in earnest, UMD would immediately become the frontrunner. Hubb, like Smith, has been a semi-regular in College Park and is a noted Maryland fan (he’s also friends with Maryland pledge Anthony Cowan). Xavier, NC State and Cincinnati are involved early.

6.     Zach Kent, C, St. Andrew’s (Middletown, Del.) (2017): The 7-footer Kent has much to prove from a developmental standpoint, but the Terps remain in touch. And the interest is reciprocal, Kent (who has been on campus for games) offering up loads of pro-UMD comments. The jury is out how hard Turgeon and Co. will pursue, however.

7.     Anthony Cowan, PG, St. John’s (Washington, D.C.): Committed to Maryland.

8. Kevin Huerter, SG, Shenendehowa (Clifton Park, N.Y.): Committed to Maryland.

Note: There will be other notable DMV recruits in attendance (Chris Lykes, Aaron Thompson, etc.), but the Terps are not involved with them at this time. The only locals we’ve heard who UMD has genuine interest in, to this point, are Myles Douglas, Jalen Smith and Prentiss Hubb.

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