The Terps and head coach Mark Turgeon handed out a pair of local class of 2018 offers Oct. 3, one to point guard Prentiss Hubb (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.) and another to power forward Jalen Smith (Mount St. Joseph/Baltimore, Md.). Both sophomores, who were in College Park, Md., to receive their UMD verbals, have heavy Maryland interest early.
“Prentiss and I actually went up to Maryland together, but we got the offers separately. When I went into Coach Turgeon’s office, I was shocked the whole time through the conversation,” said Smith, a 6-foot-8, 190-pounder with offers from Providence, Miami, South Carolina, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech and now Maryland. “I knew Maryland liked me, but I didn’t think Coach Turgeon would offer me before I played my sophomore season. So I was really happy. It’s my dream school, but now I just have to stay humble.
“Coach Turgeon actually told me to stay humble and always remember that I always wanted to go to Maryland. So when it comes time to commit, make sure Maryland is the place.”
And it very well could be. Smith has said time and again how he was born and raised a Terps’ aficionado, attending multiple games throughout his younger years. Both of his parents attended UMBC, but have always been Maryland fans as well.
“Maryland is a school my parents both love and would love for me to go to, and that goes for me as well,” said Smith, who goes by the nickname 'Sticks.' “Most of my family lives in Maryland and are Terps fans, so it’s a great opportunity for me to play in front of them all.
“My mom and dad were both with me [Oct. 3] too, and they like Coach Turgeon a lot and how he treats his players. They like how I’m one of Coach Turgeon’s top priorities in my class.”
Smith didn’t back down when words like “leaders” and “favorites” were broached either. He acknowledged Maryland sits atop his leaderboard, even though Smith doesn’t graduate for another three years.
“It kind of will be tough to top Maryland,” Smith said. “I grew up in a Maryland Terps household. It’s the school I’ve known my whole life.”
There’s much more to like about the Terps too. Smith has taken notice of some of the local stars who have matriculated to College Park (Anthony Cowan, Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley), while he loves the direction the program’s heading.
“I really like how Maryland is back at the top [of the national polls] and how they have a solid base now,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of depth and a lot of great players being developed. I like how they treat their players and how they push them to be the best they can be. They really help develop you too. Like [power forward] Diamond Stone, the coaches were talking about how when he came in he was a few pounds overweight. But then he dropped like 20 pounds when he got there from working with the strength trainer. And he got way better with his outside game too, so that’s something l like too, how the coaches really push you.”
Smith had already been on campus and toured around three times prior to Oct. 3. But his most recent stay allowed the Mount St. Joe’s forward to take in a team practice, as well as see the Maryland-Michigan football game in Byrd Stadium.
“I already have seen most of Maryland, and it’s a great campus,” Smith said. “This time I just wanted to see the football game and the practice. The practice was cool; it was intense. They all competed and they didn’t show any mercy to each other, even though they’re teammates. I like how Maryland plays.”
After the practice, Smith, along with Hubb, had a chance to speak to Turgeon personally. But while Smith is in the process of developing a rapport with UMD’s headman, he’s known Baltimore-area recruiter Bino Ranson for even longer.
“Coach Bino is always around; we have a real close relationship,” Smith said. “He comes to my practices and games and tells me what I need to work on. He tells me how I have to be a leader and help pick my teammates up when they’re down. He’s a really good guy and he tells it like it is.”
Smith plans to be back at UMD a few more times in the near future, including for Maryland Madness Oct. 16. He’s also looking to check out Kentucky, Arizona and Notre Dame, three more schools showing interest in him.
“There’s a lot of schools coming at me now,” said Smith, who mentioned the aforementioned three, in addition to Wake Forest, Washington and others. “But I’m just staying humble and taking it all in stride.”
Although he’s only a sophomore, Smith’s already laid out the groundwork for the recruiting process. He and his family will embark on a number of visits, fully vetting and analyzing each potential suitor all the way up to Smith’s senior season.
“I’m taking my time. I told my parents even before I started getting offers I wasn’t going to commit until my senior year so I can see all the opportunities I have and just develop as many relationships as I can,” Smith said. “I want to be sure I’m choosing the right school.”