Maryland’s hoops staff has been racking up the frequent flyer miles of late, traveling around the country in search of the next primetime recruits. In late September, head coach Mark Turgeon and assistant Dustin Clark made their way down to ACC Country, stopping by Legacy Charter School (Greenville, S.C.) to scout an emerging power forward they caught wind of during the July evaluation period.
“Coach Turgeon and Coach Clark had heard about Nicolas, but they hadn’t seen him play,” said Charles Claxton, father of class of 2017 forward Nicolas Claxton, a 6-foot-9, 185-pounder with several Division I offers. “But then [Turgeon and Clark] came down to the school to see Nicolas in an open gym. They put a call into my wife and myself, letting us know they went to watch practice and liked what they saw. Then [on Oct. 2] I got a personal call from Coach Turgeon, who was in Charlotte for a camp at the time, and he said he wanted to offer Nicolas a scholarship. He said [Nicolas] was his type of player. So that’s where we are; we’re excited about Maryland.”
The UMD verbals was Claxton’s eighth to date – and arguably his most significant. He previously held verbals from Wake Forest, Temple, Southern California, Baylor, Florida State, Murray State and New Orleans.
“Nicolas, he was very happy and excited when Maryland offered,” said Charles Claxton, a former University of Georgia star who played parts of three seasons in the NBA before embarking on a career overseas. “Of course he follows basketball, so he knows Maryland is a good school and at the top of the rankings this year. He’s seen them play and knows they’re a great program. But he also knows it’s a process, and Maryland wasn’t his first offer. So now we’ll sit down after this season and evaluate all of the offers he has and see where we’re at. Maryland is definitely near the top of the list -- he likes them a lot -- but we can’t say it’s at the top yet because, quite honestly, no one is at the top. It’s still very early and Nicolas is just a junior.”
Even so, the Terps have already left quite an impression on the Claxtons. Charles Claxton said both Turgeon and Clark took an entire hour out of their busy schedules to meet the family at Legacy Charter and explain what Maryland and College Park, Md., had to offer.
“I could tell they were very knowledgeable coaches who did their research, and are very knowledgeable about the game of basketball,” Claxton said. “When my wife and I spoke to them at the school, it was almost like we’d known them for a long time. They made us feel very comfortable, they told us all about the school, the system they run, how Nicolas would fit there, and what they expect there. My wife and I left feeling very comfortable with them as people and the kind of program they have.”
While Nicolas Claxton and his family are intrigued early, Charles Claxton admitted the family remains in the “research phase.” They’re aware Maryland has very good academics, which are of paramount importance, and they’ve heard Turgeon’s pitch, but now they want to see the school first-hand. Moreover, they’ll be paying closer attention to UMD on the Big Ten Network, verifying what Turgeon and Clark imparted about the Terps’ system.
“We’ll sit down and watch them very carefully to see what kind of a fit [the system] is,” Charles Claxton said. “Like I was telling Coach Turgeon, Nicolas can play the ‘3,’ but [Turgeon] was like, ‘Let me be the judge of that.’ And then he came back and said, ‘Yes, Nicolas can play the ‘3,’’ and he assured us that he’d be given the opportunity do that at Maryland. Nicolas can play the ‘3,’ the ‘4’ and the ‘5,’ so now we want to follow up and see what Turgeon’s system is like and how his more versatile players are used.”
In regards to a possible visit date, Charles Claxton said the family will definitely be stopping by College Park at some point. More than likely it will be after Nicolas Claxton’s junior campaign, but there’s a chance the family could stop by during the fall.
“Nicolas’ team plays in a tournament in Baltimore this year, so when we’re up there we might head over to Maryland to check out the campus,” said Charles Claxton, who noted his son has yet to take any college trips yet. “We’re planning on stopping by for an unofficial and really getting a better look at the school since it’s a program Nicolas is very interested in.”
Nicolas Claxton, who currently suits up for SC Raptors Elite, an Under Armour-based AAU squad, is beginning to come into his own as a player, according to his father. He mainly operates as a power forward at Legacy Charter, but can play a variety of different spots during AAU ball.
“Nicolas is a basketball player; you can’t really put a number on him like a ‘4’ or a ‘5,’” Charles Claxton said. “He’s about 6-9, 185-pounds, and I don’t think he’s finished growing. They tell me he has a few inches left and is going to be taller than me, but I don’t think that’s going to happen (laughs).
“But Nicolas needs to get stronger. He’s only 16, so the strength will come, but that’s one area he needs to work on. As a former player, though, I believe he needs to work on everything. But he does use both hands well, he handles the ball well, he makes sound decision in the open court, he can score from three-point range, and he can score inside. And he can defend, rebound and block shots. In a way, he reminds me of Shane Battier – he can do a little of everything.”