The Terps played host to a pair of primetime official visitors Oct. 16-18, Denmark power forward/center Jacob Larsen trekking through College Park, Md., on his initial foray through the United States, and four-star wing Mario Kegler, a Mississippi native currently enrolled at the renowned Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.).
Information is still trickling in in regards to the 6-foot-10 Larsen, but the 6-7, 225-pound Kegler is in the home stretch of his recruitment. Kegler is basically down to Mississippi State, Arizona State, Maryland, Indiana and Baylor, with a decision set for late October or early November. He’s already taken in ASU, Baylor, Mississippi State and now UMD, with one final official coming up Oct. 24 at Indiana.
“It’s almost over, thankfully… we’re getting there,” said Kegler’s guardian, Ohmar Carter. “We’ll take one last visit to Indiana, then sit down and go from there. Whether we’ll announce on ESPN or something else like that, that’s all still in the works. But right now we have one visit left and then we’ll sit down as a family and make a decision. It’s coming up soon, so Mario can sign in November.”
Kegler seemed to be favoring the hometown Bulldogs, followed closely by the Sun Devils and perhaps the Hoosiers, but Carter said the Maryland visit definitely impressed. Whether or not it vaulted head coach Mark Turgeon’s program to the head of the pack remains to be seen, but the Terps do seem to be under prime consideration.
“The official visit to Maryland went great. Mario had a chance to see the campus, meet the entire team, interact with the coaches. It was all first-rate,” Carter said. “He got a better understanding of what they do there, and it was all very impressive. The style of offense Maryland runs, it fits Mario well. It’s read and react, more like a pro-style offense than running set plays. That allows you to just play and create, and that’s what Mario loves to do. It’s a system that fits Mario very well.”
Said system seemed to be Turgeon’s main talking point during the family’s 48-hour stay in College Park. Carter said Maryland’s headman explained, in detail, exactly how the Oak Hill product would be ingratiated into the program and the role he’d play.
“Mario is going to be a ‘2’ or ‘3,’ and what Maryland does there would be very beneficial for him. Mario can create his own shots, he can get to the basket and he can put the ball on the floor,” Carter said. “That’s something Coach Turgeon didn’t feel he had right now, and is something he needs and believes Mario could provide. [Turgeon] said he loved Mario’s game and what he brought to the table.
“And Mario loved [Turgeon’s] comments. He liked everything Turgeon said and said he felt like [Turgeon] was a very honest guy.”
Apparently, so did Carter and his wife. The family, of course, had already met Turgeon when the headman went in-home with the much-ballyhooed wing during the summer. The Oct. 16-18 trip was another opportunity to gauge the Terps’ coach’s character.
“Personally, I really liked Coach Turgeon; he seems like a great guy. He expects hard work and he values character, and he has a clear vision for what he wants to accomplish at Maryland,” said Carter. “And more importantly my wife really liked him. She said he was very personable and created a great environment for the players there. We were all very impressed with Coach Turgeon, his staff and his program.”
That includes the current team. Carter said Kegler readily took to the entire squad, bonding with upperclassmen and underclassmen alike. Moreover, Kegler fed off the team’s intensity, both during practice and the Maryland Madness event Oct. 17 inside Xfinity Center.
“You know, we were around the team so much I can’t point to one guy who would be considered a ‘host,’” Carter said. “The team was together the entire time, and that was very impressive. It’s a very, very close group and they all get along so well. You don’t see that too often, a group of guys being so close. I know Mario liked that a lot.
“And just their work ethic and how they go about things. They’re a hungry group, they’re determined and they want to win. They have great chemistry there, and they push each other. You could see that in how they competed. That’s how you create a winning environment.”
One aspect of Maryland’s team Kegler took particular note of, according to Carter, was the size of the Terps’ frontcourt. With the likes of Diamond Stone, Michal Cekovsky, Robert Carter, Ivan Bender and Damonte Dodd on the roster, UMD boasts more post-players than most.
“They have like five guys who are at least 6-10, and that’s very impressive in general. Mario hasn’t seen a team yet that had that many frontcourt guys that tall,” Carter said. “So, if he went there, that would assure him he would play his position at all times. He knows he wouldn’t have to drop down [into the post], he’d play the ‘2’ or the ‘3,’ his natural spots.”
In addition to the current Terps and their coaches, Carter noted UMD’s campus, facilities and environment. He said Kegler loved the player dorms (“they’re like little apartments,” he said), the Xfinity Center and how the fans supported the team during the Madness event.
“It’s a great environment for college basketball,” Carter said. “It’s a top program and people are very excited about the team.
“What is Maryland, like a top 3-5 team in the county this year? I mean, the opportunity to win is the main thing for us. Mario wants to make some noise early in his career and play for a winner right away. That makes Maryland very attractive; he wouldn’t miss a beat going there. The pieces are there and the opportunity is there. So that makes Maryland a very attractive option for us.”
Carter wouldn’t compare the Maryland official to Kegler's previous trips to Baylor, Mississippi State and ASU, opting for the politically correct “each university offers a unique opportunity.” That said, he did give Maryland plenty of props.
“From a basketball standpoint, Maryland is top notch,” Carter said. “The university and the basketball program speaks for itself. It’s a top-notch institution.”