The latest developments in Maryland hoops recruiting as head coach Mark Turgeon attempts to round out his 2016 class and make inroads into the 2017 crop:
The Official Visitors
The Terps hosted a pair of senior targets Oct. 16-18 when wing Mario Kegler (Oak Hill/Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and power forward Jacob Larsen (Holte, Denmark) make their way to College Park, Md., for the first time.
After speaking to Kegler’s guardian, Ohmar Carter, the sense is the Terps are in the thick of things for the 6-foot-7, 225-pounder. Whether they can top hometown Mississippi State, which is considered the favorite, or Indiana, which will host Kegler for his final official visit Oct. 23-25, remains to be seen, however. A Maryland pop can no longer be considered a complete surprise, although UMD may still be running second or third for his services. That said, the Terps do have two factors working in their favor.
Per Carter, Kegler loved the fact the Terps have upwards of a half-dozen frontcourt players on their roster, many of them underclassmen who could be around for more than a year (Ivan Bender, Michal Cekovsky, possibly Diamond Stone). Why is that significant? Kegler wants to play the “2” or the “3,” and he knows he wouldn’t necessarily be shifted to the “4” at UMD. He can’t say that about Mississippi State, IU, Arizona State (likely fourth in the pecking order) or Baylor (likely on the outside looking in).
“Mario hasn’t seen a team yet that had that many frontcourt guys,” Carter said of Maryland. “He knows he wouldn’t have to drop down [into the post].”
That’s not the only advantage the Terps have over Kegler’s other contenders, either. Carter insisted the No. 1 factor Kegler was looking for in a program, other than how he’ll be used, is the chance to win -- and early. The guardian said the Terps are set up for years to come and would present an “ideal situation” for Kegler.
Mississippi State, Baylor and Arizona State can’t match Maryland in that regard, while Indiana, although it’s a “basketball school,” hasn’t been a top-tier program in several years.
“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,” Carter said. “That makes Maryland very attractive; he wouldn’t miss a beat going there. The pieces are there and the opportunity is there.”
Carter also pointed to his and his wife’s affinity for Mark Turgeon and recruiter Dustin Clark, the atmosphere inside Xfinity Center for Maryland Madness, and the overarching team chemistry (on and off the court) the Terps have. He made sure to emphasize how comfortable Kegler felt around the team, readily connecting with the upperclassmen and underclassmen alike.
Add it all up, and the Terps might be able to pull this off. We’re led to believe Kegler’s Adidas connection won’t play as much of a role here as originally surmised.
But, as we’ve mentioned in past Hardwood Notes, there are other factors at play (besides Adidas) that could preclude Kegler from winding up in College Park. Evidently Bulldogs head coach Ben Howland has some mojo working for him, while IU has the benefit of leaving the last impression.
We’ll see how it plays out in the next few weeks, as Kegler should be choosing his destination shortly after returning from Bloomington, Ind.
You can read more about Kegler HERE.
As for Larsen, the 6-10 Dane apparently didn’t give much of a vibe after leaving College Park with his father Oct. 18. We’re told Larsen is playing things very close to the vest and isn’t one to let on his feelings or show much emotion. We do know the Terps’ ability to develop Alex Len and Michal Cekovsky, along with Ivan Bender’s presence, could help Maryland’s chances, but it’s hard to say just how much that’s resonating with Larsen.
Gonzaga, of course, has had a longer history of producing foreign bigs, and Larsen has taken in the Bulldogs too. Given that, we’re told the Zags might hold the upper-hand for now.
Larsen has also seen Marquette, but is not projected to wind up in Milwaukee, Wisc. Duke could be an option provided the Blue Devils make a push, although Larsen has yet to finalize a Durham, N.C., visit.
We were told Larsen has no timetable for making his college decision, but we suspect it could be soon (foreign visitors typically make their decisions fairly soon after foraying through the United States). Look for him to wrap up his recruitment by the end of October or early November. For our part, we're not predicting a UMD pop.
The Rest Of 2016
Regardless of how the situation plays out with Kegler and Larsen, we believe Turgeon would still like to add two more pieces to his 2016 class. At this time, though, it’s unclear exactly who Turgeon would target should Kegler wind up at Mississippi State or Indiana; Larsen chooses Gonzaga; and five-star small forward Josh Jackson (Prolific Prep/Napa, Calif.) opts for Arizona, Kansas or Michigan State. Perhaps the Terps, who were spotted recruiting overseas recently, have identified another foreign forward other than Larsen. Or maybe they’ll take another junior-college guy like Jaylen Brantley, or identify a late emerger during the high school season.
Of course, there’s still a chance they can convince Detroit’s Jackson to join the program down the road. Apparently the Jackson-to-MSU noise has died down a bit, the Spartans dropping back to the pack after the initial Miles Bridges (Huntington Prep/Huntington, W.Va.) connection washed over. (Recall, many believed when MSU landed Jackson’s good friend and fellow Michigan native Bridges Oct. 3, the nation’s No. 1 recruit could be Michigan State bound. Jackson even hinted at the possibility when speaking to reporters in Colorado Springs, Colo., in early October.)
Now, we’re hearing Arizona, the presumed No. 2, is back in front with Sean Miller’s overtures ringing true. Kansas is also firmly in play thanks to Bill Self’s unrelenting charge, while Tom Izzo's squad remains a prime contender.
Maryland could be sitting third or fourth right now, but since Jackson isn’t signing until the spring there’s bound to be a few more twists and turns. We’re led to believe the Prolific Prep product will still take all four official visits, so we’ll see what Turgeon can do when Jackson checks out College Park for the second time (he visited once unofficially a couple months back). And it’s always worth noting that UMD’s Under Armour connection holds some clout considering Jackson’s AAU squad, 1 Nation, exists solely because of UA.
The only other class of 2016 possibility broached recently has been Iowa Western (Council Bluffs, Ia.) JUCO forward Thik Bol. But Turgeon doesn’t seem to be making much of a push for Bol, nor does the “4” man fit the mold of a Maryland forward. Unless there’s a change of heart, we’re not projecting Bol to College Park.
The 2017 Targets
Trevon Duval, PG, Advanced Prep (Dallas, Texas): Duval might be Turgeon’s No. 1 class of 2017 target, and the Terps are resonating for the five-star. Duval wanted to check out Maryland Madness, per his father, but wasn’t able to make it in from Texas. Expect the Under Armour-affiliated five-star to visit College Park again later this year, or after his junior season. Syracuse, Kansas, Duke and Louisville are also in play.
Luis Hurtado, SG, Sagemont (Weston, Fla.): Hurtado isn’t a top-50 recruit, but he reminds of former Terp Greivis Vasquez with his relentless, high-energy style. Speaking of Vasquez, the native Venezuelan Hurtado grew up idolizing his fellow countryman. Not surprisingly, the Sagemont product knows all about the Maryland program from watching the current Milwaukee Buck Vasquez on TV. Hurtado basically called UMD the team to beat early, so if Turgeon pursues in earnest the emerging combo guard could very well wind up in College Park. He hasn't visited UMD yet, but expect a trip to materialize during the offseason.
Quade Green, PG, Goretti (Philadelphia, Pa.): Green has visited UMD and has affinity for the program, but he’s not projected to Maryland given Anthony Cowan’s and Jaylen Brantley’s presence the next few years. We do not envision Turgeon pushing for him.
M.J. Walker, SG/SF, Jonesboro (Ga.): The five-star Walker -- who still hasn't decided whether to pursue a football or basketball career -- seems to like Maryland a good deal, and, like several other UMD targets, he plays for a UA-sponsored AAU team. The bluebloods are after Walker too, but the Terps have made solid inroads here. Expect Walker to visit College Park for the first time during the offseason.
Hamidou Diallo, SG/SF, Woodstock (Conn.): Connecticut and Duke have the upper-hand early, but the Terps are in the mix. He’s another Under Armour kid who Turgeon and area recruiter Bino Ranson are pushing hard to get on campus.
Lonnie Walker, SG/SF, Reading (Pa.): The Terps have offered and are pursuing this rugged Philly wing, but in-state Villanova leads right now. Walker is considered the toughest pull of the three five-star wings listed here.
Myles Douglas, SF, Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.): A frequent College Park visitor (he was at Maryland Madness) who has the Terps atop his leaderboard, Douglas, a Baltimore native, has long been forecast to the hometown school. But Turgeon and Co. may be aiming higher, so it remains to be seen if they’ll accept Douglas’ pledge. PSU, WVU, Va Tech, Xavier, Miami and Temple are also involved.
Jordan Tucker, SF, White Plains (N.Y.): There is plenty of mutual interest between the Terps and Tucker. The four-star wanted to be at Madness Oct. 17, but was unable to attend due to a family situation. Tucker said he should be in Xfinity for a game this year, however. Maryland is firmly in play (both Turgeon and Bino Ranson have been on him), along with Syracuse, UConn and St. John’s.
Hameir Wright, SF, Albany Academy (N.Y.): Wright reportedly is very high on Maryland, but feelings might not be reciprocal. Like with Myles Douglas, Turgeon could have his sights set on a higher-caliber recruit. For now, Wright has WVU, Cincinnati and Dayton in play.
Kris Wilkes, SF, North Central (Indianapolis, Ind.): When Maryland offered Wilkes, it left quite an impression, the five-star recruit saying he wanted to venture east for a look-see at College Park. But the sense is Kentucky may lead, with Kansas and Butler in the game too. He’ll be an extremely tough pull out of the Hoosier state.
Kasper Christiansen, SF, Elev8 (Delray Beach, Fla.): The Terps are monitoring Christiansen closely and could offer eventually. If so, they’d be in position to pull the Denmark native in, as Christiansen already has a relationship with UMD recruiter Cliff Warren and plays for a Maryland-friendly school. But the question is, How will he develop this year? Will he be a surefire high-major player?
Tyler Polley, SF, Sagemont (Weston, Fla.): See Kasper Christiansen above. The Terps have checked out former NFL linebacker Tommy Polley’s son, but is he really a top-level college player?
Billy Preston, PF, Advanced Prep (Dallas, Texas): Along with Trevon Duval, Preston is a prime Turgeon target. The Under Armour recruit has been on campus and has the Terps under heavy consideration. Arizona and USC are among his leaders too.
Jaren Jackson, PF, Park Tudor (Indianapolis, Ind.): Jackson had naught but praise for Maryland when Turgeon offered him in person. He’s eager to see College Park and believes he’d be a great fit in the Terps’ system. But his father went to Georgetown, and the Hoyas are considered the frontrunners. Loads of Midwest programs are also all over the Silver Spring, Md., native.
Nicolas Claxton, PF, Legacy Charter (Greenville, S.C.): Of his initial wave of offers, Claxton said UMD stood out given their national ranking and the fact Turgeon offered him in person. He wants to trek north to College Park and learn more about the Maryland program. But we’ll have to see what other offers Claxton procures, and how hard the Terps push, before we can forecast him to College Park.
Mohammed Bamba, PF/C, Westtown (Pa.): Bamba keeps cropping up in Maryland circles because he attends Jared Nickens’ alma mater and has spoken highly of UMD in the past. But Bamba’s a Nike recruit and will likely be steered to a swoosh-mark school. He’s enamored with Duke right now.
Dajour Dickens, C, The Miller School (Charlottesville, Va.): Dickens visited Maryland for the first time Oct. 17 and came away raving. He doesn’t hold a Terps’ offer yet, but if he lands one UMD could be in position to pounce. Dickens has been in close contact with Terps’ recruiter Dustin Clark, ate up the atmosphere inside Xfinity Center during Madness, and loves the direction the program’s heading. Va Tech, Creighton, UVA, Memphis and Temple are his other offers currently. Read more about Dickens HERE.
DeAndre Ayton, C, Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.): A franchise big man, Ayton has had contact with the Terps' staff. But he rarely mentions the Terps in interviews and will likely wind up at a blueblood or a program out West. It doesn’t help UMD’s chances that Ayton plays for a Nike AAU program.
Zach Kent, C, St. Andrew’s (Middletown, Del.): Kent loves Maryland and is seeking an offer, but Turgeon will wait to see how the 7-footer develops before extending a scholarship. He’s worth monitoring since he has upside and wants in at UMD, but it’s questionable whether Kent is high-major caliber.
Given the above, we think Duval, Hurtado, M.J. Walker, Douglas, Claxton, Tucker, Preston, Dickens and possibly Christiansen (if offered) are legitimate possibilities for Maryland. Look for Turgeon to take two guards and two frontcourt players in 2017, with Duval; Preston; Walker/Tucker; and a big man like Dickens forming the most ideal, realistic class. (For the record, we do believe the Terps would like to add a true "5" in 2017 since Diamond Stone and Damonte Dodd will likely be gone, and Michal Cekovsky isn't guaranteed to be around either).
We touched base with a few class of 2018 visitors who stopped by Xfinity for Maryland Madness Oct. 17. The two sophomore headliners, offerees Jalen Smith (Mount St. Joe's/Baltimore, Md.) and Prentiss Hubb (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.), both chimed in that they had a good time interacting with the other recruits;, loved the fan support; and enjoyed watching the team scrimmage. The big man Smith and the combo guard Hubb each have the Terps under heavy consideration, although it's early in their respective recruitments. We could see each winding up in College Park, however, especially the forward "Sticks" Smith.
There were numerous other locals in attendance as well, although most probably won't land UMD offers. That said, McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.) combo guard Noah Locke could potentially become a target provided he continues to develop. He discussed his Maryland Madness experience HERE.
John Carroll (Bel Air, Md.) power forward Nate Roberts, meanwhile, could be another prospect to watch out for. He's already 6-8 and projects well to the high-major level.