Hardwood Notes: Post Signing Day Central

Here’s the latest in Maryland hoops recruiting after the first day of the early signing period:

Here’s the latest in Maryland hoops recruiting after the first day of the early signing period:

Back To Square One?

In last week’s Hardwood Notes we mentioned there was at least a faint hope that Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon could pull a rabbit out of the hat on signing day Nov. 11, landing wing Mario Kegler (Oak Hill/Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and/or power forward Jacob Larsen (Holte, Denmark). But it wasn’t meant to be, Kegler signing with hometown favorite Mississippi State (Adidas and head coach Ben Howland’s longstanding rapport with Kegler won out) and Larsen opting for Gonzaga (head coach Mark Few’s penchant for producing foreign bigs won out). The Terps finished second in the pecking order for both, just as they did for forward Wenyen Gabriel (Wilbraham & Monson/Wilbraham, Mass.) last month when the New Hampshire native chose Kentucky.

So, where do the Terps go from here?

Well, the feeling is they still need at least an athletic senior wing to pair with early class of 2016 guard signees Anthony Cowan (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.) and Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa/Clifton Park, N.Y.). With Jake Layman graduating after this season and Robert Carter likely bolting for the NBA, it would leave only Jared Nickens in that “3” role. Sure, Turgeon could concentrate all his efforts into the talented 2017 class, but he’d surely like to have another wing on campus next year as opposed to two years down the road.

Of course, Turgeon and his assistants had already started looking for another 2016 forward after it became obvious Kegler would be a Bulldog a few weeks back. The headman and Dustin Clark trekked down to West Virginia in late October and offered Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.) forward Micah Thomas, an ultra-talented, explosive athlete with range out to the 3-point line. 

Problem is, Thomas’ coach indicated there was “an 80 percent chance” the forward would have to attend prep school to improve his academic standing. If the Memphis, Tenn., native is somehow eligible this spring, the Terps would become a prime contender (along with Arkansas and Tennessee), but we can’t list Thomas above “cool” on the hot board until we’re sure he’ll qualify.

The only other prospect in play at the moment is Josh Jackson (Prolific Prep/Napa, Calif.), the nation’s No. 1 recruit. But frequent Hardwood Notes readers know the deal by now: Jackson’s trending towards Arizona and Kansas, with Michigan State and Maryland perhaps running third and fourth, respectively.

The good news for the Terps is it’s a long way until the April signing period, so there’s time for the Jackson tide to turn. If Maryland has a standout 2016 campaign, coupled with Under Armour’s pull (remember, Jackson’s 1 Nation AAU squad is fully funded by UA), maybe it can jump the Wildcats, Jayhawks and Spartans in the pecking order.

Moreover, realize that Jackson still has all four official visits left to take. If nothing else, at least the UMD staff should have one last opportunity to host Jackson and make their pitch.

But don’t expect Turgeon to throw all his eggs in the Josh Jackson basket (or the Micah Thomas one for that matter). The headman and his assistants will be out in full force once the November signing period ends, scouring high school gyms in search of a late-emerging wing.

Every year there are under-the-radar prospects with high-major talent who don’t readily realize it until their final high-school campaign. Let’s see what names crop up as hoops season gets underway.

As for adding a 2016 big man, well, we’re less confident that’s going to materialize. Unless Dustin Clark identified another Larsen-esque foreigner during his October scouting trip overseas, there’s not much left in the senior class.

The junior college power forward Thik Bol (Iowa Western/Council Bluffs, Ia.) had been bandied about in UMD circles, but we gave up the ghost on him a month or so ago. Turns out Turgeon’s recent foray through Iowa Western was nothing more than a courtesy trip. Thus, Bol -- an active defender with an extremely raw offensive game -- has been removed from the hot board altogether.

If no other “4” or “5” catches the UMD staff’s eye this winter, Turgeon will likely attempt to add multiple 2017 bigs. Which brings us to our next section . . .

The 2017 Bigs

Terps’ fans know the names by now, but here’s a post-Signing Day refresher. The Maryland coaches have identified and offered numerous four- and five-star power forwards and centers, and are firmly in the running for several of them:

PF Billy Preston (Advanced Prep/Dallas, Texas): The five-star Under Armour affiliated recruit has visited College Park and is planning a return. He has UMD among his foremost contenders, along with Arizona, Kansas, UCLA and others. It’s too soon to tell which way his recruitment will turn, but there’s enough mutual interest to at least list Preston as “warm” on the hot board.

PF Nicolas Claxton (Legacy Charter/Greenville, S.C.):  The Maryland offeree Claxton only has a couple high-major offers at this point, but he’s bound to secure many more after this season. Given that, UMD did well to enter the fray early. Claxton was thrilled when Mark Turgeon ventured down to South Carolina and offered him in person. The 6-10 multitalented forward (and the son of the former Georgia star Charles Claxton) is scheduling an initial visit to College Park and has high initial interest. For now, we’re listing him “warm” on the hot board until his recruiting profile is fully realized.

PF Jaren Jackson (Park Tudor/Indianapolis, Ind.): Jackson was absolutely effusive in his praise when Turgeon personally offered him last month. He’s from the Silver Spring, Md., area and is already familiar with the Terps’ program. But Jackson’s father starred at Georgetown, and the Hoyas are the early favorites. Meanwhile, Midwest schools like Butler and Notre Dame are on the brain too. Jackson’s pro-UMD comments seemed genuine, however, so we’ll see what kind of inroads Turgeon and recruiter Cliff Warren can make here. He’s listed as “warm” on the hot board.

PF/C Justyn Hamilton (Independence/Charlotte, N.C.): Hamilton visited College Park earlier in November and liked what he saw, but we haven’t heard if interest is mutual yet. Hamilton figures to procure double-digit high-major offers before it’s all said and done, though, so we’ll see if Turgeon eventually pounces. It should be noted that Hamilton’s a Nike recruit and could be steered towards a school affiliated with that brand. He’s “cool” on the hot board.

PF Mohamed Bamba (Westtown, Pa.): We’ll keep Bamba on the hot board since he plays at a Maryland-friendly school (the same program that produced Jared Nickens) and he’s had pro-Terps comments in the past. But, more than likely he’s going to Duke, Villanova or maybe another blueblood. Bamba is listed as “cool” on the hot board.

C Dajour Dickens (The Miller School/Charlottesville, Va.): Dickens trekked to College Park for Maryland Madness and came away raving. He immediately took to the UMD coaches, the Terps’ fans and the school itself. Dickens does not hold a Maryland offer yet, however, and we’ll have to see how ardently Mark Turgeon pursues before elevating his hot-board temperature (he’s “cool” for now). If some of UMD’s other targets end up elsewhere, look for an offer to be extended. The Terps would promptly become primary contenders if such a scholarship is presented.

C DeAndre Ayton (Hillcrest Prep/Phoenix, Ariz): Ayton is probably the longest long shot on our hot board. The Terps are after him in earnest, but pretty much everyone has him forecast to Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, UNC or Arizona.

C Zach Kent (St. Andrew’s/Middletown, Del.): Kent is in the same boat as Dajour Dickens, expect maybe a bit less likely to procure a Maryland offer. The 7-footer has been to College Park numerous times with his UA-based We R 1 AAU squad, making it known how much he covets a Terps’ offer. But Kent’s a project who Turgeon will have to monitor closely before offering. But given his size and potential, it’s worth keeping his name in mind.

A Brief Rundown Of The 2017 Guards/Wings

While the bigs figure to be a primary focus, we do expect Mark Turgeon to add a guard and small-forward type in 2017 as well. We won’t rehash what’s been written in past Hardwood Notes, but the clear targets remain:

Point guard Trevon Duval (Advanced Prep/Dallas, Texas), combo Luis Hurtado (Sagemont/Weston, Fla.), shooting guard Lonnie Walker (Reading, Pa.), shooting guard Hamidou Diallo (Woodstock Academy/Woodstock, Conn.), shooting guard M.J. Walker (Jonesboro, Ga.), wing Myles Douglas (Paul VI/Fairfax, Va.), wing Jordan Tucker (White Plains, N.Y.) and wing Kris Wilkes (North Central/Indianapolis, Ind.). Forwards Kasper Christiansen (Elev8/Delray Beach, Fla.), Hameir Wright (Albany Academy/Albany, N.Y.) and Tyler Polley (Sagemont) are also on the hot board, but do not have Maryland offers yet.

Of the above, the Terps have the best chance at landing Hurtado (Greivis Vasquez fan, loves Maryland and its history); M.J. Walker (Under Armour connection, staff’s made plenty of early inroads); Tucker (established relationship with UMD, wants to visit College Park) and Douglas (loves hometown school and staff; is a Terps’ fan). Christiansen, Wright and Polley are all high on UMD initially too, but they’d need offers before they could commit. The Denmark native Christiansen’s a “wildcard” because his recruitment could either explode or peter out, depending on what he shows during his first year in the United States. Wright has some marketable tools, but may not be at the high-major level yet. And Polley is in a similar position to Wright.

As for Duval, he is a Terps’ priority; has trekked through College Park; and is an Under Armour recruit (we reported last week he might be moving to a Nike program, but that was refuted). But he also has Kansas; Syracuse; Louisville; and Duke in the thick of things and could be trending in the bluebloods’ direction.

Finally, Wilkes figures to wind up at a Midwest university; Diallo is forecast to a Northeast school (UConn? St. John’s?) or maybe a blueblood; and Lonnie Walker could be ‘Nova’s to lose.

The 2018 List

We thought about placing 2018 recruits on the hot board, but opted against it since much can change between now and the end of the winter.  So we’ll hold off on “officially” adding the sophomore names until after the April signing period. At any rate, here are some of the new (read: previously not discussed) prospects -- all of whom are five-star talents that Maryland’s coaches have been in to see -- to keep an eye on:

Bryce Wills, PG, Iona Prep (New Rochelle, N.Y.)

Cameron Reddish, SG, Westtown (Pa.)

Isaiah Mucius, SF, St. James (Far Rockaway, N.Y.)

Louis King, SF, Roselle Catholic (Burlington, N.J.)

Kevin Easley, SF, Lawrence North (Indianapolis, Ind.)

Jerome Hunter, SF, Pickerington North (Pickerington, Ohio)

Kenneth Nwuba, PF, Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Nazreon Reid, PF, Roselle Catholic

Mamadou Doucoure, C, Our Savior New American (Centereach, N.Y.)

The above names are in addition to several DMV recruits we’ve noted in past Hardwood Notes and articles. The two locals who already hold UMD offers (and have plenty of hometown interest) are guard Prentiss Hubb (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.) and power forward Jalen Smith (Mt. St. Joe’s/Baltimore, Md.). The others on Turgeon and Co.’s radar are point guard Immanuel Quickley (John Carroll/Bel Air, Md.), guard Noah Locke (McDonogh/Owings Mills, Md.) and forward Noah Roberts (John Carroll).


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