It’s fairly clear who Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon’s foremost recruit targets are in the 2017 class, the Terps’ headman attempting to add three or four significant pieces to the roster. Two of those touted targets, Advanced Prep’s (Dallas, Texas) point guard Trevon Duval and power forward Billy Preston, were in College Park, Md., Dec. 12 and hold UMD in high regard, and a third nationally-rated prospect should be returning to Maryland soon.
Wing Jordan Tucker (White Plains, N.Y.), who has held a Terps’ scholarship since April, has had Maryland among his foremost contenders for quite some time. The 6-foot-7, 200-pound four-star hasn’t trekked to College Park yet, but is eager to visit at some point soon.
“With Maryland, I really like the offense Turgeon runs. It’s up and down and they put a lot of points on the board.,” said Tucker, who claims offer from UMD, Syracuse, UConn, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arizona, Alabama, Kansas, Villanova, NC State, St. John’s, USC, Oregon, Xavier and others. “They get everyone touches and don’t really have one guy dominating the ball. It’s an unselfish system with unselfish players, and it’s a system I like a lot. It’s a great program there, and I believe Coach Turgeon is a great coach.”
Tucker said he and UMD-area recruiter Dustin Clark exchange messages “all the time.” He’s also spoken to Turgeon before and noticed the headman’s presence at several of his games on the AAU circuit.
“Maryland is one of the top programs around right now, and Coach Turgeon has them on the rise. It’s a great option for me,” Tucker said. “I really wanted to visit there in October, and I was supposed to go down for their Madness event, but I had something come up and just couldn’t make it. I was really disappointed about that, because it’s a school I really like and really want to see. Hopefully I’ll get down there later on for a game, or maybe after my season this year.”
Besides the Maryland staff, Tucker knows several current Terps from AAU ball, in addition to both 2016 signees: Anthony Cowan (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.) and Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa/Clifton Park, N.Y.). Huerter, of course, is from Tucker’s home state, and the two have crossed paths often.
“I’ve played with Kevin on the Nike circuit before and he’s a real good guy,” Tucker said. “One thing I do when I watch college basketball is I pay attention to other big-time wings and shooting guards, guys that play my position. I watch how they’re used, how they move, what their responsibilities are. So Kevin is one guy I really want to watch closely next year at Maryland, just to see how Coach Turgeon uses him and develops him. That will say a lot about what I think of Maryland.”
Tucker knows Cowan, as well as current UMD point guard Melo Trimble, from when the New York wing trained down in the D.C. area with noted “shot doctor” Keith Veney. Tucker considers Veney an “uncle” since he’s close friends with his father.
“I actually have family down in the Upper Marlboro (Md.) area, and when I go down there I train with Keith Veney, and I was able to meet Anthony and Melo from that,” Tucker said. “It’s a great area down there, and I like the vibe around D.C. and College Park. But just playing with Melo and Anthony, they’re great players and great guards. I wouldn’t mind playing with Anthony at the next level; he’s really coming on this year too.”
It should be noted, however, that Tucker does suit up for NY Lightning, an AAU team that competes in the EYBL (read: Nike). But while Tucker’s well aware of the “shoe wars” and the tension between Nike and Under Armour, he said he’s not about to let that affect his view of a certain school.
“I don’t want to say the brand definitely matters, but I do prefer wearing Nike,” Tucker admitted. “I do like a lot of Nike schools, to be honest. But I’m not going to choose a school just because of the brand. There are schools like Maryland that is Under Armour, St. Jonh's that is Under Armour and Kansas that is Adidas that I really like too. I’m going to go to the school that’s the best fit for me and will help develop me.”
Sure, but those Nike school are on Tucker’s mind, no doubt. In-state program Syracuse can be counted as an early leader, along with Pac-12 stalwart Arizona. Some of the other universities Tucker mentioned included Oklahoma, Duke, USC, UCLA, Washington, Villanova, Arizona State and UConn, in addition to Maryland.
“Arizona is a big one; I’ve seen them play and I definitely want to get out there,” said Tucker, who has visited UConn, Nova and Providence. “A lot of those Pac-12 schools I like and I’ll try to see this summer. I like the West Coast and the way they play out there. They produce a lot of great players.
“Then Syracuse, St. John’s, those are two hometown schools I’m looking hard at. I was just at the Cuse-St. John’s game in Madison Square Garden, actually, and the atmosphere was wild. Just watching two New York schools go at it, and for them to be two schools I’m looking at, it was really cool. Those two are definitely coming at me hard.
“Villanova is another one; they’ve been in to see me play this year, along with Syracuse and St. John’s. And Duke, that’s a school I watch a lot on TV and really like.”
Tucker also has a direct connection to Oklahoma, perhaps giving the Sooners an initial leg up. He said his uncle is an assistant in Norman, Okla., while his cousin is currently suiting up for the Sooners at point guard.
“Oklahoma has been recruiting me since before I blew up. It’s a real strong family connection there,” Tucker said. “So that’s a big thing, that personal connection. That’s a school I’m definitely looking at.”
Naturally, with so many intriguing suitors, Tucker’s taking the recruiting process slow. He said he’s in no rush to name clear leaders or set possible decision dates until he sees a few more campuses.
For now, he’s focused on his junior season -- and digging White Plains out of a 1-3 hole.
“We’re a young team, but we know our weaknesses and believe we’ll be a top team by the end of the year,” Tucker said. “Personally, I’m playing as well as I ever have. Right now I’m averaging 22 points and 13 rebounds, and I was averaging 30 until I got a little dinged up.
“I’ve really improved my rebounding since last year, and am just really getting after it on the boards for 32 minutes each night. That’s one thing people have noticed I’ve gotten way better at. But I’m still working on my help-side defense; I have to get more active on that end.”