Four-star Carroll (Washington, D.C.) guard Richard Merritt is not a naïve recruit. Far from it. The 6-foot-5, 345-pounder is well aware coach-player relationships can be fleeting. He knows head coaches, assistants and other staffers come and go, the carousel spinning round and round and round.
After all, Merritt watched his former high-school coach, Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, whom he considered a father figure, bolt for the college ranks after the guard’s sophomore year. And before that, Merritt saw his older brother, Jamal Merritt, lose his father-like head coach at New Mexico, Mike Locksley, to Maryland (it prompted Jamal Merritt’s transfer to Albany).
“Coaches leave all the time, man,” Merritt said in a previous interview. “It’s the nature of the beast. That’s why you pick a school for the school itself and not just the coach.”
Merritt didn’t exactly take his own advice on that one, but the four-star just couldn’t pass up the chance to reunite with his ex-high school headman. On Dec. 19, the Carroll guard let Maryland’s new defensive backs coach, the aforementioned Abdul-Rahim, know he would be joining him in College Park, Md.
“Coach Aazaar coached me for two years at Friendship [Collegiate Academy in Washington, D.C.], and he’s my man. He treated me like I was one of his own children,” Merritt said. “He’s someone I can trust and I believe in. He’s a great coach too, but it’s great to have someone there that I know I can trust. I can go to him about anything.”
The D.C. product has yet to meet Maryland’s new head coach, D.J. Durkin, however. Nor does he know who his offensive coordinator or position coach will be, Durkin yet to announce those hires. But Merritt’s fairly confident he’ll be in good hands.
“Coach Aazaar was telling me about Coach Durkin and what kind of program he’s putting together over there,” Merritt said before. “It sounds like Maryland is on the rise, for real. They’re going to be a top contender in the Big Ten. He’s got some real good coaches coming in, and I trust he’ll bring in some great offensive coaches too. [Durkin] sounds like a great guy and a great coach. I look forward to meeting him and playing for him.”
Merritt committed without officially visiting UMD -- he reneged on an intended Dec. 11 trip, instead rescheduling for January when the offensive staff is in place -- but he’s been on campus enough where he’s already more than familiar with the university. The Montgomery County resident has tripped to Maryland for junior days, practices, games and simple day-trips. He attended two Terps’ games this fall, lauding the atmosphere inside the stadium formerly known as Byrd.
“I’ve been up there so many times, I know what Maryland is like and what it’s about as a school,” Merritt said. “It’s a great campus, great environment and they’re getting some real nice facilities in the future. I still have to meet Coach Durkin and the rest of the staff; I do want to build a bond with the offensive line coach and see if I like him. But I’m pretty sure they’re going to bring in a good coach. I’ll be fine.”
Even so, Merritt wasn’t always so keen on staying home for college. While many of the local recruits were caught up in DMV-to-UMD and representing their home state, Merritt admitted the hometown movement “wasn’t really a big thing for me.” He sought to leave the D.C. area, trying his talents at a star-studded program such as Alabama, Florida State or another SEC stalwart.
But Merritt began to come around to Maryland in the wake of ex-headman Randy Edsall’s departure. Merritt, who didn’t see eye-to-eye with Edsall, readily took to ex-interim coach Mike Locksley, admitting the Terps were back in play after his ascension. Locksley, the guard’s primary recruiter, obviously didn’t wind up securing the head gig, but the Abdul-Rahim addition kept the Maryland momentum rolling in Merritt’s mind.
“Staying home isn’t a problem for me. At first I didn’t want to be too close, but the more I thought about it, and just talking to Coach Aazaar again, that made me reconsider,” Merritt said. “I like the idea of having my friends and family see me play.”
Moreover, Merritt’s stayed in contact with several of those friends who are heading to UMD next year. He said he’s spoken extensively to quarterback pledge Dwayne Haskins (Bullis/Potomac, Md.) and DeMatha’s (Hyattsville, Md.) Lorenzo Harrison and D.J. Turner.
“All those guys were trying to get me up there. They always talked to me about Maryland,” Merritt said. “I’ve been friends with those guys since we were young, so there’s bond there. I know I’ll fit in well with them.”
Merritt did consider taking official visits to Virginia Tech, Florida and Auburn in January, but opted to end his recruitment early. It’s questionable whether the Hokies, Gators or Tigers would have accepted his pledge anyway. (Maryland did not even have a committable offer in place until the Durkin era began).
Regardless, Merritt’s sold on the Terps and will embark on his lone official to College Park after the New Year.
“I’m officially committed to Maryland, 100 percent,” Merritt said. “It’s been a process, and now I’m excited to get my college career started.”
A full, detailed scouting report on Merritt can be seen HERE.