Hardwood Notes: Terps On The Trail

High schools are on break for the holiday, but the Maryland coaching staff was able to hit a few open gyms right before Christmas. Here’s the latest in Terps’ hoops recruiting as we head into the New Year.

High schools are on break for the holiday, but the Maryland coaching staff was able to hit a few open gyms right before Christmas. Here’s the latest in Terps’ hoops recruiting as we head into the New Year.

Still Searching in 2016

The search continues for a 2016 wing to pair with guards Anthony Cowan (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.) and Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa/Clifton Park, N.Y.). Last week, UMD assistant Cliff Warren ventured down to Huntersville, N.C., for a looksee at late-blooming small forward Jaylen McManus, who suits up for North Mecklenburg High and the Charlotte Nets AAU squad.

A 6-foot-7, 205-pounder, he looks to have a smooth touch out to the three-point line, with some handles as well. But after speaking to McManus, we didn’t get the vibe Warren was overly enthused. McManus did say Warren informed him the Terps had the Carolina wing on their board and would be staying in touch, but wasn’t sure about an offer materializing.

Typically, when Warren, Bino Ranson or Dustin Clark are highly intrigued, they let potential targets know that head coach Mark Turgeon will be returning to gauge their games. But Warren didn’t tell McManus UMD’s headman would definitely be at North Mecklenburg this winter.

Currently, McManus holds offers from numerous mid-major programs. A few high-majors have shown interest, but it seems like Virginia Tech might be the only one ready to pull the trigger at this point. 

We’ll keep McManus on the hot board as “cool” in case the Terps do pursue him. But our gut is the staff will continue to mine the ranks moving forward.

You can read more about McManus HERE

The other senior wing Maryland’s monitoring has been sitting “warm” on the hot board for a couple months now. Micah Thomas (Huntington Prep/Huntington, W.Va.) holds a UMD offer, but academics could preclude him from qualifying this year.

If Thomas is eligible in 2016, however, Maryland would be one of his foremost options, and we’d expect him to officially visit College Park, Md. Dustin Clark has remained in contact with Thomas’ party and seems to have the recruit’s ear. In fact, Clark was just in South Carolina for the Chik-Fil-A Classic, watching Thomas first-hand. Problem was, Thomas didn't exactly put forth his best effort on either end of the floor. Could the athletic winger eventually fade from consideration? We'll know soon enough.

Louisville and LSU are also firmly on Thomas' brain, while Baylor; Memphis; and Arkansas are keeping tabs. Look for Thomas to officially visit UL, LSU and possible UMD before selecting his college destination.

As we mentioned last week, if the Terps can’t uncover a late-emerging small forward, they’ll assuredly scan the fifth-year transfer ranks (they might do so regardless). Turgeon has obviously had success bringing in immediately-eligible graduate students, and it’s looking more likely he’ll go that route yet again.

Note: Make sure to pay attention to the “Chris Orlina” paragraph in the section below.

2017 Movers & Shakers

The hot board undertook a massive overhaul last week when we added around 10 prospects with Maryland interest. There weren’t nearly as many additions this time around, but we did insert one intriguing newcomer from north of the border.

-- Toronto, Ontario, native Nickeil Alexander-Walker is currently enrolled at Harbor Heights Christian (Chattanooga, Tenn.), and the 6-5, 175-pound shooting guard is beginning to garner significant recruiting attention. He already holds verbals from Cincinnati, Illinois, USC, Miami, Va Tech, Baylor, Providence, Auburn and others, with Maryland showing increased interest.

UMD assistant Bino Ranson, who knows Alexander-Walker’s Canada Elite AAU coach personally, trekked down to Harbor Heights Dec. 20 and came away impressed with the versatile sharpshooter, per the recruit. Head coach Mark Turgeon could be watching Alexander-Walker later this winter, and an offer might be presented shortly thereafter.

The Terps do have other top 2017 shooting guards on their board (see: Hamidou Diallo, M.J. Walker, Luis Hurtado, Chaundee Brown, Brandon Randolph), but if Alexander-Walker continues to develop, he could eventually become a primary target.

Which Alexander-Walker is hoping occurs. The Canadian grew up hearing his share of Terps’ history from his uncle, while he loves the Xfinity Center atmosphere and the Maryland offense as well. UMD’s academic reputation won’t hurt its chances for the honors student Alexander-Walker, either.

“I’m going to be putting out my top-five or top-six favorites list in like February or March, and Maryland would definitely be there if they offered,” Alexander-Walker said. “That’s definitely a school that interests me.”

Besides UMD, Baylor; Miami; USC; and Vanderbilt (no offer yet) have Alexander-Walker’s attention.

You can read more about Alexander-Walker HERE.

-- The next 2017 two-guard to watch out for the next few months is someone we broached last week after his performance at Bullis (Potomac, Md.). Westtown’s (Pa.) Brandon Randolph has been red-hot to start the 2015-16 campaign, opening the eyes of multiple regional high-majors. Randolph only holds one offer from George Washington, but Georgetown; UMD; Nova; UConn; UNC; and VCU are monitoring him. 

Randolph isn’t granting interviews at this time (his coach has a “no media” policy in place during the season), but we’re inclined to believe Maryland is/will become  involved here. The entire Terps’ staff saw him in action at DeMatha, and Bino Ranson watched Randolph again at the City of Palms tournament in Florida. If UMD falls out of the running for, say, five-star Hamidou Diallo (Woodstock Academy, Conn.) and five-star M.J. Walker (Jonesboro, Ga.), Randolph could rocket up Turgeon’s board.

The 6-5, 175-pounder, who attends the same school as current UMD wing Jared Nickens, is quite familiar with the Terps; has seen games in Xfinity Center; and would fit well in Maryland’s up-tempo system. Given that, we think there could be plenty of mutual interest between the two parties.

-- Another recruit we mentioned last week, power forward Aamir Simms (Blue Ridge/Dyke, Va.), has begun to generate more Maryland interest of late. The 6-8, 215-pound power forward, who added a Terps’ scholarship earlier this month, said he’s been in touch with area recruiter Dustin Clark after a layoff of sorts prior to December. Simms admitted Clark fell out of contact after originally initiating talks back in the summer, but hopped back on “when [the Terps] saw that Georgetown offered,” per the recruit.

I asked Simms if that rubbed him the wrong way, and he demurred before allowing, “I’m not really sure.”

In other words, it probably irked him a bit.

Not that Simms doesn’t have some Maryland affinity. He forayed through College Park back in June and talked up the campus and the Xfinity Center. The forward also said he liked Maryland’s system, while the Terps’ current place in the national rankings has caught his eye too.

But UMD is probably on the backburner for him right now. He counts Georgetown as a top contender, with Miami and Clemson firmly in play too.

Of course, Maryland’s staff probably doesn’t have Simms No. 1 on its board either. Jaren Jackson (Park Tudor/Indianapolis, Ind.) and Billy Preston (Advanced Prep/Dallas, Texas) are Turgeon’s main forward targets, with Nicolas Claxton (Legacy Charter/Greenville, S.C.) hanging around somewhat as well. UMD is in a solid spot with Jackson and Preston (both “warm” on the hot board), and Claxton would be a serious candidate to join the program if the staff elects to push.

With that in mind, the Maryland headman may wait to see what transpires with the latter trio before making a charge at Simms.

-- Speaking of Jaren Jackson, UMD point man Cliff Warren just flew out to Indianapolis to watch the forward in action, the Terps continuing to show the love. We actually moved Jackson back to “warm” on the hot board after conferring with our Scout colleague, Brian Snow. Personally speaking with Jackson -- the son of the former Georgetown star by the same name -- on three occasions, I always felt the Terps had a legitimate shot at securing the power forward’s services.

For one, he’s a Silver Spring, Md., native and admittedly loves the DMV area. More importantly, he visited College Park for the ballyhooed G’town-Maryland showdown and couldn’t say enough about the UMD crowd; the Xfinity Center; and the Terps themselves. He lauded Mark Turgeon, the offensive system, and the team chemistry. Jackson also spoke highly of the campus itself, mentioning that he wouldn’t mind spending his college days in College Park.

Even so, many believe Jackson will end up at his father’s alma mater. But we’re not so sure. Jackson has said time and again he’s not going to Georgetown just because his dad attended the Jesuit school. Moreover, the Hoyas’ methodical offense doesn’t exactly fit Jackson’s preferred up-and-down, run-in-transition style.

That said, the feeling is G’town is among the Park Tudor product’s leaders, perhaps running neck-and-neck with Maryland. Others in play include Purdue and Michigan State, while Jackson is bound to add a few more eye-opening suitors moving forward.

We’ll know more about his status, and where the Terps stand, following his junior season. For what it’s worth, we do believe Turgeon would take both Jackson and the five-star Billy Preston, whose situation we detailed in the last Hardwood Notes.

-- Keep the name Chris Orlina (Woodside/Newport News, Va.) in mind in the months ahead. In this space last week I mentioned how Mark Turgeon watched the small forward put up 35 points at a local tournament, and this week Orlina played well at an event in Newport News, Va.

Indeed, the 6-6 wing has been raising a few eyebrows this year and should secure his share of high-major looks shortly. The Terps’ Bino Ranson has been recruiting the Virginia native off and on for the last year, staying in close contact of late.

The interesting note here is Orlina might be moving to the 2016 class. If true, maybe UMD gives him even more consideration. After all, as detailed above, Maryland needs a ’16 wing. Stay tuned.

But don’t count on a potent Orlina push just yet. We’re not sure UMD will take a flyer on him even if he does reclass. There are questions about Orlina’s academics and it’s questionable whether he really is high-major. And if Orlina sticks in 2017, Turgeon and Co. have the likes of Jordan Tucker (White Plains, N.Y.), Kris Wilkes (North Central/Indianapolis, Ind.) and possibly Hameir Wright (Albany Academy/Albany, N.Y.) rated higher on their board.

-- Now, it should be noted that Wilkes is leaning towards Purdue, and has Kentucky, Indiana and Kansas on his radar. Also realize the Terps haven’t offered Wright, who is looking at Cincinnati; George Washington; Iowa; Dayton; and Villanova in the meantime.

But Wright has made it known he’s seeking a Maryland offer, taking a keen liking to the Terps’ program. Wright plays for Albany City Rocks, the same AAU squad that produced Kevin Huerter, and the ’17 wing developed his UMD affinity courtesy of the future Terps’ guard.

It’s conceivable Wright does eventually receive that scholarship too. Dustin Clark was in Albany, N.Y., Dec. 22 to watch the budding wing in action, the 6-7, 180-pound four-star playing relatively well of late, according to reports.

We haven’t heard Clark’s verdict yet, but we’ll catch up with Wright soon to gauge Maryland’s interest level. If Turgeon ups the pursuit, Wright could quickly rise up on the hot board.

-- Regardless of what happens with Wright, the clear No. 1 target is Jordan Tucker, who is someone the Terps’ staff has a real puncher’s chance at landing.

I caught up with Tucker last week, and the 6-7, 200-pound four-star couldn’t say enough about Maryland. He hasn’t visited College Park yet, but it’s clear he wants to check out the Terps as soon as possible.

“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. … I really like the offense Turgeon runs. It’s up and down and they put a lot of points on the board. 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.”

Besides the offense and staff, Tucker has family around the D.C. area; knows 2016 UMD signee Anthony Cowan quite well (they’ve trained together); and played against Maryland’s other incoming guard, Kevin Huerter, on the AAU circuit.

But Tucker won’t be an easy pull. In-state Syracuse and St. John’s, two programs the wing has seen in action on multiple occasions, have Tucker’s ear, while he has family connections at Oklahoma. Villanova has been coming after Tucker in earnest too.

Needless to say, there’s a ways to go before his recruitment is settled. First thing’s first: Getting Tucker to visit College Park.

You can read more about Tucker HERE

A Couple More 2017 Notes

-- We placed wing Kodye Pugh (Blair Academy/Blairstown, N.J.) back on the hot board recently, and for good reason. The Baltimore native, who is prepping at Blair Academy, has seen his stock rise this year and now has looks from loads of high-major programs.

He’s claiming a Maryland offer too, but that’s probably not legitimate at this point. That said, Pugh has caught UMD recruiter Bino Ranson’s eye, so the former Boys’ Latin (Towson, Md.) star is someone to keep in mind.

-- Shooting guard/wing Chyree Walker (Bullis/Potomac, Md.) is a DMV product who turned some heads at the Bullis tournament in mid-December. The Terps are monitoring him, but Walker has yet to establish himself as a clear high-major talent. He probably won’t become a main Turgeon priority unless others fall by the wayside. But Walker’s intriguing enough to warrant a spot on the hot board, at least.

-- While in Florida for the City of Palms tournament, Maryland’s Bino Ranson was able to reconnect with five-star power forward/center Mohamed Bamba (Westtown) once again. The Terps previously saw Bamba at Bullis (Potomac, Md.), leading the 6-11 big man to mention Maryland in interviews for the first time in months.

But while UMD’s coaches certainly covet the five-star, he’s a longshot given his AAU affiliation (Nike) and the schools he routinely talks up (Duke, Nova, Kentucky, UConn).

-- We’re not feeling a strong Terps’ push for 2017 big man Zach Kent (St. Andrew’s/Middletown, Del.). The 7-footer supposedly has a Notre Dame offer, and the Irish are the leader. Dayton, Xavier, Providence and St. Joe’s are also on him.

Off The Board

In last week’s Hardwood Notes, we dropped center Dajour Dickens (Miller School/Hampton, Va.), forward Kasper Christiansen (Elev8/Delray Beach, Fla.) and shooting guard Lonnie Walker (Reading, Pa.) from the hot board, the former two because they didn’t quite show enough and the latter because he didn’t include Maryland among his foremost contenders.

This week, we’re cutting a few more class of 2017 names:

Michael Speight, SG, Wise (Upper Marlboro, Md.): We just reinserted Speight onto the board after the Holiday Hoops Classic at DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.), but scratched him a week later. Speight has a solid enough game, but the feeling is he’s not a surefire high-major talent.

DeAndre Ayton, C, Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.): Ayton listed Kentucky, Kansas and Duke as his top three suitors. Blueblood city, as expected.

Myles Douglas, SF, Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.): Douglas held a Maryland offer, but, simply put, he hasn’t developed the way the Terps’ coaches expected. We do not believe he’s a “take” for UMD any longer.

Tyler Polley, SF, Sagemont (Weston, Fla.): Polley’s looking at about 10 schools, but he didn’t mention Maryland. The Terps showed initial interest, but didn’t pursue in earnest.


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