Maryland has an offer out to another 2018 DMV recruit, head coach Mark Turgeon extending an early verbal to Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) shooting guard Brandon Slater Dec. 30. The 6-foot-6, 180-pound rising star joins Jalen Smith (Mount St. Joe’s/Baltimore, Md.) and Prentiss Hubb (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.) as the locals Turgeon is after.
“It was great to be honest. It caught me by surprise, and I was at a loss for words,” said Slater, who now holds offers from UMD, Miami (also offered Dec. 30), Louisville, Va Tech and USC. “Coach Turgeon sat me and my family down in his office after the game [Dec. 30] and gave it to me straight. It was just crazy. It’s one of the schools I always wanted to go to, and now it could be a reality. My parents thought it was great too. They love Maryland.”
Slater, who projects as a wing or stretch-4 at the next level, said he’s been watching Maryland games since he was four years old. He didn’t recall the 2002 National Championship squad, but knows his share of modern Terps’ history.
“Maryland has always been a part of my life; it’s my favorite team,” Slater said. “All my favorite players growing up went to Maryland. I loved watching them on TV and whenever they were on I made sure I was watching. It’s definitely an honor to have a scholarship offer from the team you grew up with.”
Naturally, Slater has seen his share of UMD games at Xfinity Center. But he said he hadn’t attended one in about two years.
The brief hiatus ended Dec. 30, Slater and his family taking in a thrilling Maryland comeback victory against Penn State, 70-64. They witnessed Terps’ center Diamond Stone break the school’s freshman scoring record with 39 points.
“It was a great, great game. Diamond was on fire, the atmosphere was amazing, the crowd was all into it,” Slater said. “The students weren’t even there, and that crowd was awesome. That shows me what kind of fans Maryland has. It was unreal.
“But I was definitely keying in on Rasheed Sulaimon, who is what I look for in a guard. He’s great. He’s a lockdown defender, he can create for others, he can get to the basket, and most importantly is he’s coachable. That’s the kind of player I want to be like.”
After the game, Slater and Co. headed down to the locker room to meet the players and staff. Slater was able to briefly connect with his UMD recruiter, Dustin Clark, before heading into Turgeon’s office.
“Everybody was so welcoming. Everyone I met was great; I loved being around the team and coaches,” Slater said. “But me and Coach Clark, we’re very close. He’s known me for a long time, since before I got to high school. We talk about basketball, food, the NBA, school – anything really. Sometime he jokes that he wants me as a point guard (laughs), but most likely they like me at wing or maybe shooting guard.”
Clark and Turgeon first took notice of Slater last summer at a Maryland team camp. After the event, Slater said Turgeon let on that “he liked my game."
Several months later, Turgeon watched Slater again, this time at a pre-Christmas tournament at DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.).
“After Coach Turgeon saw me at DeMatha he was like, ‘I’m fully on board with you now,’” Slater said. “So I figured it was only a matter of time before I got the offer. But it was still surprising to get it [Dec. 30], and I’m still thrilled. I’m definitely coming back for more games (laughs).”
Besides his foray through College Park, Md., Slater has also been to Louisville, offering up plenty of praise for the Cardinals. He has yet to see any other games or campuses, however.
“Right now I’m just taking things in. I’m open to any schools,” said Slater, who has been hearing extensively from Temple and Villanova, in addition to the programs that have already offered. “I loved the Maryland offer, but it’s not like I’m ready to commit or anything like that. We have to see what happens.”
Slater, who plays for Team Takeover on the AAU circuit, said his focus right now is having a strong sophomore campaign. He said he’s pleased with his performances thus far, but knows he has a ways to go.
“What I do well is I’m great in transition, I paly feisty and I play with an edge. I love getting rebounds and playing defense,” Slater said. “I do like shooting too, but I also like helping my teammates out by finding the open guy. The main things I’m working on are, one, getting stronger and then just being focused all game long.”