Hardwood Notes: A Recruiting Q&A

Let’s take this back old school and do a Dan Painter-patented Hoops Dish Q&A.

Let’s take this back old school and do a Dan Painter-patented Hoops Dish Q&A.

What’s the latest in 2016? Anything percolating as Maryland tries to add another piece or two in the spring?

Quite frankly, not really. Names have cropped up, and, just as quickly, names have fallen by the wayside. There was Micah Thomas (Huntington Prep/Huntington, W.Va.), there was Justyn Hamilton (Independence/Charlotte, N.C.), there was Maishe Dailey (Beachwood, Ohio) and, most recently, there was Tyrn Flowers (Sacred Heart/Waterbury, Conn.).

But, from what we’ve been able to glean, none are true “offer” recruits at this stage. Hamilton has been removed from the hot board altogether, Flowers never made it on (he popped to UMass), and Thomas and Dailey are hanging by a thread.

We are keeping the name Chris Orlina (Woodside/Newport News, Va.) in mind, however. The wing recruit is currently in the 2017 class, but after this season he’ll decide whether or not to reclass to 2016. After speaking to his coach, it sounds like a 50-50 proposition at this point.

If Orlina does move back into the senior class, we could see UMD head coach Mark Turgeon, who has seen the recruit in action, making a run. Orlina has performed well this season, showing improved handles and a developing shooting stroke, so he could be worth a late flyer. 

Of course, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Josh Jackson (Prolific Prep/Napa, Calif.), remains on the board, although he’s still a longshot. Maryland did move back ahead of UNLV in the pecking order thanks to head coach David Rice’s ouster in Vegas, but the Terps are probably sitting behind Michigan State; Kansas; and Arizona for now.

If Orlina doesn’t work out and the Terps can’t get back in the Josh Jackson race, then what?

Expect Mark Turgeon to do what he’s done each season he’s been in College Park, Md.: Add a fifth-year transfer. The feeling is the Terps need to add a wing and a big forward in 2016, and unless there’s a late emerging high-school star who proves himself offer worthy, the staff is going to have to mine the transfer ranks.

There haven’t been any definitive possibilities that have cropped up yet, but, given Turgeon’s past success, it’s a smart bet he’ll find what he needs.

Who are the main priorities in 2017?

After speaking to recruits and coaches, and monitoring the Maryland staff’s travels, the vibe is the Terps will take four to five recruits in 2017. Those foremost on the radar are: point guard Trevon Duval (API/Dallas, Texas), shooting guard M.J. Walker (Jonesboro, Ga.), wing Jordan Tucker (White Plains, N.Y.) and power forwards Billy Preston (API) and Jaren Jackson (Park Tudor/Indianapolis, Ind.). Turgeon could also add a true big man as well.

The above quartet are not all projected to wind up in College Park, however. As we’ve written previously, the five-stars Duval and Preston could wind up on the Nike AAU circuit this summer, which could hinder UMD’s chances. Arizona is firmly in play for both, who could wind up as a “package deal.”

Walker, an Under Armour-affiliated recruit, has the Terps among his top three contenders (along with FSU and Ohio State), but he’ll be a tough pull. And Tucker is fairly open at this point, although UMD; Syracuse; St. John’s; Arizona; Oklahoma; and Nova seem to be the main contenders.

As for Jackson, he’s the most likely on the “priority list” to end up a Terp. The 6-9 forward has trekked through College Park, remains in close contact with the Maryland coaches, and believes he’d be a great fit in the offense. Jackson’s father, Jaren Sr., went to Georgetown, but Jaren Jr. doesn’t seem inclined to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Purdue, Butler and Notre Dame are some other top contenders.

Note: Power forward Mohamed Bamba (Westtown, Pa.) is a priority for Maryland, but we’re not feeling much movement there. Bamba continues to be forecast to a blueblood program or hometown Villanova.

So, then who are the next tier of options?

-- If the Terps miss on the Duval, look for Turgeon to make a push for Luis Hurtado (Sagemont/Weston, Fla.), a three-star Venezuelan whose game resembles ex-UMD great Greivis Vasquez. Hurtado holds a Maryland offer, is highly intrigued by the program, and should be visiting College Park at some point.

-- If M.J. Walker elects to head elsewhere, next in line would be Brandon Randolph (Westtown, Pa.), a New York native who the Maryland staff should be offering at some point. Randolph has plenty of UMD intrigue, so if Turgeon pursues in earnest he could snag the emerging recruit, who has early verbals from Va Tech; Wake; VCU; Vandy; Seton Hall; and others.

-- Three other shooting guards in play are Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Hamilton Heights/Chattanooga, Tenn.), Hamidou Diallo (Woodstock Academy, Conn.) and Chaundee Brown (discussed in the section below). The Terps have been out to see Alexander-Walker, whose interest level is reciprocal. Turgeon and Co. could turn up the heat if Walker’s a no-go and Randolph doesn’t work out. Either way, we believe the coaches are intrigued enough by Alexander-Walker that they’ll remain in contact throughout his recruitment.

Diallo’s someone the coaches have scouted and have offered, but he’s looking for an offer from Kentucky and seems to be favoring UConn. He did speak highly of Maryland when we interviewed him, but unless he actually visits College Park, he’s staying “cool” on the hot board.

-- If Jordan Tucker falls off, Turgeon does have an offer out to Nicolas Claxton (Legacy Charter/Greenville, S.C.), a 6-9 wing who has vastly improved his game. Claxton has visited UMD and has readily taken to the coaches. The feeling is Maryland probably leads for his services, and if Turgeon reciprocates the interest, we could very well see Claxton in College Park. Other programs in pursuit include FSU, Baylor, Georgia (his father played there), Wake Forest and a couple more.

-- Wing Hameir Wright (Albany Academy/Albany, N.Y.) is probably a tick behind Claxton in the pecking order. Maryland assistant Dustin Clark has seen Wright play, although no scholarship has been presented as of yet. Wright certainly wants one, though, as he told me previously Maryland was a program he “really wanted to see” and “would be really high for me.” Cincinnati, Dayton, WVU and others are some of his main suitors for the time being.

-- The Terps will likely take two power forwards, so if Billy Preston and/or Jaren Jackson fall by the wayside, next up would be Aamir Simms (Blue Ridge/Dyke, Va.), Kris Wilkes (North Central/Indianapolis, Ind.) or maybe Nate Watson (O’Connell/Arlington, Va.). Simms and Wilkes claim UMD verbals, but neither seems to have Maryland among their foremost contenders (Wilkes is inclined to stay in the Midwest or head to Kansas, while Simms is high on Va Tech; Georgetown; Clemson; and Miami).

Are there any true centers on the radar?

At this time, not really. We just dropped Zach Kent (St. Andrew’s/Middletown, Del.) from the hot board and haven’t heard of any others with legitimate Maryland interest. We’ll continue to monitor the ranks to see if someone develops during AAU season.

Any College Park Visitor News?

There have been a smattering of locals at each game in Xfinity Center this year, but the one recruit who caught our eye earlier this week was four-star Florida native Chaundee Brown (First Academy/Orlando, Fla.). This 6-4, 190-pound shooting guard holds early offers from UConn, Florida and LSU, but could very well land a UMD verbal in time.

In fact, Maryland assistant Cliff Warren trekked down to the First Academy to watch Brown play, a couple days before the recruit’s arrival in College Park. (Note that Brown did not play particularly well). It’s possible Turgeon could extend the offer Jan. 15, when Brown takes in Maryland-Ohio State, but the headman may need to see further development.

I touched base with Brown before his visit just to get a feeling for his interest level. Apparently he’s particularly keen on the Terps. Brown’s never been in College Park before, but he’s eager enough to see the school that he’s flying up from Florida to get a firsthand look. He’s taken note of UMD’s rise up the ranks, loves the Terps’ style of play, and has been in regular contact with Warren.

Given that, we could easily see Brown becoming a priority target moving forward.

Realize, however, that Brown is seeking blueblood looks, particular from Kansas. He might not be at the Jayhawks’ level at this time, however, and there’s no indication KU will push.

What’s the most reasonable best-case scenario for the 2017 class?

If we were Mark Turgeon, here’s the recruits we’d want in 2017 (realistically speaking): Trevon Duval, Jordan Tucker/M.J. Walker, Jaren Jackson and Billy Preston.

But since we’re not exactly “feeling” Preston and Duval, the next-best options would be: Luis Hurtado, M.J. Walker/Tucker/Brandon Randolph, Jaren Jackson and Nicolas Claxton.

We’re inclined to believe either of those two scenarios would give the Terps a very solid 2017 crop of recruits.

What's the latest in staff travels?

The Maryland coaches hit the trail in earnest during the holidays, but of late they've mainly taken in DMV high school games. Aside from Warren heading down to Florida, the coaches have been spotted at Mount St. Joe's (Baltimore, Md.) to see Jalen Smith, Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) to see Prentiss Hubb and at Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) to see Brandon Slater. All three 2018 locals holds Maryland offers and are high on the hometown school early on.

Most recently, UMD assistant Bino Ranson stopped by Baltimore to see Smith, an elite sophomore power forward the Terps are all over. 

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