Hardwood Notes: Hoops Recruiting Updates

After a brief hiatus, Hardwood Notes returns this week for the latest in Maryland hoops recruiting.

After a brief hiatus, Hardwood Notes returns this week for the latest in Maryland hoops recruiting.

Terps Positioned For 2016s?

-- For a couple weeks, there was some buzz surrounding Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) five-star wing Josh Jackson, who said Maryland remained in play for his services. The nation’s No. 1 recruit even suggested he wanted to officially visit College Park, Md.

Not so fast.

In Jackson’s most recent interview, with USA Today, he let on his foremost three contenders were still Arizona, Kansas and Michigan State. Yes, Jackson will mention the Terps from time to time, but it’s becoming relatively clear they’re fourth on the leaderboard.

We’ll follow Jackson’s recruitment just in case, but we’re inclined to remove him from the hot board. Moving on.

-- The name Micah Thomas (Huntington Prep/Huntington, W.Va.) has been percolating about in Maryland circles for months now, although there’s been little “movement” with the 6-foot-7, 180-pound wing since adding a Terps’ offer back in late October. We let on previously Thomas was basically down to Maryland and Louisville, but the Memphis native had yet to set any firm visits, while there were some questions regarding whether or not he’d have to prep.

The latter remains to be answered, but Thomas did embark on his first official to Louisville Feb. 1. The wing evidently had a great time on campus, but opted not to commit during his stay. Conceivably, the Cardinals’ recent self-imposed postseason ban, which has cast some doubt on program’s status moving forward, gave Thomas some pause. Enough so that Thomas held off on a pop and will now be heading to College Park, Md., for a long-awaited visit.

The Huntington product is in the process of finalizing that trip, which should transpire sometime in the next couple weeks. There’s a chance, maybe even a very good chance, Thomas gives head coach Mark Turgeon his word during the upcoming stay. Thomas had spoken highly of the Terps in the past, and with UMD in need of a wing next year, could represent his best opportunity to show out for a primetime contender on a national stage. That is, if Louisville’s situation has indeed made Thomas leery.

Arkansas, a “hometown” school” which has been recruiting Thomas for years, is also involved, although the Razorbacks are probably running third.

-- Another small-forward type, Andre Wesson, sits on the hot board as well, although the Westerville-South (Westerville, Ohio) prospect is likely a backup option. Clark watched Wesson in action earlier in February, but there’s been no indication the coach will push for an offer.

Wesson, whose younger brother, Kaleb Wesson, is committed to Ohio State, holds mid-major scholarships from Richmond; Toledo; Akron; Illinois State; St. Louis and George Mason. He just took an official to Richmond and could very well pop to the Spiders if a high-major like Maryland doesn’t come calling soon.

-- Finally, wing Chris Orlina (Woodside/Newport News, Va.) is still on the board, but he’s in a holding pattern until the season concludes. Remember, Orlina is deciding whether or not to stick in the 2017 class or graduate this year instead. His coach recently put the possibilities of reclassing at “50-50.”

Orlina’s a steadily-improving player who Turgeon could take a harder look at if the recruit indeed enters the 2016 class. If not, the Maryland’s coaches have numerous higher-rated options on their 2017 board.

-- In addition to the wings, the Terps’ staff is also monitoring 6-9 center Cheickna Dembele, a late-emerging prep star at Scotland Performance Institute (Scotland, Pa.). Dembele added offers from Southern Miss, Rhode Island, St. Joe's, Iowa State and Providence, while Maryland; Pitt; Baylor; LSU and Georgetown are reportedly interested per his coach after the National Prep School Invitational Feb. 5-7, which UMD assistant Dustin Clark attended. 

The Terps' actually began taking notice of Dembele -- who is from Mali, Africa, and only been in the U.S. since November -- a month ago when Cliff Warren trekked through SPI. Evidently Warren gave favorable reports, prompting Clark to check the talented big out yet again. And given Maryland's need for a 2016 big, we could easily see the Terps joining Dembele's other suitors in short order. 

Dembele won't begin taking visits until the end of March, giving him plenty of time to learn about and build a rapport with various staffs. He likely won't take many officials, instead choosing a couple schools whose coaches have shown the most love. He'll then pick between two or three true contenders and sign in April.

Right now, Dembele's recruitment is in its infant stages (not surprising considering he's been state-side for less than four months). But we could see Mark Turgeon and Co. ratcheting things up and securing a visit from the center recruit if Clark returned to College Park Feb. 8 with a positive evaluation.

Class Of 2017 Point Guards

-- Potential good news out on the 2017 point guard front. The rumblings over which AAU program five-star Trevon Duval (API/Dallas, Texas) will play for continues, many believing he’d switch from Under Armour-based WE-R1 to the Nike circuit. But we’ve heard Duval’s inclined to stick with Delaware-based WE-R1, which should aid Maryland’s chances at luring the five-star to College Park.

Duval has Maryland, Arizona, UCLA, Baylor and Louisville on the brain, although we’re encouraged about the Terps’ chances provided he remains with UA. The Delaware native has readily taken to Mark Turgeon and Co., loves the atmosphere at Xfinity Center, and knows he’d fit well in UMD’s free-style offense. Plus, Duval likes the idea of playing only a couple hours from home.

-- One backup option if Duval falls off is Sagemont’s (Weston, Fla.) Luis Hurtado. The three-star combo has held a Maryland offer since the fall and remains in touch with UMD-area recruiter Cliff Warren.

The scrappy, defensive-minded Hurtado has plenty of Terps’ affinity -- stemming from the Venzuelan’s days watching Greivis Vasquez -- but it’s unclear whether the Maryland staff will heavily pursue. Even if Duval heads elsewhere, Turgeon and Co. may need to see more of Hurtado this summer before reengaging him.

-- Another point guard to keep in mind is Blair Academy’s (Blairstown, N.J.) Matt Turner, who we placed back on the hot board. Turner’s seen his recruitment increase since the season began and now holds several intriguing offers from the likes of George Washington, Rutgers, Georgetown and Seton Hall. He’s seeking a Maryland scholarship, however, and wants to visit UMD as soon as he’s able to.

Dustin Clark probably has to evaluate Turner’s summer performances before recommending a potential offer, but we get the sense the Jersey product could become UMD's top backup option (ahead of Luis Hurtado) if Duval falls through.

Class Of 2017 Shooting Guards

-- M.J. Walker (Jonesboro, Ga.) is by far and away the No. 1 shooting guard target for Mark Turgeon, and it sounds like the Terps have more than a puncher’s chance with the five-star Under Armour recruit. The 6-4, 200-pound wing, who is still in the process of scheduling an initial College Park visit, has Maryland; Ohio State; and Florida State atop his favorites list -- with the Terps pushing the hardest.

Turgeon has personally taken hold of this recruitment and seems to have Walker’s ear. True, Walker is content to let the process play out, so there could be some twists and turns to endure here, but right now we like UMD’s position.

-- We’re still waiting on Brandon Randolph (Westtown, Pa.) to land his Maryland offer. The New York native has added his share of high-majors the last month or so, with Louisville; Xavier; Wake; Va Tech; Temple and others becoming involved. The Terps’ staff has seen him play, and Randolph’s told us Maryland’s very interested (and vice versa), but, thus far, no dice. We do, however, expect the scholarship to eventually materialize -- if for no other reason than to ensure UMD remains on Randolph’s mind.

-- A five-star shooting guard who does hold a Maryland verbal, Hamidou Diallo, has seen his recruitment skyrocket this winter at Woodstock Academy (Conn.). He now has legitimate Kentucky interest, with offers already on the table from UConn; Kansas; and St. John’s, all of which have Diallo’s attention.

Diallo, recruited by Dustin Clark, did show initial interest in Maryland, but it appears to have been cursory. We’re keeping him “cool” on the hot board unless he actually treks down to College Park.

-- Four-star Florida shooting guard Chaundee Brown (First Academy/Orlando, Fla.) has been on the Terps’ radar for awhile, although the offer hasn’t cropped up. Cliff Warren watched the 6-4, 190-pounder play earlier in 2015, while Brown actually visited College Park Jan. 15. Brown -- who claims offers from UConn, Florida and LSU -- said Maryland’s a school he regards highly, but Turgeon may need to further evaluate him before dubbing him a priority.

-- Meanwhile, Hamilton Heights (Chattanooga, Tenn.) four-star Nickeil Alexander-Walker is awaiting a Maryland verbal as well. UMD’s Cliff Warren did scout Alexander-Walker, who told us the Terps’ assistant was intrigued. But this is another recruit who falls under the “wait and see category,” Turgeon needing to personally vet the 6-5, 180-pounder. Alexander-Walker, for his part, likes UMD early and wants to visit College Park.

-- We placed shooting guard/wing D.J. Harvey (DeMatha/Hyattsville, Md.) back on the hot board since he’s been spotted on campus each of the last two weekends. The Maryland staff never ceased pursuing Harvey, but the DMV five-star didn’t exactly reciprocate the interest. Apparently, though, Harvey is giving some thought to the hometown school after back-to-back productive meetings with Turgeon, Dustin Clark and the rest of the staffers. We’ve heard some personal things may have changed, causing Harvey to reevaluate his situation.

But it’s a bit too soon for Terps’ fans to get their hopes up yet. Harvey continues to talk up Duke, Arizona, Oklahoma, Villanova, NC State and UNC (no offer yet), with the bluebloods and Zona at the forefront.

We’ll see how this recruitment develops down the road.

-- Last but not least, we’re not dismissing the name David Beatty (St. Benedict’s/Newark, N.J.). The 6-4, 170-pounder is a rugged, tough-as-nails type whose style intrigues the Maryland coaches. Beatty also lauded the Terps a good deal, letting on it’s an offer he covets. For the moment, Georgetown, Kansas State, Memphis, St. Joe’s, Miami, Penn State and a couple others are on him.

Class Of 2017 Small Forwards

-- Finally, the Terps’ top wing priority, Jordan Tucker (White Plains, N.Y.), will be visiting College Park. The 6-7, 210-pounder, who reneged on at least two other intended trips, said he’ll be coming to UMD Feb. 21 for a look at one of his principal contenders. Tucker and Maryland’s Bino Ranson have a close rapport, the recruiter in pursuit for more than a year. Plus, Tucker has connections in and around D.C. (he uses to train in the DMV) and has taken to the area.

Tucker is fairly open at this point, however, with numerous programs in play. St. John’s, Syracuse, Oklahoma, Arizona, Michigan, Villanova and maybe even Kentucky (if the Wildcats make a charge) have his eye.

We’ll have a better feel for Tucker after he treks through College Park.

-- A new name on the radar is Christian David (Vermont Academy/Saxtons River, Conn.), a small forward who has attracted increased attention this season. A Canadian native from Milton, Ontario, the 6-5, 185-pound David’s secured offers from Baylor; Illinois; Oregon; DePaul; Creighton; and Providence, among others. Maryland’s Bino Ranson has been up to check David out as well, and it wouldn’t shock at all if the Terps eventually extended an offer. And if Jordan Tucker elects to head elsewhere, Turgeon could make a potent push here.

-- Of course, 6-9 forward Nicolas Claxton (Legacy Charter/Greenville, S.C.) already holds a Maryland scholarship, has visited College Park, and has hinted UMD is his early leader. If the Terps’ coaches continue recruiting him in earnest, Claxton could be College Park bound before it’s all said and done. In fact, Claxton’s probably a “take” for Maryland even if the staff lands Jordan Tucker, the staff making room for multiple wings/forwards.

-- Midwest forward Kris Wilkes (North Central/Indianapolis, Ind.) has a committable Maryland offer too, but he seems to be focused elsewhere. The five-star is giving Butler and Indiana prime consideration, while he’s waiting for bluebloods like Kentucky and Kansas to push.

-- The other wing Dustin Clark is keeping tabs on is Hameir Wright (Albany Academy/N.Y.), who basically told us he wanted in at College Park. He may not snag a UMD scholarship, however, unless some of Turgeon’s other targets drop by the wayside. Wright’s recruitment hasn’t taken off (offers from Cincinnati, Dayton and WVU), but he’s someone who could attract more looks during the summer.

-- Keep the name Kyle Young (Jackson/Massillon, Ohio) in mind as we’ve heard UMD’s Bino Ranson may be showing increased attention. This 6-6, 205-pounder has offers from Clemson, Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin, Xavier and several mid-majors, with several other high-majors monitoring him.

Note: Blue Ridge (Dyke, Va.) forward Aamir Simms came off the hot board this week after showing little interest in UMD. The Terps’ staff had a tentative “offer” out to him, but never showed more than lukewarm interest.

Class Of 2017 Power Forwards

-- Five-star Billy Preston (API/Dallas, Texas) is still bandied about in Maryland circles, although we’re growing a bit skeptical here. The 6-8, 220-pound power forward is about to cut his favorites list down to about a half-dozen programs, and while we do believe UMD will be included, the Terps may not be higher than fourth or fifth right now.

Preston, who talked up the Terps following his College Park visit earlier in the fall, has his eye on Kentucky after a recent foray through Lexington, Kent. The five-star Under Armour recruit couldn’t say enough about headman John Calipari, the Wildcats’ tradition and the atmosphere around campus. If Calipari offers, Kentucky may vault to No. 1 on Preston’s board.

It’s also worth noting that Preston’s from California and may be inclined to a West Coast school. Arizona, USC and a couple other Pac-12 programs are in mind. Maryland should remain in play if Preston continues on the Under Armour circuit, but we’re more encouraged by Mark Turgeon’s chances with Preston’s teammate, Trevon Duval.

--  The Terps have an even better chance at landing four-star Park Tudor (Indianapolis, Ind.) big forward Jaren Jackson. The 6-9, 210-pounder legitimately has turtles on the brain after foraying through College Park in November. Jackson, with UMD’s Cliff Warren in close contact, lived in the Silver Spring, Md., area for a time; ate up the D.C. vibe; and believes he’d fit well in Mark Turgeon’s system. He loved Xfinity Center, the Maryland fans and how he was treated during his stay.

Jackson Jr.’s father may have played at Georgetown, but we don’t get the sense the Park Tudor prospect necessarily wants to follow in Jackson Sr.’s footsteps. Butler, Purdue and IU are involved too, but the Terps may have the inside track.

-- Finally, there’s power forward Mohamed Bamba (Westtown, Pa.), who Maryland’s hanging on to by a thread. Bamba talks Terps from time to time, but it rings of lip service. Most believe he’s going to Villanova, Duke or another blueblood.

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