Hardwood Notes: Updates On Targets, Officials

Fall official visits are coming up, and several Maryland targets will be trekking through College Park, Md., for a looksee at head coach Mark Turgeon’s program. Let’s take a look at where UMD stands with its foremost 2017 targets before the early signing period in November.

Fall official visits are coming up, and several Maryland targets will be trekking through College Park, Md., for a looksee at head coach Mark Turgeon’s program. Let’s take a look at where UMD stands with its foremost 2017 targets before the early signing period in November.

The Shooting Guard Situation

The name M.J. Walker (Jonesboro, Ga.) continues to trend in Maryland circles, but there’s more and more UMD buzz surrounding First Academy (Orlando, Fla.) four-star Chaundee Brown of late. Brown, who visited College Park unofficially back in January and landed an offer in May, has maintained high interest in Maryland since then, despite seeing his stock rise exponentially. Moreover, he’s had consistent contact with Terps’ area recruiter Cliff Warren, who watched Brown several times on the Nike circuit with South Beach during the evaluation periods.

Now, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Orlando native is set to officially visit UMD for homecoming Oct. 1. Typically, that is a major weekend for both basketball and football recruits, so it’s a sign the Terps’ staff is making Brown a priority.

Of course, Brown is taking an official to Kansas, his stated dream school, Sept. 2, and one might assume he could pop to the Jayhawks while on campus. But after digging deeper, we’re not positive that will be the case. KU coach Bill Self’s No. 1 two-guard priority is Troy Brown (Centennial/Las Vegas, Nev.), while the Jayhawks already have one such guard committed in Marcus Garrett (Skyline/Dallas, Texas). On top of that, Self wants five-star point guard Trae Young (Norman North/Norman, Okla.), which may or may not affect the Chaundee Brown pursuit. It's possible Self may still take Chaundee Brown if the recruit wants in in early September, but it’s a situation worth monitoring.

Other schools pining for Chaundee Brown’s services are Indiana and Florida, although he has yet to set officials to either school.

The above scenario could all be for naught, however, if Mount St. Joseph (Baltimore, Md.) combo guard Darryl Morsell somehow commits to UMD before Brown visits. Remember, the DMV guard Morsell, who visited Maryland unofficially Aug. 20, told me he hadn’t scheduled a College Park official. But two days after our conversation, he let on he could return for his official sometime in September. If so, that could mean he’s angling to grab a spot before it’s filled by someone like Chaundee Brown.

We’d be inclined to think the Terps’ staff would have Brown higher on its board than Morsell, but, at the same time, Turgeon has made the locals a priority. Is it possible Turgeon could be leveraging a recruit like Brown to get an early pop out of Morsell?  It’s a scenario worth considering in the weeks ahead, particularly if the Mount St. Joe’s product shows up on campus again.

For now, the 6-4, 200-pound Morsell is set to visit Notre Dame Sept. 17 and Nova Sept. 24, both officially. Those two were thought to have Morsell’s eye first and foremost, but we’ll have to see how hard the Irish’s and Wildcats’ staffs push for the Baltimore prospect. Both programs have other guard targets on their respective boards, and it remains to be seen where Morsell resides in the pecking order.

Virginia Tech and Dayton are hanging around for Morsell too, though he’ll only end up at those two programs if UMD, UND and Nova all pass.

Third on the board is St. Benedict Prep (Newark, N.J.) guard David Beatty. For awhile, it sounded like Beatty might be Maryland’s man, but both sides seemed to have cooled of late. The four-star has maintained communication with UMD-area recruiter Bino Ranson, although the feeling is Turgeon would rather have Morsell or Chaundee Brown. Beatty might only be an option for Maryland if the others fall off.

The 6-4, 190-pounder wanted to commit in fairly short order, but he hasn’t scheduled officials yet, perhaps an indication he’s waiting to see what programs truly want him. UConn could be Beatty’s destination if the Huskies’ staff ups the pursuit.

Before moving on to the next group of Maryland targets, let’s touch on the five-star M.J. Walker, whose recruitment is moving at a snail’s pace. As we’ve stated numerous times in this space, we’re encouraged by UMD’s position with the Georgian. Walker has a strong relationship with Cliff Warren, and Turgeon personally had time to work with the five-star in Chile with Team USA. Plus, Walker's an Under Armour prospect who plays at a Maryland-friendly program.

But will Turgeon gamble and leave Morsell and Chaundee Brown on the table in hopes of snagging Walker during the late signing period? We’re not so sure he will. The thought is if either of the former two want in, the Terps will take the bird in hand.

If so, Walker could be bound for Florida State, Ohio State or maybe Kansas. Walker, though, has yet to schedule any officials, so his situation could very well change as other prospects begin filling up spots.

Note: Small forward Justin Tucker (Archbishop Stepinac/White Plains, N.Y.) is set for his Maryland official in September. He took an unofficial a couple months back and said he had a good time interacting with the coaches and recruiter Bino Ranson. But we’re just not sure Tucker’s the right fit for the Terps. He can shoot, for sure, but he’s not the most athletic or creative wing out there. Tucker might only become a true option for Turgeon if Brown, Morsell and M.J. Walker begin favoring other schools.

Villanova, Indiana, St. John’s, UConn and maybe Duke (unlikely he’ll get the offer) are also in pursuit. It’s worth noting that Syracuse, long favored to land Tucker, backed off a bit, which could be a red flag.

The Jaren Jackson Situation

The five-star Jackson (La Lumiere/La Porte, Ind.) is the No. 1 recruit on the Maryland staff’s board and a must-get in the 2017 class. I checked in with the 6-9, 215-pounder last week and, as expected, he remains in a holding pattern. Jackson continues to monitor his wide array of options and hasn’t settled on any definite official-visit dates yet.

That said, Jackson, who Cliff Warren and Mark Turgeon watched intently on the Adidas Gauntlet with Spiece Indy this summer, does seem to be focusing in on a few programs in particular. Maryland sits at the forefront of that list, along with Michigan State and Purdue. Jackson checked out both MSU and Purdue in early August for unofficials, coming away impressed with both.

Georgetown, his father’s alma mater, Indiana and maybe Alabama are on the brain too, though each may be trailing the Terps; Spartans; and Boilermakers.

Recall, Jackson is a Silver Spring, Md., native and both he and his father loved their winter trip to College Park. We expect them to return for an official sometime in the next couple months.

Regardless of when the second trip occurs, though, Jackson won’t be signing until the spring. So there could be some ebbing and flowing before this is all said and done.

If Jackson falls off, the backup option for Maryland is O’Shae Brissett (Findlay Prep/Henderson, Nev.), the former teammate of UMD signee Justin Jackson. The four-star landed a UMD offer back in July and has expressed interest in visiting College Park. He also said the Terps’ coaches have regular communication with him.

The programs pressing hardest for him, however, are Oregon and USC, and it sounds like Brissett may be inclined to stick with the nearby Pac-12. That said, if Turgeon and Co. ardently pursue, the thought is they could probably convince Brissett to head East. But that’s only going to happen if the staff senses Jackson’s heading elsewhere.

The Power Forward/Center Situation

Joining Chaundee Brown in College Park Oct. 1 for homecoming is the Terps’ top big-man, Nate Watson (O’Connell/Arlington, Va.). Provided Watson doesn’t pop to NC State Aug. 22 (he’s there officially), Wake Forest Aug. 24 (he’s there unofficially) or Providence Sept. 10 (he’s there officially), the 6-9, 250-pound Watson is Maryland’s to lose.

The four-star’s recruitment has been hashed and rehashed, so readers know how he feels about the Terps and vice versa. He’s been in College Park numerous times, has a relationship with every coach on staff, and likes the idea of playing for the local school.

Sure, Watson may not be the highest-rated big on Turgeon’s board, but, again, the staff is seeking to keep the DMV recruits home. If Watson wants in during his official, which is certainly a possibility, Turgeon will undoubtedly accept his pledge.

Watson is scheduled to officially visit Miami Oct. 8, but we’re not so sure he makes it down to Coral Gables, Fla. He could be a Terp by Oct. 2.

Now, it’s important to note that center Ikey Obiagu (Greenforest McCalep/Decatur, Ga.) is still in play, and, honestly, we like Obiagu’s defensive game compared to Watson’s more offensive approach. Obiagu has been to Maryland twice unofficially, and while he didn’t sound overly enthusiastic (he tends to play things close to the vest) the 7-footer does have the Terps among his foremost five suitors. Obiagu has taken to UMD recruiter Dustin Clark and likes how Turgeon and Co. have developed their big men.

But Obiagu, a Nike-based recruit -- that’s important to note in this instance as we’ve heard he could be steered to a Nike program -- is also looking hard at Baylor, Arizona, Louisville and perhaps Georgetown. The Bears could lead currently, though Obiagu has no intention of committing early. We’ll have to see where he decides to officially visit before forecasting his destination. 

At one time, Bourama Sidibe (St. Benedict’s Prep) was gaining some momentum in UMD circles. But we’ve heard crickets of late from the 6-9, 220-pound power forward. We do believe the Terps’ staff has kept in touch with Sidibe given his shot-blocking and rebounding prowess, but the recruit personally hasn’t said much in regards to standouts or visits.

Sidibe, however, did land a UConn offer in mid-August, which could be a game-changer. It’s possible he winds up in Storrs, Conn., with teammate David Beatty.

Note: Prolific Prep (San Pedro, Calif.) power forward Ira Lee is reportedly taking an official to College Park, per Bleacher Report. But the five-star has long been forecast to Arizona, and that’s where most analysts believe he’ll wind up. Texas, Oregon and Cal are also heavily involved.

The Trevon Duval Situation

This section is going last, because, really, there’s so much conjecture and banter out there it’s not worth commenting until the dust settles. Is the five-star Duval heading to St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.)? IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)? Overseas? Will he even play college basketball?

We do know Duval, a Delaware native who suits up for Under Armour-based We R 1, likes Maryland and recruiter Bino Ranson a good deal. And we do know he’s keen on the idea of returning home after a year at Advanced Prep (Dallas, Texas).

That said, our gut is Mark Turgeon may not want to go all-out for a one-and-done recruit with a possibly questionable transcript (especially since the Terps aren’t in dire need for a point guard). But we’ll wait to see what transpires in the next couple months before rushing to judgment.

We're keeping Duval "cool" on the hot board.

Projected 2017 Class

2G: Darryl Morsell

PF: Jaren Jackson

PF: Nate Watson

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