When junior wing Chimezie Offurum secured an offer from Maryland back in the spring, he was a little-known prospect without any national buzz. At first blush, it was questionable whether the Terps’ staff would truly prioritize the 6-foot-6 Georgetown Prep (Bethesda, Md.) prospect, especially with so many other touted wing recruits in the 2018 class.
But after watching Offurum play, and then speaking extensively to his head coach, Ryan Eskow, the DMV product is indeed firmly on Maryland’s radar.
“The Maryland coaches think Mezie is at the same level as some of the guys they’ve seen in the ESPN Top 100,” said Eskow, who is in his second year at Georgetown Prep. “They first saw Mezie back in the spring, and, really, it’s been all of them that have come in and been on him. Coach Bino [Ranson], Coach Cliff [Warren], Coach [Dustin] Clark and even Coach [Mark] Turgeon, they’ve all been here at least once. It’s really been a team effort recruiting [Offurum], and they’ve been one of his heaviest recruiters.”
Apparently the interest is reciprocal.
Offurum, who is of Nigerian descent, moved from Alabama to Germantown, Md., when he was two years old and now resides in Frederick County. Thus, he’s grown up around the Terps’ program and has a natural affinity for the hometown school. And since the Maryland staff has been pursuing, Offurum has trekked through College Park, Md., on several occasions, most recently for the Terps’ 2016 home opener against American University, which happens to be Eskow’s alma mater.
“Mezie likes Maryland a lot,” Eskow said. “We caught the game against American, and he really liked it. He likes the way Maryland plays, and he likes the energy around basketball there. He thinks it’s a nice campus and he’s comfortable around the coaches.”
That latter statement is an absolutely essential factor for Offurum.
“We’re a very intimate community and high academic school. The whole community takes an interest in everybody here at Prep,” Eskow said. “Mezie likes that and wants a coaching staff similar to mine, where we really care about you not just as a player or student. And Maryland so far has done a great job showing him they do care about his personal and athletic development.”
Even so, Eskow said his budding star is in no rush to name leaders or early favorites. The coach said Offurum is a deliberate, close-to-the-vest prospect and will take the recruiting process slowly.
“He just exploded onto the scene,” Eskow said. “He’s a thinker, and he’ll process everything that comes in. So we’ll see what happens.
“Mezie loves the recruiting process, but he’s a different kind of guy. He’s not going to get caught up in all the hoopla and craziness. He’s not on Twitter. He’s a very humble kid and not worried about national rankings or things like that.”
In addition to Maryland, Offurum claims offers from Indiana, Virginia Tech, St. Joe’s, Tulsa, UAB, Rutgers, Towson and Canisius. Some of his more interested possible suitors include Georgetown, UVA, Northwestern, Villanova, George Washington and more. (Eskow estimates that between 70-75 programs have been through to check on Offurum).
So far, Offurum has visited UMD, Georgetown and Virginia Tech. Eskow said the wing will unlikely venture out during the season, although he allowed Offurum would probably make it back to Maryland and Georgetown this winter since both schools are so close.
“During the spring maybe he’ll get out more,” Eskow said. “Between the season here and his academic responsibilities, he has a lot on his plate.”
If Offurum’s rise seems rather sudden, it’s because it literally has been. He was under-recruited coming out of middle school, with local high school powers such as DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.), Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) and others showing little interest. He ended up at Prep due to the school’s academic reputation and after assistant Larry Gray spotted him at a Germantown gym.
“At the time, he was tall and athletic, but some high schools weren’t sold on him,” Eskow said. “My assistant spotted him, but Mezie was brought in purely as a student. Mezie’s parents made academics a priority, and if basketball worked out too, then great.”
Offurum played jayvee his freshman year before ascending to varsity during his sophomore campaign. Per Eskow, the wing began to readily develop in the middle of his sophomore season, before taking another step last summer with Baltimore United.
“This summer was a big, big stepping stone for him,” said Eskow, who mentioned he’s unsure what AAU squad Offurum will play with this summer, although he admitted it could be the DC Blue Devils. “A lot of coaches believe kids make their biggest jump when they start gaining confidence, and that’s the biggest thing he’s improved in. He’s also gotten more consistent with his shooting, ball-handling and become more assertive. Those are the four things he made the most strides in, and he’s still improving every day.”
Eskow said he expects Offurum to continue his rise as the season moves along. And as he does, the Prep product’s offer list figures to grow and grow.
“One of the reasons I think he’s a high-level prospect is he’s so versatile. He’s close to 6-7 and has a great handle, a solid jump shot, he’s a good passer, good at rebounding, a good defender, and has good vision,” Eskow said. “At times he’ll be at the ‘1’ and at other times he’ll be at the ‘5.’ I like interchangeable parts in my system, but his versatility is really his greatest strength, no question.
“In terms of what he needs to work on, he has to be even more assertive, but he can also be even more consistent with his jump shot. If he can shoot in that 45 percent range from 3, that would be huge. He’s at around 38 percent right now, so improving there would be big for him.”