Hardwood Notes: Evaluating 2018 Targets

The high school hoops season has started, and there have been several early-season matchups featuring prime 2018 Terps’ targets.

The high school hoops season has started, and there have been several early-season matchups featuring prime 2018 Terps’ targets.

So far this year we’ve been able to watch top point guard priority Prentiss Hubb (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.), wing Brandon Slater (Paul VI/Fairfax, Va.), wing Chimezie Offurum (Georgetown Prep/North Bethesda, Md.), power forward Jalen Smith (Mount St. Joe/Baltimore, Md.), and center Moses Brown (Archbishop Molloy/Briarwood, N.Y.). Additionally, we saw guard Eric Ayala (Putnam Science/Putnam, Conn.), who is considering reclassing to 2017, and attempted to watch point guard Immanuel Quickley (John Carroll/Bel Air, Md.), who was sidelined with a foot injury.

Each of the above have proven to be offer-worthy and should continue to be Maryland targets down the line. Right now, the Terps are looking at a four- or five-man 2018 class, and head coach Mark Turgeon wouldn’t be displeased if he could sign the likes of Hubb; Slater; Smith; and Brown, with Offurum as a possible addition as well.

-- The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Prentiss Hubb, as has been written multiple times, isn’t going to wow you with his athleticism. But he’s a dead-eye 3-point marksmen, handles it well, has exceptional floor vision, plays solid defense and, most importantly, makes smart decisions. Scout, which is typically stingy with its star rankings, has Hubb rated as a 5-star and the 24th best prospect in the 2018 class.

The Terps, with Turgeon and assistant Dustin Clark handling the recruitment, have been after Hubb in earnest for going on two years now, and the interest is reciprocal. Maryland will remain in the thick of things for the local point, and could have the upper-hand over Villanova and Virginia.

Hubb isn't going to pop early, and is content to wad through the process, however, so we'll see if Clark and Co. can close the deal.

-- Brandon Slater, meanwhile, has taken significant strides since we last saw him in the summer. At both the National Hoops Fest and a tournament at Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), the 6-6, 180-pound Slater proved he could finish at the rim, knock down the outside jumper and defend at all three levels. He doesn’t have great strength, but he’s physical on both ends and knows how to use his plus-athleticism and length to his advantage. Scout has Slater rated a four-star and 31st in the top-100, but he could be elevated to a five-star if he keeps progressing.

Slater has much affinity for hometown Maryland and has been in College Park, Md., several times. He has a tight-knit rapport with Clark and most of the UMD staff. But the Paul VI product is open to other suitors, and as his profile rises, it’s going to be more difficult for the Terps’ staff to keep him local. UVA, Nova and Miami are pushing for Slater, and some bluebloods have been sniffing around as well.

-- With Chimezie Offurum, he might’ve been the most surprising scout thus far. The 6-6 wing continues to fly under the radar, but based off what we saw at Georgetown Prep, Offurum looks like the real deal. He’s an elite athlete, has terrific length and is highly skilled. Offurum showed a soft touch from beyond the arc, along with the ability to finish. He sees the floor well, makes good passes and gives effort on the defensive end. His handles could use some work, and he’ll need to add strength, but Offurum looks the part of a top-100 recruit.

Maryland, Va Tech, Indiana, St. Joe’s, Rutgers and a couple others have offers out so far, but the Georgetown Prep product will garner plenty more in the next few months. Either way, the Terps have an early bead, with Offurum taking a keen liking to recruiter Bino Ranson and the Maryland staff. He’s been in College Park about three times the last few months and likes the idea of staying local.

-- As for the power forward “Sticks” Smith, he just keeps getting better and better. A face-up “4,” the 6-9 Baltimore native has pretty much every tool necessary to succeed immediately at the next level. Smith runs the floor like a deer, has above-average quickness, a plus-vertical, and terrific length. He can hit from deep, shows touch in the mid-range, and has plenty of inside moves that allow him to convert in the paint. Smith is active on the glass and plays aggressive defense, while his ball-handling and passing are underrated. The main thing for Smith is adding bulk and filling out his frame, as he’s still, well, “stick-like.”

The Mount St. Joe forward is a 5-star on Scout, and ranked 14th in the top-100.

With his recruiting, Smith’s offer list continues to expand, and he claims looks from almost every non-blueblood east of the Mississippi. Eventually, though, the likes of Kansas, Duke and North Carolina will become involved too, joining the Marylands; UVAs; Notre Dames; and Villanovas of the world.

Either way, Maryland is well-positioned here. Turgeon and Ranson have been on Smith since his freshman year, hosting him multiple times and viewing as many of his games as possible. Smith, in turn, has much love for the hometown school, repeatedly listing Maryland as a primary contender (albeit, he no longer likes to use the term “leader”). The Mount St. Joe star is going to go through the recruiting process, so there’s bound to be some ebbing a flowing, but the Terps have done all they can to convince Smith to stay home. (Smith isn’t going to be influenced by other recruits’ decisions, but it can’t hurt UMD’s chances with him that they just signed his teammate, Darryl Morsell).

-- The 7-0 center Moses Brown, who trekked through the DMV with his teammates for a tournament at Gonzaga, displayed improved fundamentals and more developed skills compared to the summer. He ran well in transition, showed nifty footwork in the paint, and actively protected the rim. Brown can finish with both hands inside, and is working on hitting jumpers from 15-feet out. He’s aggressive too, going after loose balls and challenging opponents for rebounds. Brown has to keep honing his shot and inside moves, and physically he has to add mass since he’s rail-thin.

Scout has Brown rated a four-star and the 32nd best player in his class.

As far as recruiting is concerned, Brown is fairly open to any suitor, though he mentioned Maryland; Kansas; Florida, Louisville, Arizona; Cal; and St. John’s as some of the programs prioritizing him. He’s been to UConn, St. John’s and Maryland, and wants to see UF, Louisville, Kansas and Duke at some point. (Brown is seeking a Duke offer, but he’ll need to take the next step for the Blue Devils to ante up).

The New Yorker has seen UMD twice, most recently for the game against St. Peter’s, and has offered up his praise for the coaching staff; strength program; and big-man development. Brown is in constant communication with Ranson, who has let the 7-footer know how much he’s needed in College Park.

-- The 6-3 five-star Immanuel Quickley is almost ready to return to action, and we’ll be watching him later this winter. But with his recruitment, Scout’s No. 10 prospect has a leaderboard of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Miami, Providence and Washington.

Quickley’s made it known he wants in at Duke, and it’s possible the Blue Devils will eventually offer. Kansas and Kentucky also have Quickley’s eye, and he could opt for either one if their respective staffs elect to push.

Maryland remains involved here, and Quickley is always complimentary of Turgeon’s program. But we’re led to believe Ranson and Co. have some work to do to gain Quickley’s ear as it’s clear the local guard is starry eyed.

-- Last but not least, the guard Eric Ayala, who checks in at 6-3, 180 pounds. Ayala, a four-star, has steadily made strides as a ball-handler and with his shooting, attracting offers from Maryland; UConn; Syracuse; Indiana; Miami; USC; VCU; Providence; and others. But it remains to be seen which programs will push for his services.

Right now, as a 2018 recruit, Ayala is an option if the Terps can’t reel in Prentiss Hubb. Regardless, the Delaware native is in contact with assistant Nima Omidvar and has enjoyed both of his treks through College Park. Ayala has praised the atmosphere at UMD, the coaching staff’s personality/player development, the free-flowing system and the fact College Park isn’t far from his Delaware home.

There is a possibility, however, that Ayala moves into the 2017 class since college coaches have suggested they’d take him a year early. Syracuse, Indiana and UConn could be possible destinations should Ayala reclass. Maryland’s staff might toy with the idea of bringing the point guard in too, but we don’t foresee it.

Others in 2018

-- We haven’t had a chance to watch D.C. wing-guard Kiyon Boyd (HD Woodson/Washington, D.C.) yet, but will at some point this winter. The 6-5 four-star lists Maryland as a primary contender, although we’re somewhat skeptical he’ll continue to do so since the Terps just signed Darryl Morsell in the 2017 class. Expect Clark and Turgeon to keep in touch with Boyd, though, and trek through Woodson as often as possible.

The others heavily involved with Boyd include Xavier, Miami and Va Tech, with more bound to up the pursuit.

-- Another nearby recruit we’ll attempt to see is big man David McCormack (Norfolk Academy/Norfolk, Va.). The 6-11 center is a Maryland priority like Moses Brown, and the Terps would like to sign one of the two.

McCormack last visited College Park Nov. 20, the four-star talking up Turgeon’s coaching methods; strength coach Kyle Tarp; the fan atmosphere; and the Terps’ style of play.  The Virginia native has a solid relationship with Clark, who has let McCormack know he’s a priority.

In addition to UMD, Georgetown; Texas; and Va Tech are after McCormack, while he said Duke’s staff is showing interest. McCormack covets offers from the Blue Devils and UNC, but we’re not so sure he’s going to get them. The Terps are positioned well initially, but McCormack’s recruitment is in the early stages, and there’s a ways to go before we can forecast his destination.

-- Also, don’t write the Terps off for five-star power forward Silvio De Sousa (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.). De Sousa and Maryland 2017 signee Bruno Fernando are close friends, with the latter in the former’s ear about joining him in College Park. The two came to the United State together from Angola and have developed a deep bond the last few years. Additionally, Turgeon and Clark have maintained contact and been through IMG to make their pitch to De Sousa as well.

But the 6-9 five-star will have his pick of schools, so we’ll have to see how his situation develops down the line.

Naturally, there are plenty other names on UMD’s 2018 radar, many of whom we’ve detailed in past Hardwood Notes. But the above seem like the main priorities and the most realistic Terps’ targets at this time.

2017 Recruiting

Right now, Maryland has a two-man class with Darryl Morsell and Bruno Fernando (IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.), but we do think they’ll continue mining the ranks for another big man. Turgeon will be on the lookout for transfers, late emergers this winter, and possibly overseas talent.

Several names have been percolating, but nothing seems imminent yet.

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