The Maryland staff may not be finished recruiting the 2017 class, even after adding guard Darryl Morsell (Mount St. Joe/Baltimore, Md.) and forward Bruno Fernando (IMG/Bradenton, Fla.) during the early-signing period.
Head coach Mark Turgeon and area recruiter Cliff Warren have been closely monitoring versatile big man Sandro Mamukelashvili (Montverde Academy/Fla.) since late September, and offered the 6-foot-10, 230 pound European native around October. Then, in early February, Warren and Turgeon watched Mamukelashvili live once again at a nearby tournament, expressing interest in bringing the recruit in for an official visit, per the recruit.
“I have a great relationship with them. Coach Warren talks to me all the time, and I’ve spoken to the head coach too,” said Mamukelashvili, who lived in Georgia for 14 years, moved to Italy for two years, and finally decided to head to Montverde Academy last summer to increase his opportunities of attending a high-major U.S. college. “It’s great coaches and a great system at Maryland. They’re one of the top teams around, and I like the way they play, so it’s a school I’m interested in. They’ve done a good job developing players and getting guys ready for the next level.”
Mamukelashvili’s spot at Maryland was seemingly taken when Fernando signed, but evidently the Terps see the Georgian as a different type of fit. Perhaps, as one of those European bigs who can play four different positions on the floor.
“To tell you the truth, the first time Coach Cliff came to see me he said he was expecting something different. He thought I was more of a traditional big man. But then when [Warren] and Coach [Mark] Turgeon came down again, they were really surprised,” Mamukelashvili said. “Coach Turgeon said I’m way more useful than he thought, and I could probably play both a big man and a wing spot for them. I’m going to be talking to them soon to see exactly where I stand with them. But it’s a school I’m considering.”
The Terps aren’t the only program that’s taken notice of the emerging 2017 recruit. Mamukelashvili said Indiana, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Vanderbilt, USC , SMU, Villanova, Boston College, Rhode Island and South Carolina have also offered and are in contact. Coaches from Indiana, Maryland, Seton Hall, Vanderbilt, Rhode Island and a couple others have been out to see the 6-10 prospect in action recently.
Of course, it remains to be seen which of those schools are actually pushing for Mamukelashvili at this stage of the game, but, at the very least, it shows the high-majors believe in his talent.
“But I still think a lot of coaches don’t really know me yet and don’t know my potential,” Mamukelashvili said. “I feel like I’m playing well and hopefully coming up I’ll dominate and open some more eyes. That said, I have some really good high-major and mid-major offers on the table, although I’m not looking at all of them. I’m cutting my list to five [by mid-February], and then I’m taking my officials after that. After Basketball Without Borders [Feb. 18], I’m going to start scheduling trips.”
Mamukelashvili will take his first and only unofficial visit to Seton Hall Feb. 11.
“I’ll be in New Jersey anyway for a game, so why not go see it? I have a great relationship with the coaches from Seton Hall,” Mamukelashvili said.
It’s fairly clear Seton Hall will be among the big man’s final contenders, but the rest are up in the air. He said there’s around 12 or 13 programs on his radar, and he’s hoping to have officials to five of them set in the next couple weeks.
“But it’s really hard for me to decide on what schools to look at. Some schools are looking at me as a big man and others say wing, and I’ve always wanted to play wing in college. I think I’m more useful as a wing. So I think after I talk to coaches this week, I’ll have a better idea what my role would be at those schools and that will help me decide which ones to visit,” Mamukelashvili said. “Also, I have done research a good amount, and the main thing I’ve looked into is, if I get injured, I want to go somewhere where I feel comfortable and will fit in. Basketball isn’t guaranteed, so if something happens, I want to be in the right place. So after doing research, I know a bunch of schools I don’t want to go to, but there’s still a bunch more that caught my eye.”
As far as his season is concerned, Mamukelashvili estimates he’s averaging a double-double for Montverde. He said some nights are better than others, depending on the opponent and his own personal matchup.
“When I talk to coaches, they tell me my game is really good. I can pass, shoot, play one-on-one, play defense. But I think two aspects specifically I have to improve on are playing inside more aggressively and improving my shot selection…I always wanted to play point forward like Chad Simmons, but I still have to be able to go inside and finish and play tougher. I have to learn how to play with my back to the basket,” Mamukelashvili said. “So it’s been ups and downs to tell you the truth. It’s a little hard coming from Europe, just adjusting to the game. The game is a lot faster here than in Europe. Also, there’s more one-on-one and more selfish players here, whereas in Europe it’s more about ball movement and cutting. But it’s still a great experience. We get to travel a lot and play a lot of really good teams around the country. I get to play against some of the best players around, and that's only going to make me better.”