The Maryland hoops staff hosted a handful of prime recruit targets Feb. 11 for its game against Ohio State, including a nearby combo guard who has been on campus a couple times this winter. Four-star Eric Ayala (Putnam Science/Putnam, Conn.), who is from Hockessin, Del., and is currently in the 2018 class, ventured down to College Park, Md., for his second look at the Terps since the New Year.
“I always have a good time at Maryland, and it was another good game I saw. Maryland is a top program,” said the 6-foot-5, 180-pound Ayala, who holds offers from UMD, Syracuse, Indiana, UConn and Arizona, among others. “The thing I noticed is Coach [Mark] Turgeon definitely plays his freshman. They’re starting three of them, and they play a lot, so that stands out for sure. And the offense they run is a system where the players can create, especially the guards. I like how the guards can really take advantage of opportunities and openings on the floor.”
Despite the Terps signing guard Darryl Morsell in the 2017 class and prioritizing Prentiss Hubb (Gonzaga/Washington, D.C.) in 2018, recruiter Bino Ranson and Co. continue to keep in close contact with Ayala. In fact, the Delaware native counts Ranson as one of his most ardent pursuers.
“The coaching staff is great and I have a good relationship with them. They’re recruiting me in either class, 2017 and 2018, and said they could take me either way,” Ayala said. “Coach Turgeon is great and I definitely like him and Coach Bino and how he recruits me. The thing I like about Coach Turgeon is how passionate he is about the game. I love watching him coach, because he’s so involved. During the [Ohio State game], he actually turned around and yelled at the crowd to stop booing. He was like, this is a home game, you shouldn’t be booing your team. It was cool to see.
“Also, Maryland close to home and that’s a good thing. It’s only 1.5, two hours away, so it’s an easy drive.”
After taking in the Terps, Ayala actually headed back to one of his other primary contenders Feb. 13. He went to Syracuse for a campus visit, the first time he’d checked out the actual school.
“I’ve been there for a game before, but I haven’t really visited the campus so that’s my main goal. I want to see what it’s like there,” Ayala said. “I have a great relationship with Syracuse. They’re recruiting me in general, not just for 2017 or 2018. We don’t really have conversations about class year either; its more about what I want to do and if I want to come there or not.”
At the moment, Ayala still isn’t positive if he wants to reclass or not. He said his Putnam Science team has eight games left this year, and he’ll likely decide shortly after the season’s completed. For what it’s worth, Ayala said there are pros and cons to coming out in 2017 or staying in 2018 and he’s torn on what to do.
In the meantime, he’ll continue taking visits and speaking to college coaches. Ayala, who was at Providence and UConn before Maryland and Syracuse, doesn’t have any other trips scheduled, but said he “definitely” wants to see more schools.
“And everyone who has offered me is staying consistent in the mix and is in touch. Arizona, Syracuse, Indiana, Maryland, UConn – almost everybody is in there,” Ayala said. “Either way, what I’m thinking is I’ll probably commit before the spring if I decide to go in the 2017 class. But if I do stay in 2018, I’ll be playing AAU ball, so then it would be later and I could delay things. It all just depends on what I decide to do.”
Many analysts believe Syracuse could be Ayala’s frontrunner, regardless of class year. Ayala, though, insisted that’s not necessarily the case.
“I can’t really say I have any standouts right now,” said Ayala, who estimates he’s averaging 15-20 points, five boards and five assists this year. “It literally changes every day. I’m just trying to enjoy the recruiting process at the moment.”