Next: Aaron Pettway

Rudy Gay is headed to UConn, but the next Maryland big man target may just be better than Gay.

I am as big of a Rudy Gay as anyone you'll find. He's a great kid who has finally begun to realize his potential and could be a star at the next level – and even the one beyond that – down the road.

But for those Terps fans still wondering what went wrong and why Maryland was unable to keep Gay close to home, just stop and focus on a guy who just may be better: Aaron Pettway.

Pettway is a 23-year-old, 6-10, 230-pound sophomore center at Hutchinson Junior College whose numbers are far from eye-popping. However, you have to understand his background to know why coaches could care less about his statistics.

Pettway never played a minute of high school ball down at Shaw High in Mobile, Ala. Not a one. In fact, he was cut from the team twice.

He steadily grew a couple inches a year during his military years at Andrews Air Force Base – when his job was to pick up pilots on Air Force One - and was ready to either re-enlist or sign with High Point University before Walter Ray, a D.C. guy who helps local players land college scholarships, put Pettway in one of his local showcases and it helped land him a spot at Hutchinson.

Pettway's first season in the JUCO ranks was pretty much a wash. He had a severe ankle sprain by the time he got to Hutchinson and was fighting from behind anyway because of his lack of experience.

``When I first got here, I was like `What am I doing?" Pettway said. "I'm not good enough. On top of that, I was hurt."

Pettway finally earned his way into the starting lineup late last season, but that wasn't when the big-time college coaches began to take notice. It was at a couple of local workouts in D.C. when he picked up plenty of supporters.

``I went back to Maryland at the end of the summer and was working at a law office and playing pickup," Pettway added. "I guess they saw my improvement because the word spread like wildfire. Then the coaches came up to see me."

There's no question that Pettway is raw. He's only averaging 6.9 points through 11 games – all wins – this season. However, he's become one of the most sought-after players in the country because of his athleticism, shot-blocking ability, maturity and attitude.

Pettway has already taken official visits to Georgetown and Mississippi State and will hold off making his decision until he visits a couple more campuses. Maryland is one of those who should have a legitimate shot at him. Florida State, Oklahoma State, Alabama, Georgia are others in the mix.

The key is whether Maryland will wait around for Pettway or instead try to land a point guard – more of a pressing need - in the event something happens to starting floor leader John Gilchrist.

One thing's for certain: Pettway isn't a bad backup plan. In fact, he just might be better than Gay down the road.


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