Huge Midwestern Big Man Has Terps Attention

Big-time Midwestern basketball recruits tend to end up in the Big 12. It's a big deal, then, when Maryland tries to pluck a target from Oklahoma City knowing full well he'll be suited by local schools Oklahoma -—only 30 minutes away -—and Oklahoma State, which is barely an hour away.

Daniel Orton, a rising junior, has a way to go until he makes his decision, but the 270-pound center already holds a handful of offers from national powerhouses, including Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas and Maryland.

With all that Midwest attention, one would think that the Terps stand relatively little chance of landing the four-star center, ranked the fourth-best center in the class of 2009. Orton does not list any favorites, however, giving Maryland fans a glimmer of hope.

"Maryland introduced itself last year. They really stepped in and have been sending me a few letters per week. [At the time it was] big for me," said Orton, who plays with Oklahoma-based AAU squad Athletes First.

Athletes First surrounds Orton with talent, including frontcourt mate Kyle Hardrick, a four-star center headed to Oklahoma, Terrence Boyd, a three-star small forward and Xavier Henry, the number-one ranked shooting guard in the 2009 class.

The Terps have had some success in the region recently. Maryland courted Cliff Tucker, an El Paso native, and was for a long time in the running for now-Florida Gator and Houston native Jai Lucas.

Even with limited scholarships in the 2008 and 2009 class, the Terps are making it clear by extending a scholarship offer to Orton that he is a high priority and would be a good fit for the program. His body resembles a slightly larger version of incoming freshman Braxton Dupree, a heralded top-100 recruit in the class of 2007.

Orton's summer schedule is quickly wrapping up after traveling across the country to participate in AAU tournaments. He has not visited Maryland's campus but has been in contact with the staff.

Gary Vick, Orton's AAU coach, said, "The last schools that he listed with me were Maryland, Syracuse, Ohio State, Baylor and Oklahoma," but added, "That certainly could have changed."

Orton compares his style of game to that of San Antonio Spur Tim Duncan. Though Duncan is two inches taller, the two weigh roughly the same, and Orton has modeled his game after the NBA great. With that said, Orton plans on improving his ball-handling and quickness. Vick plans to stress Orton's footwork, to compliment already good hands.

"We have a guy who periodically comes into Oklahoma University and works with Coach [and former Terps great John] Lucas around the country, so they get NBA tutors on occasion, and he works with Daniel."

Vick has worked with Orton since he was an eighth grader nearly three years ago. "He's a banger. He's 6-foot-9, about 270 pounds, he has good skills and is a dominant post guy," Vick said.

"He has a 7-foot-2 wingspan and he's an intimidator around the basket. He's as good as any big man we've ever had," he said, which is a huge compliment considering the high-caliber player that Vick has coached through the years.

Neither Vick nor Orton has a timetable set on his decision. "I don't foresee him making a decision any time soon," Vick said, and Orton agreed: "The end of this year, maybe. I know for sure that by the middle of the season I'll be down to 10 or 15 [schools]."

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