Photo courtesy FIBA
Every once in awhile, a random star recruit will pop up on Maryland's radar (or vice versa). Lance Stephenson, Josh Selby, even Kyrie Irving. That kinda maybe happened again today, when star 2011 Mississippi big man Johnny O'Bryant "cut" his list, and Maryland - who had never been mentioned in tandem with O'Bryant - was on it.
First off, a note: O'Bryant's list originally consisted of Georgetown, Mississippi, Mississippi State, LSU, Georgia Tech, Kansas and Kentucky. Shockingly, he dropped off Georgetown, Kansas, and Kentucky, and replaced them with Maryland, Miami, and Alabama. One report said that he cut his list to four, but they probably just forgot that he added three teams back on. O'Bryant himself said that he would "shock the world" with his list, and I have to say it's pretty shocking.
Just to recap, O'Bryant's list is officially Mississippi, Mississippi State, LSU, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, and Alabama. There's no doubt that Maryland is by-far best basketball program on that list and may also have the most recruiting power with a re-energized Gary Williams, Rob Ehsan, and Bino Ranson (not to mention Keith Booth).
So it seems that Maryland has a shot at O'Bryant. You might be wondering who he is, how good he is, and stuff like that. Well, you came to the right place.)
O'Bryant, or JOB, as I'll call him, is from Mississippi, which isn't exactly traditional Maryland recruiting territory. Regardless, we'll get to all that stuff later. For now, his game:
If you couldn't tell from his offers from Kentucky, Syracuse, and Kansas - by the way, he was one of Kentucky's top post targets - O'Bryant is pretty legit. The rankings back that up: #1 center on ESPN and #17 nationally, #8 PF on Rivals and #38 nationally, and #6 PF on Scout and #16 nationally. SLAM, for what it's worth, had him at #8 in their most recent rankings. Oh, and he was one of the first 12 invites to the (Under Armour-sponsored) Elite 24 game in NYC.
Yeah, that's pretty impressive. Though ESPN said he failed to live up to his hype this summer, he probably quelled scouts' fears with a great performance at the Nike Global Games; Rivals called him the best big man at the event, and that was of a group that included Rakeem Christmas, James McAdoo, and Anthony Davis.
O'Bryant is a big guy, standing at 6-10, 245 pounds, but he's also athletic enough to be effective on the break and even on the wing. He's not C.J. Leslie, but he'll hold his own. Obviously, that makes him a bear to defend. He can face a defender up and drive the basket (he compares himself to Chris Bosh and has been compared by others to Amare Stoudemire), or back a smaller player down. It's worth noting that his post game isn't entirely developed yet, and by all reports seems a work-in-progress.
Then again, that was said about Jordan Williams, and J-Dub used pure strength, athleticism, and hard work to become one of the most impressive freshmen in the ACC. Well, if that's a formula for success, expect JOB to have a ton of it, because it seems that he's nearly as strong, much more athletic, and just as hard of a worker as Williams was as a freshman.
The first two are kind of obvious, but it's the last one that surprises me. The knock on most athletic big men is that they don't go 100%, take plays off, or lack intensity, and that just doesn't fly with a coach like Gary Williams. That's not the case with O'Bryant. Just a few excerpts from his ESPN scouting report, for example: "blue-collar beast", "warrior's mentality", "great energy...great urgency", "relentless", "works extremely hard", "if there is another big in the class of 2011 that plays as hard as O'Bryant, I've yet to see him." That should cover it.
Yeah, O'Bryant's biggest strength seems to be his ridiculous work ethic and intensity on the floor. In a running offense like Gary's, that figures to be a major, major boon. There's no frontcourt in the ACC that could match up with J-Dub and JOB in muscle, athleticism, or intensity; in fact, if Maryland can land just one elite wing to go along with him, that's just scary.
As for the rest of his game, it can best be described as "very good, and/but developing." He needs to develop a back-to-the-basket game, but his explosiveness - which, don't misunderstand, is still well above average - is the only thing that's keeping him from being a top 5 recruit. One of the most impressive things about him, aside from his work ethic, is his basketball IQ, which is supposedly top-class and allows him to be very effective on (or starting) the fast break, as well as in the offense in responding to double-teams.
Past that, he's a very well-rounded player. All accounts are that he's a ferocious rebounder, which should be obvious with that kind of hustle and size. He's also been called a good shot-blocker, though not an outstanding one. He's got a jump shot out to 15 feet or so and, at this point, seems more comfortable facing up his defender than backing him down. But if a defense tries to find a guy that can stay in front of him, he'll more than likely have such a massive advantage in size that backing him down won't be any question.
I'll make a long story short: JOB works ridiculously hard and has unmatched size, strength, and athleticism. He's not the most skilled player in the world, nor the most explosive, but he's above-average in most facets of his game. Combine that with his body, mind, and work ethic, and, well, you have a problem. That problem might only stick around for a year or two, but with an experienced Williams, Sean Mosley, Pe'Shon Howard, Mychal Parker, and hopefully one more elite wing, that may be all Maryland needs. From where I sit, which is in a chair not at the games - so be warned - he seems like the best big man Maryland's recruiting right now, and that includes Adjehi Baru and Mikael Hopkins.
(In terms of highlights, there aren't a lot. There's this tape of his national team exploits, from about a year ago, which is the most detailed I've seen. The most recent is from Scout, which showcase his size and ability to run the floor.)
Looking more toward recruiting, JOB's list is about the most unimposing, unassuming college list I've seen in a long time. Maryland is not only the most storied team on there, they're also - assuming Bino, Rob, and Gary are as advertised - one of the best recruiting teams on there.
Of course, Maryland's seen this kind of thing before end poorly. Marcus Lattimore in football was listing Maryland up till the end, but UMD was never really an option (Under Armour favor? he ended up at SC). Similarly, Maryland made Kyrie Irving's final 8 or so last year, but that wasn't happening. And Maryland's placement as, "whoa, where did these guys come from?" is certainly troubling. I don't want to be misleading here; JOB is probably the most unlikely target right now simply because of Maryland's relatively new status and his location.
Then again, if Maryland's serious about JOB and JOB is serious about Maryland, I have a difficult time believing UMD would be eliminated early here. That, though, is the question: are both sides serious? It's a question we don't really know the answer to, but hopefully the answer is yes.