Maryland got their earliest recruiting start in years yesterday. We break down what it means for the Terrapins right now, and what it portends for the future.
Been awhile since Maryland landed a commitment this early, hasn't it? Romelo Trimble, the 2014 four-star combo guard, committed to Maryland yesterday, calling quits on his recruitment before many 2013 prospects had even figured out their futures. The last guy to commit this quickly, if I recall correctly, is the inimitable Jin Soo Kim/Choi, who made the call in October of 2007 back when he was still a class of 2009 guy. (He would later reclassify.) Since then, it's been spring and summer commitments, at best.
That Trimble pulled the trigger so early in the process is a statement for Maryland's staff. In one way, that point rather obvious: they've gotten the team on the floor and the program on the trail to a point where a four-star point guard with big offers is comfortable pulling the trigger with nearly two years of their recruitment still ahead of them. That was something that wasn't happening a few seasons ago.
But there's another aspect to this, too. Trimble knew he wanted to be at Maryland, he says, so he committed; the implication there, even if he doesn't necessarily realize it, is, "while the spot is still there." It's not just Melo who's been courted early; Phil Booth, another local combo, has been a primary target, as have Dion Wiley and Kaleb Joseph and a whole host of others. Maryland was in a seriously good spot with some of those guys, and Trimble's not just committing because he likes Maryland; he's committing because he likes Maryland and wants to have a seat when the music stops.
That's a great recruiting tool to drive commitments for the bigger programs, and that it's happening in College Park (even if it's in the early days of it) is darn near a revelation. For whatever you think about Gary Williams - and I worship the ground the man walks on at times - he was often a step slow when it came to recruiting in his later years, reactionary and passive. That's far from the case these days, when Maryland is nothing if not aggressive, assertive, and hard-working. They're active early and often, casting a wide net and pursuing guys as hard as they can, as early as they can. Don't expect Trimble's prompt call to be a one-off, unless things on the court unexpectedly go south.
That strategy has paid off, and it gives Maryland one of the few committed 2014 four-stars in the country, upon which they'll build the rest of their class. Trimble isn't necessarily a definitional cornerstone recruit; he's not a big national name, or someone who regularly pulls off the spectacular and excites spectators. But you get the feeling that he's the type of guy that Mark Turgeon prefers to build around: a heady, savvy guard with strong intangibles. (See: Allen, Seth; Peters, Roddy.) He can score, he can shoot, and he can be a primary ballhandler all at an ACC level, and should settle any backcourt worries you might have: by the time he gets on campus, there'll be three guys on the roster comfortable playing point.
And, of course, there's the big picture aspect: getting a point guard first, especially a four-star one like Trimble, is a nice selling point for finishing off the rest of the class. Everybody wants to know that they can get the ball, and showing them a big-time point guard already in the ranks - and this works with Roddy Peters, too - will light up some eyes. There are few better ways to start building a class than with a local point guard with mental qualities.
Speaking of that rest of the class: you'd probably expect this to be a pretty sizable haul, not necessarily because Maryland will have a lot of spots opening up - Pe`Shon Howard is the only expected departure - but rather because Turgeon's gotten such a quick start in the class and has cast such a wide net. Maryland is in good position with a lot of big names, the types of names you try to take as many as you can fit on the roster. Even with only one spot opening up for the class, there'll be some room: Maryland has two open spots as it stands already, and will gain another two when Logan Aronhalt and James Padgett graduate. If the class of 2013 stays at just two, which is unlikely but a possibility, there'll be at least three open spots in 2014 - not counting the place Alex Len will virtually certainly vacate, plus perhaps Dez Wells moving on and any other unexpected attrition. Even with the possibility that Turgeon adds a 2013 recruit or transfer between now and then - something I consider likely, simply because he's proven that he's comfortable with late or unexpected additions - this class should probably stretch to three or four pretty easily. (I'll post an updated scholarship chart once I get back to my main computer.)
And the options for that combination of three or four ... oh, the options. They're scary fun to think about. We're in the process of updating the 2014 recruiting big board, but even the names already on there are of a near-elite level. Turgeon's certain to take at least one wing, given that only a single one has come in over the 2012 and 2013 classes (Jake Layman). Luckily enough, Maryland's in pretty good with two five-star type swingmen, Minnesotan shooting guard Rashad Vaughn and Charm City native Dwanye Morgan. Vaughn had an early offer and runs with an Under Armour team; the same's true for Dwayne Morgan, only he's also a Baltimore native to boot, which plays right into Bino Ranson's hands.
To this point, Maryland's been reasserting themselves on the trail for nearly the entire past two years. Landing the likes of Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman, and Roddy Peters were each steps forward in their own way, announcing Maryland was climbing its way back. But there's now no more doubt about Mark Turgeon's ability to land high four-stars with big offers. The next step, perhaps the last step, is to land an elite, five-star national recruit, someone like Morgan or Vaughn. The ability to add that one big difference-maker may be the only thing between Turgeon's Maryland and potential elite program status.
(As a side note, some people disagree and think a program can be elite with elite recruits; it's not a theory I buy, but I do readily admit that elite recruits can come from unusual places, like transfers (Dez) or overseas (Len). But however they come, they're needed. Outsmarting the zeitgest with sleepers can happen, but I don't buy that it happens at the scale necessary to build an elite program out of doing it.)
If that elite guy is out there, he seems likely to be a wing. (Vaughn, who's perhaps as good a scorer as there is in the country in the class, is the obvious dream scenario.) Turgeon is likely to take a big man and, if he takes a fourth, probably a second wing or guard. The big men options are a tad more limited at the top end, with Abdul-Malik Abu perhaps the biggest name on the board alongside fringe possibilities like Trayvon Reed or Goodluck Okonoboh, who may or may not end up having mutual interest. If the class does indeed stretch to four, that last scholarship would probably go to either another wing or another combo guard, someone like local stars Booth, Wiley, or Obi Enechionyia.
That, of course, is something of a dream scenario, which rarely comes off in recruiting. But even with a large number of misses, Turgeon's put Maryland in a position to be competitive with a lot of high-end recruits, meaning that this class should be fearsome even if the so-called dream scenarios don't play out. There are guys out there we haven't even mentioned, like Therence Mayimba, Isaiah Manderson, Andre Walker, Alec Brennan, and Jared Terrell, all with mutual interest.
And even that is to say nothing of elite recruits like Justin Jackson, Isaiah Whitehead, and Kevon Looney, who have all reported Maryland interest of their own. Should the chips fall right in those recruitments, too, another difference-maker on the wing might suddenly appear as a real option.
Most great classes have a common thread among them: early starts. Not only does the program reap an instant momentum boost and get a chance to redirect their assets toward recruiting other prospects, but there's also an indication there that recruits are buying whatever the staff is selling. And with the early start Maryland just enjoyed and the wealth of high-level options that they've established early, this class has the potential to be a great one for them. Not just good; great. They need to prove themselves a legitimate alternative to elite programs on the floor, too, for that to happen, but if it does - say, a top-seven seed this season and another tournament appearance in the next - everything's being set up for this to be a potential home run group.