Well, the season is over. And as much as that kind-of hurts, it's also a little refreshing for this entire ordeal to be behind us, moving ahead to greener, Shaquille Cleare-grazed pastures. The Terrapins' incoming recruiting class being the top-10 bunch that it is, we can only look ahead to next year.
As always, "looking ahead" basically means "turn to recruiting." So let's do that.
Last week's addition of Charles Mitchell was pretty huge for a number of reasons, particularly because Maryland needed interior depth and toughness, and he provides both. But it's unlikely he's the final addition of the recruiting class. Maryland still has an open spot this year on their scholarship chart, with multiple departures possible (Terrell Stoglin going pro, a bench player transferring, Pe'Shon Howard's health, Alex Len missing Europe ... point is, just about anything is possible here) and at least one expected.
The obvious focus now is on adding a guard. I was thinking that the idea would be to add a pure point, especially with Howard's injury status potentially up in the air, but the staff seems to be pushing more for combos. They've been adding targets left and right for weeks now: first Sam Cassell Jr., then Darrick Wood, then Trey Dickerson, and most recently Jerron Wilbut. Now we might have another name to add to the mix: Thaddeus Hall, a 6-5 swingman from Jefferson in Brooklyn. (h/t purist in the FanPosts)
Hall missed much of the first part of the year, but finished at a ridiculous pace over the final several games and exploding in the playoffs, pouring in 39 points in the second-round game and leading Jefferson to its first borough championship. He's considered to be perhaps NYC's most explosive scorer, and has been adding offers left and right recently, including one from Maryland. Others to recently join the race: West Virginia, Texas Tech, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, and St. John's.
Academics may be a question, with NY Post writer Zach Brazille saying he "has work to do" to qualify, but he has a shot at it this year. If not, I assume he'll prep and become a 2013 guy. Either way, he's a talented guy who can fill it up, and it seems like his recruitment won't be ending soon anyway. Between Wood, Wilbut, and Hall, it looks like the staff is trying to get in with a talented two-guard hoping their grades will come through, potentially as a backup for Cassell. On the Hall academics note, though, make sure to read this feature piece on him, which should explain a lot (and endear you to him).
Still, if I had to guess I'd say Cassell seems to be the preference. Jeff Ermann tweeted that he'll visit both Florida State (his dad's alma mater, of course) and Villanova, and he's been to several UConn games as well. He'll be a battle for sure. Maryland is probably a frontrunner based on the hometown factor, but I'm not sure there's a true leader in that bunch just yet, especially if there's still a good amount of time left for things to change.
Sort of switching gears here: I've found some extra time on my hands lately, and thanks to the magic of the internet I was able to put that time to good use: watching full games of the aforementioned targets on YouTube! I figured I'd go ahead and share my thoughts on what I saw. But let me be very forceful about a few obvious caveats: A) YouTube isn't the best way to get a good feeling for a player; B) there are a limited number of games available to watch, so you're getting only a sampling; C) I'm not a scout, a coach, or an evaluator. I'm just a fan who likes Maryland, likes basketball, and made some observations about a few guys. If a scout, a coach, or an evaluator says something that flies in contrast to something I say, obviously take their word for it. In fact, much of what I'm about to write is written within the framework of what I've already heard about these guys from those who are more knowledgeable.
That said: there really isn't that much info about this bunch floating around. So if I can add something else, it's something I'm happy to do. Warning: it's long.
- Sam Cassell Jr., 6-4 combo, Notre Dame Prep. NDP is one of the more consistently big teams in the Northeastern prep scene, so competition is good. This year they have Steven Adams, a five-star post player, but the four games I saw - one against Hargrave; parts of the one against New Hope; one against Maine Central; and one against Tilton - were before Adams joined, and their only big players were Cassell, Myles Davis (Xavier) and Adonis Filer (Clemson), all combo guards, which is a strange situation. Pe'Shon Howard had with a similar deal at Oak Hill, and I feel like that made him more a facilitating two than a true point. Making matters worse is that they run the dribble-drive motion, which is a system that encourages one-on-one play.
Positionally, Cassell can play the point but he's probably more of a two for someone like Turgeon. He's wired as a scorer, not a floor general, so when he's on the ball he's more of a scoring point than the pure point Maryland really needs. He's not a sensational passer, but he is steady, smart and sees the floor decently well. He isn't a Kendall Marshall, but he's a willing facilitator, especially in the half-court, even if he does look for his own shot first. His handle is fine; he doesn't have the ball on a string, but it didn't get him into any problems. Physically, he's a mixed bag. He's not very athletic, without great quickness or a lot of bounce. But he is a legit 6-4, which is elite size for the 1 and good size for the 2. He knows how to use his size, too, as he'll body up smaller defenders before hitting a turnaround jumper, which is almost impossible for a smaller guy to guard.
Speaking of: the thing I most like about Cassell is how darn canny he is. He has a great understanding of spacing and uses step-backs, jab-steps, turnarounds, fadeaways, shot-fakes, and just about anything else to create room for his shot. And at 6-4, that means he can get his own shot against almost anyone. He can often get into the mid-range, as well, but he almost never goes to finish at the rim, preferring elbow jumpers or the occasional floater in the lane.
He's been scripted as a shooter, and while that's definitely true I think we need to define "shooter." He isn't, say, an Eric Hayes/John Jenkins-type knockdown catch-and-shoot sniper, more of a Stoglin type volume shooter. He takes some really crazy shots at times, but they go in at the same rate as his open looks. I do have some qualms with shot selection and I'm sure Turgeon would as well, but in the games I saw he shot around 50% from the deep and that's pretty much money. Sometimes those circus shots don't fall against higher competition and that'll hurt as he's not a great catch-and-shoot guy at this point, but 50% is 50%.
There wasn't much to see defensively. He was almost always off the ball, and on a few occasions when he was on it against high-level competition (like Codi-Miller McIntyre) he was beaten off the bounce, so I'm not sure he has great lateral quickness. But his length makes him dangerous. All in all, I personally don't love Cassell's game but Maryland needs 1) someone who can play the point and 2) someone who can provide points. Cassell can play point, and Juan knows he's not afraid of putting the ball in the basket.
- Darrick Wood, 6-4 wing, Bridgton Academy. Wood is a D.C. native but has played for the past several years in the Northeast, now at a prep which should help his academics. A former St. John's commitment, he opened up his recruitment in January and has visited Maryland on more that one occasion. There are supposedly some questions on his grades, but not knowing for sure I decided to still look him up, watching his game against Hargrave; his game at IS8 against New York Panthers (AAU); and parts of his game against St. John's NWMA.
Wood did handle the ball occasionally, but his home is on the wing. He's sensible enough and a good enough passer to be a secondary ball handler, but he shouldn't be running the show anywhere, whereas you could probably see Cassell do it. Physically, Wood looks a legit 6-4. He doesn't have a great frame - we're talking Faust-skinny - but is a high-flyer for sure: the guy on the mic at the IS8 game nicknamed him "Hangtime." He doesn't really assert himself as much as you'd expect, though; his is more of a "sneaky athleticism," where you sort of forget about him at times. As you might expect, he shines in transition, where he runs the floor very well and can finish at the rim with impressive body control, either with a dunk or an acrobatic layup. I wouldn't call his game flashy - no absurd reverse layups or anything - but very effective and efficient at the rim.
In the halfcourt, he has a decently dependable jumper but not as good as Cassell's. He settles for too many outside shots off the bounce, as his strength is at the rim and he didn't do that nearly enough for me. He was at his best inside the three-point line, as he was able to either attack the basket or use his vert to get shots over defenders in the mid-range, which might be his biggest strength in the half-court. He looks smooth handling the ball, but he's actually rather loose with the ball and got himself into some trouble on occasion with lack of control. He also needs to improve on his jumper, which will make him more dangerous as a catch-and-shoot type.
Defensively, I'm not sure how finished he is but he has the potential to be a pretty big problem-causer. He plays hard, as Cassell does, but he's just a step quicker and more athletic, which makes him more dangerous. He could guard any of the three perimeter positions given time to refine his defensive technique. His best fit is probably in a more up-and-down tempo than what Turgeon has been at Maryland; if he was in College Park, his best role would probably be as a sparkplug, both offensively and defensively.
- Jerron Wilbut, 6-2 wing, Downer's Grove South (IL). It seemed that Wilbut was serving a suspension of sorts late in the year, as he came off the bench or sat out entirely in a few games. The one game he did play in was against Metea Valley, a public out in the Chicago 'burbs. I didn't keep stats for this one, and as it was only one game I'll be much more general in my thoughts.
Wilbut is the shortest of the four at only 6-2, but he's also the quickest and has the best handle. He's not a point or lead guard in my estimation, though he'd be a good secondary ballhandler and could play the point if he absolutely had to. He has a nice build and good weight for his height, and is stronger than either Wood or Cassell. He's also probably the fastest of the bunch, and can take the ball from end to end very quickly.
He has a good looking jumper but it wasn't really falling in this game. He didn't take as many jumpers as I expected, and was more of a slasher than even Wood, either getting into the mid-range or to the rim to finish with a layup or runner. He could pretty obviously score at all three levels, but he wasn't really deadly at any of them. He got called for a few charges on the inside that frankly looked like blocks to me, but it's worth noting that he may in fact play a little out of control at times. It's easy to see a big-time scorer in there, almost like a Russ Smith, but in this game he didn't really have it going and so it's tough to judge.
He played with good intensity on both ends of the floor and seemed really into the game. His focus, quickness, and athleticism made him tough to beat off the dribble, and I would feel better sticking him against a top-end guard than either Cassell or Wood at this point. He was also a good rebounder for his size, and wasn't afraid of mixing it up with bigger guys on the glass. Again, I saw less of Wilbut so I want to keep it short, but he's a pure two who will probably fit into a role of being a sparkplug at the next level. The offense really doesn't run through him and he was either unable or unwilling in this game to take it over despite being the best player on the court. But I still want to see more of him.
- Thaddeus Hall, 6-5 wing, Thomas Jefferson Campus (Brooklyn). First of all, it's crazy how much penetration Under Armour has in NYC; they outfit both Hall's TJC and Lincoln, and both gyms are adorned with UA logos all over the place, which is cool to see. It seems Hall was struggling with either suspension or injury at points, as he didn't play in all of TJC's games out there, but he did play in a road game against Lincoln and a home game against South Shore, both Brooklyn teams.
Hall's renowned as a great jump shooter, but it wasn't working for him in the two games I saw. If he were to come to College Park, I have a feeling he'd have to go through the Faust Jumper Detox Program® until he realized that he's just as dangerous, if not much more dangerous, off the bounce and attacking the rim. His form looks solid and most of his shots were short - which says he lacks rhythm or is fatigued - so take it with a grain of salt; I wouldn't be surprised if he turned into a serviceable jump shooter a the next level. Similarly, his handle can be loose or out of control at times, and he'll need to get that under control at the next level wherever he goes.
But it's hard not to like the kid. To start with, he has the best physical traits of the four: he's 6-5 with a wiry but really well-defined build, and he looks to have good strength. He may not be quite as athletic as Wood but asserts himself so much more than Wood does that it's really a wash to me. He's both bouncy and quick, with long limbs - he can basically euro-step through a halfcourt defense, and did more than once. He also has top-notch body control at the rim, adjusting shots and finishing through contact with regularity.
He also has the best intangibles of the bunch. He plays with great intensity, passion, and motor, and looks like a real leader on the floor, being very vocal and constantly interacting with teammates. I hate phrases like "Brooklyn toughness" - I can think of one big counterexample - but you can see the grit he plays with. He plays very, very hard and doesn't back away from a challenge. That competitive streak can both help and hurt - he hit the game-tying shot against Lincoln on a layup in traffic, but also got hit with a tech in the game against South Shores. Still, given that Maryland basically has one talker on the entire team (Faust), adding another guy like this would help.
Partially thanks to that passion, he has great potential defensively. He can guard either wing spot and possibly the point, as well, and he plays focused and intense. Not afraid of pressuring defenders, he also generated a lot of turnovers, either stripping players when they exposed the ball or using his length and natural defensive instincts to play passing lanes. He rebounds well for his size, as well.
Offensively, Hall's game in the two contests I saw was going toward the basket. He liked to try his hand at threes but was much better inside the arc, whether with the occasional elbow jumper or the much more common layup at the rack, either through contact, getting a foul, or avoiding the defender and finishing off the glass. He's very difficult to stay in front of, with an attacking mentality and a great first step. He'd do well to add a floater to his repertoire, though, as he can tend to bull into defenders and that'll get him into trouble at the next level. He is willing to pass while slashing, which can make it dangerous for the defense to slide over. I liked his movement off the ball the best of the four; he drifted a lot but also was the only one who I saw make multiple intelligent cuts, once noticing an open backdoor lane to the basket and calling for an alley-oop that was slightly mis-delivered. Still, good idea.
If Maryland is really dying for either a point or dead-eye shooter, I'm not sure Hall is the guy. But there's no doubt he can put the ball in the basket, and he would do more to address the Terrapins' toughness deficiency than anyone on the board (or off it, for that matter). He scores in a manner similar to someone like Nick Faust, though Faust is probably on another level. Still, he could be a productive off-ball scorer if Maryland's willing to add a wing over a combo. Of course, this is all assuming he qualifies, which still sounds uncertain.
And that's it. You can stop reading now.