Maryland's pursuit of at least one immediately-eligible transfer has been obvious for weeks now, and after missing out on Eli Carter, former Memphis Tiger and Baltimore native Antonio Barton has been the obvious fit. And it's one step closer to fruition:
Former Memphis point guard Antonio Barton, Maryland's top transfer target this offseason, is scheduled to visit College Park either Friday or Saturday, an individual with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday morning.
Barton, a Baltimore resident whose four-year-old daughter still lives in the city, recently wrapped up a visit at Texas A&M, the individual said. Syracuse.com reported that Barton's short list included Maryland, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Syracuse. Barton's mother, Karen Bush, told the Post-Standard that her son might visit as many as five schools before deciding on his new home.
A&M and K-State are odd choices that don't worry me much. They're geographical outliers, primarily, and to boot A&M is behind Maryland as a program. K-State can promise playing time, same as Maryland, and is one a similar plane as far as stature goes, but I'd still be moderately surprised if they proved to be a more attractive option.
Syracuse is the worry. They need guard help, so Barton would get minutes - probably not as much as he would at Maryland, but burn nonetheless. And they're probably still the most Baltimore-friendly program in the country, save perhaps UNLV, which lessens the geographical problem. Throw in the fact that they're a big boy in the game right now and Maryland's not, and, well, it's a concern.
He hasn't visited, though, so Mark Turgeon gets the first crack at him, and Turge has proven to be deadly in those scenarios. (Has he missed in a situation like this yet? Wanted Smo, got Smo. Wanted Aronhalt, got Aronhalt. Wanted Dez, got Dez. Carter was a miss, but he never got on campus.) Barton's tight relationship with Nick Faust, the presence of his daughter, and you'd assume the salesmanship of Bino Ranson are all factors that point to Maryland, not to mention the playing time available. There's a lot to sell here; it just depends on how badly he wants to be on a team that's glamorous. That's not Maryland, at least not yet.
I've been aboard this bandwagon early, mostly because Barton just plain makes sense. He's not a perfect point guard, but he's a lead guard who can shoot from deep, is mostly reliable, and is a one-year stop-gap who won't block the younger guys' progress. The likes of Roddy Peters and Seth Allen may work out at point, but relying solely on them is a gamble. Being able to bring in an experienced option like Barton, especially given his ability to stretch the floor in an Aronhalt-lite fashion, would be a boon to an inexperienced backcourt.
Plus, I'm all for more Baltimore in the program.
Doesn't appear from the outside like a recruitment that gets wrapped up early, but here's hoping it does.