Those pesky little rumors about Maryland being not-quite-done with its 2014 basketball recruiting class got a little juicier on Friday when current UNLV coach Dave Rice reportedly interviewed for and was offered USF's open job.
What's the connection, you ask? We'll let our friend Jeff Ermann explain.
If USF hires Mike Rice, Dwayne Morgan will ask out of UNLV signing and likely focus on Maryland, Louisville and Indiana, per a source.— Jeff Ermann (@insidemdsports) March 28, 2014
Update, 3/29 12:11 p.m.: Or not.
That's right, Dwayne Morgan, the consensus 2014 5-star forward and the top player in the state of Maryland, is potentially back on the table and potentially focused on Maryland as a potential destination. That's pretty enticing for a few obvious reasons:
1. Five-stars are always really exciting to speculate about. See Diggs, Stefon. Or Prince, Damian.
2. Five-stars from Baltimore are even more exciting. For basketball reasons, of course, but also for political reasons. Maryland's recruiting ties to Charm City have been frayed for what feels like decades now. For every one Juan Dixon, it seems like there's three Carmelo Anthonys out there who stung Terp fans with their decisions to attend college somewhere other than their home state's flagship school. Just one Baltimore kid who becomes a Terp star could create a whole new generation of younger Baltimore kids who grow up loving the Terps. Dwayne Morgan could be that guy.
3. Morgan would turn an already strong 2014 haul into a true powerhouse of a class. He also isn't likely to be scared away by other Terp players who he'd have to fight for minutes. He's a more advanced prospect than fellow 2014 SF Jared Nickens and also a very different player. Both can shoot, but Nickens is thought of as a shooter first, whereas Morgan is thought of as a slasher who is explosive, strong and gritty. Though Morgan is not the traditional big man Maryland really seems to lack right now, his strengths do fit quite nicely with some glaring Terp needs on both ends of the floor.
All of that being said -- and I'll quote Winston Wolf here -- let's not start, um, blanking each other's blanks just yet. There's probably more compelling reasons for skepticism than there are for excitement. Among them:
1. Rice could simply be leveraging USF to get himself a better deal at UNLV, which happens to be his alma mater and -- for my money, at least -- a much, much better gig. The Running Rebels are a storied, glitzy program with a great 2014 class, including Morgan and 5-star Rashad Vaughn, signed. USF, by contrast, is a traditionless commuter school in a bland corner of a city that loves UF and FSU much more than it loves the poor Bulls. Leaving Las Vegas for Tampa feels like a head-scratching move for Rice, a respected coach. But hey, Buzz Williams just moved from Marquette to Blacksburg, so anything can happen, it seems.
2. Even if Rice does leave for the Sunshine State, UNLV would still need to release Morgan from his LOI (not actually that improbable in coaching change situations) and then Maryland would need to find a scholarship for him -- which could only result from some type of attrition such as someone transferring or turning pro.
3. Even if Rice leaves, if UNLV releases Morgan, and if Maryland frees up a scholly, there's still those other two reported potential suitors, Louisville and Indiana, to worry about. Those aren't exactly schools the Terps have been beating for 5-stars lately, so the hometown advantage would likely have to come into play as the deciding factor for Morgan.
So, while we watch the NCAA Tounament field thin out this weekend and long for Maryland's return to the big dance someday soon, there's a little bit of drama unfolding in Sin City that is worth keeping an eye on. Is Morgan-to-Maryland a longshot? Of course it is. But the rumor is now officially out there, so why not have some fun with it?