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Baru to Charleston: Where Do Maryland and Gary Williams Go From Here?

Learn to love the face.
Learn to love the face.

Well, it's official: Adjehi Baru, Maryland's biggest remaining target in the 2010 class and generally seen as "the missing piece" of an otherwise pretty well loaded team, is off to Charleston. The debate on the ethical standards and whatnot are really neither here nor there; Baru is gone, and barring a major unforeseen change, he'll stay gone.

Now Maryland stands with two commitments for the 2011 class, point guard Sterling Gibbs and highly-touted swingman Nick Faust. With four scholarships opening up after this year, Gary Williams and Co. still have two scholarships open...and not a lot of identified targets.

That problem is compounded by the fact that Maryland also lacks a star 4 to stick next to Jordan Williams. With Terrell Stoglin emerging and Nick Faust coming in next year, the perimeter should be fine. With Williams in the post, there shouldn't be a big problem there, either. Now the issue becomes Maryland finding someone to play at the 4. That might be James Padgett, but he's been wildly inconsistent and has offered little on the boards. Adjehi Baru would've been a Day One starter and likely the guy that Maryland so needed.

Yeah, it's not a great spot to be in. So where does Maryland go from here? Well, I'm glad you asked. Let's begin:

For one, Desmond Hubert becomes a really big deal. Maryland's been tracking Hubert for awhile and he's now the only 2010 prospect that Maryland's been consistently recruiting. He's also be the only high-profile one left. He's down to Wake Forest, Maryland, and Princeton, and though most fans like to think Maryland's a front-runner of that group, they aren't the clear one; I wouldn't be shocked to see him land at any of the three.

Even with Hubert, Maryland wouldn't be getting the same type of impact that Baru would provide. Hubert is long and lanky, a bit of a project with very little offensive game. He's a great shotblocker, but lacks the weight to consistently bang in the low post defensively. In other words: he's Berend Weijs plus two years of eligibility.

The reason Hubert is still so important, though, is because Maryland has two open scholarships and only one major target to fill them. Hubert is still a top 150 prospect and would provide a few minutes, decent size, and good defense right from the start. If he goes elsewhere, Maryland's staring down the barrel at a very bad situation: two open scholarships, a need at big man, and no high-level targets to speak of. Who knows who joins the team at that point? They can land Hubert and still call it a success, plugging the second hole with a JuCo or an overseas kid; doing that at both spots will be a little questionable and very difficult to do.

Of course, another option would be to land Baru and save the scholarship for 2012, which would help out in the roster planning aspect. It looks like 2012 is a deep class - Justin Anderson, JP Tokoto, Cinmeon Bowers, Phil Nolan, Isaiah Miles, to name a few - but Maryland would only hold two scholarships in the class. Evening them out would avoid one of the dreaded class depletions that drains teams of too much experience.

One option, should they land Hubert and decide to use the scholarship (or not land Hubert and start looking at Plan Cs) is Greg Whittington. The local 3/4 tweener popped up a few months ago as a potential target and is listed as having Maryland interest on Rivals: he's a long, 6-8 face-up four, a prolific scorer with great handles and a Kevin Durant-type game who has been called a "matchup nightmare." Sounds great, right? One problem: he plays in Howard County and was a general unknown before one standout performance at AAU Nationals.

The lack of competition along with the apparent inconsistency is really troubling. HoCo ain't the WCAC. Many will say that Jordan Williams did the same in Connecticut, but he averaged 40 and 20 a game, or something equally as ridiculous. Last year, Whittington put up 14 a game. Sorry, but three points against Long Reach isn't doing anything for me.

That said, Whittington is extraordinarily intriguing. The great AAU performance after the average junior year might be an indication of progression; if he starts dropping 30 on HoCo teams consistently, I imagine an offer would be quick to come, given Maryland's other options at this point. If he has progressed, his length, height, and shooting stroke are undeniable. He'd be a project, perhaps, but maybe a worthy one.

There's always the hope for high-level defections, too, or the random out-of-nowhere recruit that Maryland flirts with in the spring. That will be less likely this year, because most of the top candidates have committed already, but it's always a possibility to keep an eye on.

The final two options are perhaps the least appealing, but have worked well enough in the past (and even just in the past few years): the overseas or JuCo route. Haukur Palsson seems to be doing okay, Berend Weijs brings something to the table, and Boom Osby was awesome. Sure, Jin Soo Choi was average and Sterling Ledbetter and Parrish Brown were meh, but Maryland's had some success in the past this way. If they have a need, I expect they'll try to fill it late in the process with one of these two types of players. I wish I could tell you who to keep an eye on, but those types of players are called "sleepers" for a reason.

And yes, before anyone else says it, 2011 has been a rollercoaster. Maryland got Nick Faust and has had him for months. Sterling Gibbs is a quality player and a Gary guy. But every other high-major prospect? LaQuinton Ross, Johnny O'Bryant, Bernard Sullivan, Mikael Hopkins, Norvel Pelle, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maurice Harkless, Baru, and on and on. The Terrapins swung and missed quite a bit.

Faust was a big get and a step in the right direction, but at some point, Maryland's staff is going to have to land another big fish. Closing now becomes the big deal, and I'll be interested to see how the staff reacts to what is now a rather unenviable situation.