On Saturday the top 2016 basketball player in the state of Maryland committed to one of the lesser basketball programs in the Big Ten -- Penn State. This is a sentence that may sound shocking, but it's not exactly as it appears.
Joe Hampton (6-7/235) plays for Oak Hill and is the 247 Sports Composite's 102nd-best player in the 2016 class, ranking as the 16th-best power forward and a 4-star prospect, as well as the best player in the state of Maryland. This is the profile of a player that should have offers from all of the major local basketball schools - Maryland, Georgetown, Virginia, West Virginia, etc - but Hampton instead boasts offers from only Penn State, DePaul and Xavier. Up until yesterday, all eight Crystal Ball predictions were in favor of the Terps, a school he had visited multiple times.
So, what's the deal? How does a player that highly rated, who plays for a high school powerhouse (he was at DeMatha for the last two years before transferring to Oak Hill) not get a single offer from the usual suspects?
Maryland's focus for the 2016 class looks to be St. John's point guard Anthony Cowan (they're very strong favorites for him) and Paul VI shooting guard Curtis Jones, both 4-star players. With the unexpected departure of Trayvon Reed, they may look to add another big man, but that'll also be determined by who they can (or can't) land in the class of 2015. A player like Hampton was not a priority, in part because of the type of big man he projects as -- he's a below the basket, post player stuck in a small forward's body.
He rebounds well and can score around the basket, but the jump shot and athleticism just don't stack up to most college players. Maryland has had issues in the past with this exact kind of player: under-sized, earth-bound post players (see: Mitchell, Charles and Cleare, Shaq).
Mark Turgeon and John Thompson III, who have seen Hampton player many times over the last few years, did not feel the need to offer a scholarship. Now, that doesn't mean a player can't or won't improve enough to garner a scholarship, but none had come at this time.
In short, it may seem odd that a school like Penn State would land a player whose profile would seem to make him a major Maryland target, but there's no need to worry...at least not yet. While it would be interesting for the Terps to finally have a two-sport rival, it's hard to consider landing a player without a Maryland offer as a huge triumph for the Nittany Lions.