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Maryland basketball recruiting: What does missing on Esa Ahmad mean?

Maryland fans may have to brace for a poor 2015 class.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

In somewhat shocking news top Maryland basketball target Esa Ahmad, a 4-star forward from Shaker Heights, Ohio, committed to West Virginia on Wednesday afternoon. While Maryland was never exactly seen as the front runner for the versatile player, the prevailing notion was that hometown Ohio State was his most logical destination. Losing out on an important recruit to a local powerhouse is one thing, but being out maneuvered by West Virginia is another.

Now, West Virginia has been to a Final Four in the last few years and Bob Huggins is a great coach, but it still hurts. The Mountaineers saw roster attrition near the same level as Maryland's this offseason, losing important players in Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, and have gone 30-35 in the last two years.

Before we get into where Maryland goes next, I think it's important to discuss the current state of Maryland basketball. I've written about it at length before, but the program is at a major crossroads. After three years of good recruiting and mediocre on-court results under Coach Mark Turgeon, it's very difficult to project how they'll fare in their inaugural Big Ten season. For a number of years their new home has been the strongest and deepest basketball conference in the nation and while Maryland should be among the most talented teams in the conference, there's no real evidence that this coaching staff can put together a consistent, top-level product.

You can recruit without success, the 2014 Maryland recruiting class is evidence of this, but not forever. This current crop of new-comers was likely sold a promise of restoring the program to its former glory, and for what it's worth, they just might do that. A coach like Huggins can point to Final Four banners and say, "I did that." About all Turgeon can do is point to Alex Len. Again, this can all change with in one year, but it's difficult to sell multiple years of recruits on the resurgence of a program when there is nothing to back up that claim. I'll go out on a limb and say that had Maryland made the NCAA tournament this past season, they'd be looking at another top 15 recruiting class. Success generally breeds success, and failure generally breeds failure.

In terms of the remaining 2015 recruits, Maryland is still very much in the running for top point guard target Justin Robinson, a 3-star from St. James High School and soon-to-be number one player in the state (current #1 Allonzo Trier is transferring to Frindlay Prep in Nevada). If they still want a forward, Texas SF Jordan Murphy is uncommitted, but the lack of information about his recruitment is somewhat unsettling. There staff has also offered 3-stars Markis McDuffie (NJ) and Kipper Nichols (OH). I suspect both all three of those recruitments will pick up after the staff missed out on Ahmad.

And then, of course, is the whale. Diamond Stone, the 5-star #1 center in the country, who lists Maryland in his top five and should visit College Park in the coming months. If the Terps can reel in Stone, a major longshot, fans will forget about this week's disappointment very quickly.

There remains the possibility, and this might be more likely than the alternative, that the 2015 class will not resemble the last few in terms of star rankings. Maryland has been used to reeling in 4-stars on a regular basis, but fans might need to temper their expectations, for at least this class.