An official visit to campus may make Terrapin fans think otherwise, but Wenyen Gabriel was somewhere between a pipe dream and a sure thing for Maryland, nothing more.
Gabriel went from a relatively unknown bottom-of-the-top-100 name in the beginning of the summer, to the center of discussion as a target for college basketball's perennial championship contenders.
In mid-August, the newly named five-star narrowed his growing list of scholarship offers down to five schools: Connecticut, Duke, Kentucky, Maryland, and Providence. Shortly thereafter he scheduled official visits to College Park, Lexington and Durham. in which were likely his top three choices.
Coach Mark Turgeon went in a recruiting clash against two of the nation's most iconic coaches who have a much easier sales pitch to make than the up-and-coming fifth-year coach at Maryland. Turgeon can boast about more than most other younger coaches can with a 28-win season from a year ago, and likely this year's pre-season No. 1 team, but was in the hole against last year's nearly undefeated John Calipari (593 career wins) and last year's tournament winner Mike Krzyzewski (1,018 career wins).
Maryland got the first official trip from Gabriel, but it was an underwhelming weekend to be on campus to say the least. Contrary to the beautiful weekend Terps commit Kevin Huerter stayed for, Gabriel's Saturday was hampered by a rain-delayed football game, which caused the crowd to dwindle even more than it usually does at Byrd Stadium, and those who were brave enough to weather the storm were only there to witness an embarrassing home defeat to Bowling Green. Though only so much can be taken from a visit, Gabriel wasn't there to see College Park in its usual game-day form. Gabriel enjoyed his visit, but he was intent on taking his trips to Duke, Kentucky and two more trips he later scheduled to Connecticut and Providence.
Gabriel once called Duke his "dream school," but commitments from four-star forward Javin DeLaurier and five-star forward Jayson Tatum would have left a battle all season long for playing time between the highly coveted recruits. Duke visited Gabriel even after DeLaurier's commitment, and had plans to bring all three on board, but is also still pursuing one of the nation's top forwards Harry Giles, and another big, five-star Marques Bolden. The potential of a loaded recruiting class didn't make much sense for the raw prospect, who may take time to develop.
Though he seemed intent on taking all five of his visits, something changed after traveling to Kentucky. He cites Coach Calipari's recruitment as a major reason for his decision, liking the way he took things into his own hands, speaking directly to Gabriel more so than communicating through assistants. He joins another five-star forward in Lexington, Sacha Killeya-Jones, who plays similarly to Gabriel as a stretch big, but seems confident the two can play together.
Missing on a highly touted recruit will always sting, but even in the loss there are a number of positives to take away. Staying in the running for a five-star recruit – who was a priority for both Duke and Kentucky – up until his final decision is something that wouldn't have happened two seasons ago. Even more impressive was Gabriel's list which included Kansas, Notre Dame, Texas and Virginia who weren't among his final five choices. Maryland is making strides in recruiting, and can still do some serious damage in the coming months.
(Photo via Adidas)
There's another name in play for the Terps and he'll in College Park for Magic Maryland Madness, according to Jeff Ermann, on October 17th. Mario Kegler, who's slated at no. 32 in 247Sports composite, could be Turgeon's biggest get for the class of 2016. The 6'7" forward can slash and shoot with range, and has been called a bruiser, who can post up on bigger defenders. He transferred to Oak Hill Academy this year and will play alongside one of the nation's top recruits Harry Giles. The four-star forward visited Arizona State two weeks ago, Baylor last weekend, is likely to visit Mississippi State and has a trip set up to Indiana a week after Maryland from October 23rd-25th.
Xfinity Center is sure to host at least one Terps commit, as Anthony Cowan, who gave his verbal assurances in January will be taking an official visit. The four-star point guard is ranked no. 65 in 247Sports composite rankings and is presumed to replace Melo Trimble next season if he chooses to declare for 2016 NBA Draft.