The Terps men's basketball team is in the midsts of its most successful season -- record-wise, at least - in more than a decade and, man, it's been fun. Big wins, exciting players, sick flash mobs, what more can a fan base ask for?
The only thing better than one great season? A lot of great seasons in a row! And how does a program achieve this? Well, recruiting, of course. Since Mark Turgeon took over for Gary Williams, Maryland has seen a resurgence in recruiting prowess, with mixed results. The 2012 and 2013 classes, both highly regarded at the time, have since seen more transfers than not, while 2014's has been the catalyst for what looks like severe upward program momentum (hi, Melo!).
As the spring signing period approaches (April 15 - May 20), Maryland still has only one recruit signed for 2015. Jaylen Brantley, the Odessa College point guard originally from Massachusetts, is finishing up a successful one-year stint at JuCo before joining the Terps as presumably Melo Trimble's much-needed back-up next year. He'll be an important addition, along with Georgia Tech transfer forward Robert Carter Jr., who had to sit this season due to NCAA transfer rules, to what should be an excellent -- potentially elite -- Maryland team next year. But even with those two on the court, there are still holes to fill. Here are updates on potential players to fill them:
The 6-feet-10, 5-star, top center in the 2015 class Stone is *the* target remaining for the Terps in 2015, and rightfully so. He's not only a major talent, he's also the absolute picture perfect fit at the five for next year's Maryland roster. With one of the nation's best returning players in Trimble at the point, likely-returning senior and match-up nightmare at the wing Jake Layman, dynamic offensive forward Carter Jr. and a bevy of shooting from Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens, a true, dangerous post player like Stone could put Maryland over the top as a national title contender.
Stone's recruitment has been incredibly quiet for a player of his caliber, but that might be a good thing for the Terps. A Wisconsin-native, he could have easily popped for the hometown Badgers months ago and joined one of the most consistently successful programs in college basketball, so his insistence on waiting and feeling out the process has to be seen as a positive for the other three schools on his list -- Connecticut, Oklahoma State and, of course, Maryland.
I have no inside information on his recruitment, but he does seem genuinely interested in the Terrapin program. After Maryland beat Wisconsin this week, he took to Twitter to retweet a lot of pro-Maryland material, including these from the aforementioned lone 2015 commit Brantley:
GOOD WIN TERPS @Diamond_Stone33 join the squad with your bro legooooo !!!— Jaylen Brantley (@Jaybrant2) February 25, 2015
Make of that what you will.
I know the 247Sports Crystal Ball reads UConn and Wisconsin, but I think this comes down to the Badgers and Terps.
Maryland is definitely going to add at least one big man for 2015, and if Stone doesn't come through (or even if he does) Sima seems the surest bet to be that addition. There's nothing new to report on him, but the 3/4-star 6-feet-11 prospect would bring immediate quality depth to the front court rotation, especially with college-ready defense and rebounding.
Maryland has the lead on the Crystal Ball.
Jamall Gregory and Maurice O'Field
While the focus has been on a big man for the 2015 class, the biggest loss Maryland will suffer in the offseason is at the wing with the departure of star senior Dez Wells. Current freshmen Nickens and to a lesser extent Wiley (the higher rated recruit of the two, by the way) have shown flashes of excellent play this season, but neither project to have the game-changing athletic ability of Wells. This is a factor the Maryland staff would like to keep on the roster moving forward, and Jamall Gregory might be the answer.
Gregory, a 6-feet-4 3-star shooting guard who's prepping at Elev8 Sports Institute (Fla.), is originally from D.C. and a former teammate of Trimble at Bishop O'Connell. After not receiving the college interest he was looking for as a member of the 2014 class, he took a prep year to refine his game.
He was a participant in the 2014 Capital Classic game, which I attended to watch Trimble and Nickens, but came away impressed with Gregory's game. Here's what I wrote at the time:
The two biggest surprises were the local kids [Jamall] Gregory (from the District) and [Andrew] Robinson (from Silver Spring). Neither are currently committed, but wherever they end up they'll be steals for their program. Gregory showed off some major hops. He was easily the bounciest player at the game. He finished a few alley oops, threw one off the backboard to a teammate and hit a three.
He's always been an explosive athlete, but never much of a complete basketball player. Maryland was never really interested, but since he's been at Elev8, they've been monitoring his progress. They haven't yet offered, but the Terps do have the latest pick (from Jeff Ermann) on the Crystal Ball.
The other name that's been discussed is 3/4-star 6-feet-5 JuCo (Midlands) wing Maurice O'Field. All five of his Crystal Ball picks are for Maryland, but there has not been much discussion about O'Field in some time. That might change once his season ends.
Guards are the focus (at the moment) for 2016
Even though the 2015 class still isn't sorted out, the Maryland staff are putting in plenty of work for the 2016 and 2017 classes. These are the classes where the success this season could/should help on the recruiting trail. It's too late to influence most 2015 guys, but seeing a local kid like Trimble -- who wasn't even a consensus 5-star recruit -- shine on a national level this early in his career is going to make major waves.
We already saw a very important domino fall in the form of 2016 4-star point guard Anthony Cowan, who committed to Maryland in January. Cowan was recently named a first team All-WCAC member as a junior, which is no small feet in one of the nation's premier high school leagues. We broke down Cowan's game and what he'll bring to Maryland here.
Cowan was a major contender for WCAC Player of the Year (which Trimble won last season), but lost out to another 2016 Maryland target in Markelle Fultz. Fultz, a 6-4 4-star combo guard, is the top player in Maryland, playing at DeMatha. He's a great athlete and excellent shooter, just generally a do-it-all player that's just scratching the surface of his potential.
Fultz is at the very top of targets for the Terps to pair with Cowan as the backcourt of the future, but the battle will be fierce. He has an offer from Arizona and interest from Kentucky, who are currently split as the Crystal Ball picks.
The other major, and perhaps more likely, backcourt target is 4-star guard Curtis Jones, the top rated player from Virginia, currently playing at powerhouse Huntington Prep in West Virginia. The 6-feet-3 Jones is a great shooter and scorer, but isn't quite as big or strong as Fultz. Maryland is the top pick on the Crystal Ball, over Virginia.
I'd expect Maryland to add more than just guards in 2016, but these are the three names most associated with the program at this point in the process.
Names for 2017
It's very, very early to be talking 2017 prospects right now, but there are some names to keep an eye on and even some news.
Myles Douglas, a 4-star 6-7 wing from Baltimore, has seen his recruitment pick up recently and received an offer from Maryland on an unofficial visit last week. He has one Crystal Ball pick, and it's for the Terps.