A pipe dream is defined as an unattainable or fanciful hope. When Mark Turgeon and his staff first offered five-star Josh Jackson, a highly sought after guard from Michigan, this past April, securing a commitment from one of, if not the best, player in the 2016 class seemed to fit the pipe dream ideology. With the top college basketball programs all vying to land Jackson, convincing him to even visit College Park wasn't going to be easy. But with Maryland poised to start the 2015 campaign as one of the nation's top ranked teams, could the Terps now be a realistic landing spot for one of the nation's top players?
After the tumultuous off-season following the 2013-2014 campaign, in which five players transferred from Maryland, many were left wondering if Mark Turgeon would be able to once again have Maryland competing among the nation's top teams on an annual basis. Just over a year later, most of those concerns have all but vanished as Turgeon has his program positioned to begin the 2015-2016 season as one of the nation's top teams. The Terps still need to go out and perform on the court this year, but there is still a sense of excitement surrounding Maryland's men's basketball that has been noticeably absent for a long time. And that excitement continues to grow with Josh Jackson's recently revealed intentions to visit Maryland.
Maryland has battled the likes of Arizona and Kansas for the commitment of some of the nation's top players in the past, but they almost always came out on the losing end of those battles. While Jackson's visit to College Park is just an unofficial visit and knowing his recruitment still has a lot of teams and variables in play, Maryland still has a chance with Jackson, something that might have seemed almost unimaginable twelve months ago.
Not many people thought Diamond Stone would end up in College Park, but Maryland gave themselves a chance, picked up some momentum and eventually ended up with a commitment from the blue-chip center.
How did Maryland get to this point?
Before delving into all things Josh Jackson, it's important to reflect on the events that led to this elite prospect giving Maryland consideration.
One of the most crucial events that turned Maryland basketball around was the addition of Dez Wells. After his departure from Xavier, Wells passed on the opportunity to transfer to many of the nation's top programs including Kentucky. This was the first instance of a highly regarded player spurning an elite program to come play for the Terps.
Maryland's recent success has also resonated with recruits. In the years following Wells' move to College Park, Alex Len was drafted fifth overall as an NBA lottery pick, Melo Trimble had an extremely successful freshman season, Maryland returned to the NCAA tournament in 2014-15, secured the commitment from one of the nation's top centers and enters this year with extremely high expectations.
If Maryland is to land Josh Jackson, they will have to continue to build on their recent momentum. But winning that fight against the traditional powerhouse programs of college basketball won't be easy.
Where does Maryland stand with Jackson?
With Jackson, Maryland stands a chance. This is a far cry, yes tears of joy, from where pundits thought Maryland stood with him just a few months earlier.
Maryland offered the athletic shooting guard in late April and the momentum with Jackson has only increased since. Jackson's mother has been the most vocal about her son's recruitment and recently told Adam Zagoria of SNYtv, "Maryland has come a long way, they're getting in the game." She went on to say that her son will take all five official visits, and he has Maryland, Kansas, Michigan State, Arizona, and UCLA as the primary contenders for those visits.
Does that mean Maryland is in the top five? The short answer is maybe. Prospects can sometimes plan official visits according to their top schools on their lists, or sometimes they plan official visits based on schools that they like but want to learn more about. For example, if a prospect that lives near a certain college and has visited them unofficially and been on campus for several different events, then they may feel that they can use their official visit on a school that they have seen less frequently-- even if the nearby school is higher on their list.
If the unofficial visit goes well, Maryland could very well secure one of those five coveted official visits. Official visits are important because they gives a prospect a more in-depth look at the school, the campus, the atmosphere, the team, and various other aspects of a college.
Maryland appears to be a contender in his recruitment, and he seems to feel that he wants to learn more about how Maryland could be the school that gives him the best chance to prepare for the NBA, with Jackson likely being a one-and-done player and 2017 NBA draft lottery pick.
What are Jackson's other options?
Maryland will have to beat out some of college basketball's top schools if they're able to secure a commitment from Jackson.
Arizona, led by Sean Miller, seems to always recruit well. In fact, Arizona has been in the top six in recruiting class rankings, according to 247sports.com, every year since 2011. The only other school in the nation that can make that claim is Kentucky.
Bill Self and Kansas have a knack for securing commitments from five-star wing players, most notably Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. Neither were as dominant in college as people thought they would be – perhaps the expectations were high – but this didn't impact their draft stock, as both were first round picks with Wiggins going number one overall. Jackson could have the ability to thrive at Kansas, but perhaps he'll look at past wing prospects and think that Self didn't utilize them to their greatest ability.
Michigan State is another contender in the recruitment of Josh Jackson. Michigan State isn't normally known for one-and-done players, but they are solid contenders year in and year out. Jackson was also raised in Michigan and went to high school there for his first two years, before moving to California. Tom Izzo does a great job developing players and winning when it counts. Izzo could be compared to a teacher teaching to a test. He seems to use all regular season games as a lesson and teaches from there. Then when March comes around, the players are ready for the test of the NCAA tournament.
Kentucky has John Calipari and thus they always stand a chance with virtually any recruit. Calipari also has the reputation of getting his kids drafted, with four Kentucky players selected as lottery picks in 2015.
Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina are some of the other schools listed among contenders in Jackson's recruitment and they all have great coaches and are traditional programs with immense success over the years.
Jackson also has the option of playing professionally overseas for one season. This has become an interesting alternative to college, and has its benefits and disadvantages. The benefits include being able to play while being paid, and the ability to have endorsements. Emmanuel Mudiay is the most recent prospect to take this route, and he was endorsed by Under Armour. Many argue that while Mudiay received money from his contract and endorsement; his draft stock was deterred by the lack of exposure playing overseas. Mudiay was drafted seventh overall, but many thought when he came out of high school that he could have been the number one overall selection.
Jackson's name has been linked to playing overseas in the past, but it seems like he is leaning towards the college basketball route given his mother's comments.
How would Jackson fit with Maryland?
Jackson is the type of player that you scheme around and make fit on your roster. Given his ability, potential, and versatility, he would fit well on Maryland's team. He is officially listed as a shooting guard, but at 6'7" (as a rising senior in high school), he has the size to play the three spot. Also, with his crazy athleticism, length, skill, and ability to get stronger he could most likely hold his own at the four spot when the team goes small.
Maryland has wing players for the 2016 season, including Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens. Wiley or Nickens could play shooting guard, Jackson could play small forward and that would be a quality mix of shooting, athleticism, and skill.
Jackson can score, drive, and shoot. He has the length and size to be a phenomenal perimeter defender and would be a nightmare for opposing teams on both ends of the court. Jackson recently dropped 50 points in a summer event, predicting he'd score 50 during pregame warm-ups and then following through with an MVP performance. Jackson would fit tremendously with Maryland and Turgeon would most definitely figure out the best way to utilize the elite prospect.
Regardless of where Jackson ultimately ends up, getting him to College Park is another huge step in the right direction for the Maryland program, which continues its resurgence under Mark Turgeon.