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Maryland basketball’s Jalen Smith enters NBA Draft, forgoes remaining eligibility

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The Baltimore native officially leaves the Terps after two seasons.

Jalen Smith, Illinois, Maryland basketball Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Following an abrupt end to the 2019-20 college basketball season, Jalen Smith is turning pro.

The 6’10 forward declared for the 2020 NBA Draft Tuesday afternoon. He announced his decision on Twitter, and the Maryland program announced he would be forgoing his remaining eligibility, making his departure official.

“Thank you to the coaches and staff at the University of Maryland for the unsung work you do to prepare us to compete as student-athletes and for life beyond basketball, thank you,” Smith wrote in his Twitter announcement. “Thank you to my brothers who donned the Terrapin uniform with me at the Xfinity Center. Together we battles as one inside the NCAA’s most competitive conference, the Big Ten. We made history fellas and it cannot be altered!!!

“Thank you to Terp Nation. We were 16-1 at home due to your support and energy you guys brought every game. I’ll cherish forever celebrating the Big Ten championship with you. Fear the Turtle!”

The Baltimore native, who was rated as a five-star recruit coming out of high school, was considered a potential late first-round pick by many analysts after his freshman season, but he declined to even test the waters. Smith was set on returning with the hopes of taking the Terps deeper in the March after their loss to LSU in the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

And despite never getting the chance to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith took major leaps in his sophomore season. He was a First Team All-Big Ten selection by both coaches and media after averaging 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He shot 53.8 percent from the floor and 36.8 percent from three-point range, while also putting up the third most double-doubles (21) in the nation.

“I am thrilled for Jalen and his family for making such an important and exciting decision,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “From the minute we started recruiting Jalen, we knew the kind of quality player and person we would be getting and he lived up to it in every way. As incredible of a player Jalen is on the court, he is that and more as an individual off the court.

“We will miss him in College Park. I cannot wait to watch Jalen at the next level and I wish him and his family nothing but the best on their journey.”

He’ll now enter a draft filled with uncertainty as the world continues to deal with the coronavirus health crisis. The league announced Monday that teams would not be allowed to conduct in-person workouts or request/watch live video of prospects, but rather can meet virtually with players for up to four hours.

Turgeon is now without his two best players from 2019-20, with senior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. graduating. He has two open scholarship spots remaining. The Terps’ frontcourt currently consists of 6’8 Jairus Hamilton, 6’8 Donta Scott, 6’10 Joshua Tomiac and 7’2 Chol Marial.

With Scott as the only one of the four to play significant minutes for Maryland last year, Turgeon and his staff have been vying for Yale grad transfer Jordan Bruner. The 6’9 forward has Maryland, Alabama and Baylor as his top-three schools, though his timeline on a final decision is unclear.