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Jalen Smith is Maryland basketball’s most important commit in a long time

The Baltimore power forward is an elite prospect, and the Terps could be set up for even more.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Four-star Class of 2018 power forward Jalen Smith committed to Maryland on Monday night, becoming the second member of the Terps’ much-anticipated 2018 class.

Smith is Maryland’s seventh four-star recruit in the last three years, but his commitment is perhaps the most important among them.

Maryland doesn’t often bring in players of this caliber.

Aside from Diamond Stone, the No. 6 recruit in the Class of 2015, the Terps haven’t landed anyone in the top 30 of the 247Sports Composite since Mike Jones in 2003. To emphasize how long it’s been, that was LeBron James’ class. Melo Trimble was 2014’s No. 32 recruit, and four-star prospects have streamed into College Park for some time, but this is still unfamiliar territory.

Smith is a lanky 6’10; expect him to bulk up from his current weight of 208 pounds between now and November 2018, when he’ll play his first college game. Unlike Stone, who always seemed set on leaving after one year, Smith figures to be in College Park for two or three. He’s a versatile scorer and defender who could give Maryland the hard-nosed rebounder it’s been looking for.

This makes two Baltimore recruits in two years, which is noteworthy.

Darryl Morsell, who was Smith’s teammate at Mount Saint Joseph’s, joins the Terps for the 2017-18 season. Morsell was a four-star talent in his own right, but his close ties with Smith definitely strengthened his appeal to recruiters. Maryland has been on both for a while, and it’s paid off.

Although Baltimore consistently has a couple blue-chip recruits every year, Maryland has been spotty in the area. The Terps landed national top-50 prospects Sean Moseley and Nick Faust in 2008 and 2011, respectively, but not much more than that in the last decade. It’s unclear whether commitments from Morsell and Smith in back-to-back cycles will be a harbinger of things to come in future years, but it certainly won’t hurt.

It’s possible that having these two on board can be a selling point to Bel Air’s Immanuel Quickley, the No. 10 player in the entire class. Quickley is familiar with Smith and Morsell from the Baltimore Catholic League, and he’ll probably hear from both of them (as well as new USA U19 teammate Kevin Huerter) over the next several months.

Maryland now has a strong foundation for what could turn into a monster class.

With two scholarships open at the moment and at least three seniors entering their final season, that leaves at least five spots to go around in this class. Pledges from Smith and four-star North Carolina guard Aaron Wiggins have the ball rolling, and it’s on a promising path.

We’ve talked plenty in this space about Quickley, but Maryland has at least a fighting chance with a host of top prospects in this class. In the frontcourt alone, there’s five-star (.9961) center Moses Brown and four-star (.9890) forward Silvio De Sousa, who like Smith is friends and teammates with a 2017 signee (Bruno Fernando). Adding three top-30 big men is obviously unlikely, especially with Fernando entering his sophomore season in 2018-19, but both Brown and De Sousa are still very much in play for the Terps.

Wiggins could be joined in the backcourt by one or two more blue-chippers, as well. Maryland seems firmly in the mix for Quickley, five-star (.9924) shooting guard Keldon Johnson and four-star (.9876) point guard Devon Dotson, among plenty of other names. In all, the Terps figure to add two or three more recruits to what’s already an impressive class.

There’s a signing period in November, so at least some commitments will become official by the fall, but these cycles always seem to stretch into late May, when the final dominoes fall. Between now and then, Maryland has a plethora of options, virtually all of them good. Wiggins and Smith are the first names in the ring, and several more aren’t far away.