WASHINGTON, D.C. — With two Maryland men’s basketball signees in America’s longest running high school All-Star game, spectators were treated to a show in a 103-92 win for the United States All-stars, as future Terp Aaron Wiggins took home the MVP award.
Though five-star power forward Jalen “Sticks” Smith sat out as a precaution, after a minor injury earlier in the week, Maryland’s next highest rated recruit put on an absolute show. The four-star Wiggins, coached by high school coach and former Terp Keith Gatlin, finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, four three-pointers and two putback jams, giving Terps fans a glimpse at the beginnings of a complete player.
“I think I’m definitely capable of playing this well consistently, so I come out every game in attack mode,” Wiggins said after the game. “I knew a lot of guys were from the area, so I knew they were going to try to come at me. So I had to go out and try to kill them.”
Wiggins wasted no time either. He looked loose in warmups, throwing down a windmill and a reverse slam off self-oops. Once the game started, he was in attack mode from the get-go. He got his first points on a three, popping out after starting the play as the second screener for Penn State commit Rasir Bolton.
He continued to showcase the three-ball that got him in both the McDonald’s All-American and Iverson Roundball Classic three-point contests, hitting two more triples before the half. Wiggins hit four threes total in every situation you’d like to see: the first one came off a popout, the second on a corner snipe off an assist from Villanova commit Cole Swider, the third was a transition triple with Serrel Smith assisting and the last was a wide-open bomb with seven minutes left in the game. His shot seems legit.
Wiggins also showed his transition game. A play after his first three, he tracked down a rebound and took it coast-to-coast for an easy layup in transition. A couple minutes later, Smith got the ball up to Wiggins on the break for an easy self-putback, springing right to the boards after missing the initial windmill layup. Late in the first half, he took one dribble and went straight up for the dunk with the defender right with him.
The 6’6 forward has a calm athleticism to him. It takes little effort for him to leave the floor, allowing him to rack up 12 boards, and he has solid shot blocking instincts for a small forward. He racked up three blocks in three minutes, and added a fourth before the end of the first half. One swat (on the 5’6 Ayinde Hikim for reference) sparked a fast break, ending with Wiggins as the star of the show.
Serrel Smith, a three-star recruit who signed to Maryland just a couple weeks ago, started the game with his fellow Terp, but had an off night. The Florida native finished with just two points on 1-of-7 shooting, four rebounds and three assists. It was a quiet game, but after a week of practice, he and Wiggins are already starting to mesh.
“He can obviously score the ball, shoot the ball. He’s a really good shooter,” Wiggins said. “We get along really well. He’s actually really quiet, we’re going to get him out of that.
Still, Smith’s positives were on display. His lone bucket came on a play where he lulled a defender into a false sense of security, before making a move down the lane to his left, stopping on a dime and popping a jumper right in the newly-gained space.
Serrel Smith is a playmaker, folks. pic.twitter.com/d2XTIZfUeV— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) April 28, 2018
Smith has drawn loose comparisons to Jamal Crawford for his tight handle and ability to get up a shot in little space. However, the downside of that is Smith still takes some ill-advised shots and is streaky, though, obviously this was a no-stakes all-star game. When the Capital squad made a run in the second half, Smith airballed a step-back three that could be nicely referred to as questionable. Both his shot selection and consistency are issues that can be assuaged with experience, but could also linger (see: J.R. “I hit this in 2K” Smith).
At halftime, after sitting on the bench with his teammates, “Sticks” hit the court for what’s become a two-year tradition for Terps big men sitting out the Classic. A casual swished three was all fans would get, just like with Bruno Fernando the year before.
The Classic also had a bevy of Big Ten recruits impress. Ohio State commit Luther Muhammad was the game’s second leading-scorer with 21 points, playing alongside Wiggins. The Capital squad made a valiant comeback, spearheaded by one-time Nebraska commit (now pledged to Pitt) Xavier Johnson and Penn State commit Myles Dread put up 13 and 11 respectively. Johnson is going to be a problem; he has a slick handle and can score in a variety of ways.
After scoring 23 points in the first half, Wiggins wouldn’t have to do much in the second half. He didn’t score until seven minutes left, when he knocked in his last three, before finishing up his scoring for the day with two putback jams off long rebounds. When the dust settled, he had shot 13-for-17 from the field and 4-for-4 from beyond the arc on the game.
“[Aaron]’s a great player, he can get it done on both ends,” Serrel Smith said. “He’s got a lot tools in his game. It’s going to be a show over the next couple years.”
While Wiggins turned the Classic into his game, at Maryland he’s not expected to be the star of the show. The good thing is his skill set should also translate to a smaller role, and he has his own set of ammunition motivating him.
“I just consistently have something to prove,” Wiggins said. “Everybody’s going to come at me. I know I have a ranking in the ESPN, I’m highly ranked in a couple different things, so I know every single player, whether they’re ranked high or not, they’re going to come at me.
“So I just gotta go out and hold my own. I gotta be able to consistently be able to play in attack mode, do what I do.”