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With Bruno Fernando gone, Maryland basketball turns focus to 3-star center Chol Marial

A look at the latest recruit linked to the Terps, once predicted to be a potential lottery pick.

Chol Marial AZ Finest Mixtape

With Bruno Fernando announcing he’ll stay in the 2019 NBA Draft, Maryland men’s basketball now has an open scholarship. Already preparing an effort to replace the center, the Terps have been linked in recent weeks to another foreign big man in Chol Marial.

Once thought of as a potential lottery pick, Marial has fallen off the radar a bit in the last two years, struggling with shin injuries. Marial-to-Maryland talk picked up shortly after head coach Mark Turgeon added shooting guard Hakim Hart. The center visited Maryland last weekend and is expected to sign within the next month.

After his recruiting slowed down over the last year, it has heated up again, and 75 percent of 247Sports’ Crystal Ball predictions currently have Marial choosing Maryland. So who exactly is the big man, once lauded as another potential “unicorn”?

Originally from Sudan, Marial stands at 7’2, 220 pounds. He first came over to the states in 2014, according to a Forbes feature on him. He finished his high school career last season at Compass Prep in Chandler, Arizona, as the last of four high school stops. Marial was at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the season before, Arlington Country Day as a sophomore and also spent a season in Connecticut at Cheshire Academy. He’s the cousin of current Detroit Pistons big man Thon Maker.

Marial’s game made him an internet star as an eighth-grader playing high school ball in Florida, flashing extremely raw talent with blocks, putbacks and effortless dunks. He’s only been playing basketball since he was 13, but picked up the game quickly. His ability to stretch the floor and hit outside shots has been compared to Kristaps Porzingis by Compass Prep coach Pete Kaffey, according to Forbes. The coach also called Marial an “NBA player when healthy” and a “generational-type defender,” according to The Baltimore Sun. Kaffey said Marial hit almost 10 threes in a row with Turgeon and lead recruiter Kevin Broadus watching one of his workouts recently.

The “when healthy” caveat is the real kicker. Marial’s recruitment has been greatly hindered by his injury history. When he’s healthy, he very much may be one of the best players in the class. The problem is he hasn’t been healthy very often. He played just 17 games at IMG Prep and missed the following AAU season with foot and shin injuries, then a shin fracture. Once ranked the No. 2 center in the class, he now holds a three-star rankings and is the No. 26 ranked center in the class of 2019 and No. 136 overall, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

If Marial picks Maryland, he’ll join a frontcourt that returns Jalen Smith and brings in twin bigs Makhi and Makhel Mitchell from down the road. If Marial’s healthy, he and Smith could reprise the twin towers that Smith and Fernando set up in the paint last season. He’d also be the fifth member of a class that currently ranks No. 28 in the nation and No. 3 in the Big Ten.

After Fernando announced that he’ll officially stay in the draft, Maryland has one scholarship free and could look to secure Marial’s commitment shortly. Broadus had been Marial’s main recruiter, but is now reportedly close to finalizing a deal to become Morgan State’s next head coach.

SMU is also reportedly still involved in the recruiting process, while Marial has also visited New Mexico and holds offers from Arizona State, Florida State and Georgetown, among others. Kaffey told Adam Zagoria he expects Marial to make a decision on within the next month, and, at the moment, most signs are pointing to the Terps.