COLLEGE PARK – After a full year as the head coach of the University of Maryland’s men’s basketball team, Mark Turgeon is putting his own local recruiting stamp on the program.
Scouts have ranked Turgeon’s incoming recruiting class among the top-20 in the nation, and they believe he has positioned the team to land some of the country’s best players in future years.
Area high school coaches said Turgeon and his staff are making a strong effort to be more visible at local high schools than his predecessor Gary Williams.
“People definitely have seen coach Turgeon out here beating the pavement and getting in the faces of a lot of the schools here locally, more than they did with coach Williams at the end of his career,” Gonzaga College High School basketball coach Steve Turner said. “As a player you want to be able to see that coach. You want to know that he’s recruiting you.”
Williams, who retired last spring after 22 years as the Terps’ head coach, compiled a 461-252 record and brought the school its lone championship in 2002.
But some fans were disappointed that Williams failed to consistently land top-echelon in-state recruits.
“A lot of the guys that he gets flack for – the Rudy Gays, the Kevin Durants – those guys were one-and-dones or two-and-throughs. Some programs deal with that and some programs don’t,” Mt. Saint Joseph’s basketball coach Pat McClatchey said. “Gary wasn’t dealing with that bull crap.”
Gay played at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn and AAU ball in Baltimore, while Durant starred at Montrose Christian High School in Rockville his senior year.
Both were considered NBA talent, and neither showed interest in Maryland.
Local recruiting woes were never more evident than when Williams failed to land Michael Beasley, the top recruit in the nation and a McDonald’s All-American from Prince George’s County. Instead, Beasley committed to Kansas State.
Beasley’s commitment to Kansas State stemmed from his AAU ties to then-Wildcats assistant coach Dalonte Hill.
Williams was reluctant to build relationships through the AAU circuit, according to McClatchey and others, because he was worried of running afoul of NCAA rules.
Instead, he wanted to recruit players who would benefit the program by sticking around College Park for more than one year.
“You get them one year and then they’re gone. So you have success for that one year, but you’re starting that whole process all over again,” McClatchey said.
Turgeon wants the top players in the state to know they can succeed in College Park, said Rivals.com national basketball recruiting analyst Eric Bossi.
“They’re going to recruit the heck out of you,” from the time they are freshmen in high school, Bossi said. “He’s open to the best talent he can possibly get. I don’t think at the end of the day he really cares whether they’re going to be there one, two, three or four years, if they’re willing to play there and play the way he wants them to play.”
The New Style of Recruiting
While Williams was hesitant to dip his toes in the AAU water, Turgeon and his staff have embraced it, recruiting analysts and coaches said.
Turgeon hired Dalonte Hill away from Kansas State, where he was believed to be the highest-paid assistant coach in the country making $423,750 a year, according to the Kansas City star.
Maryland had struggled to attract recruits from the Washington, D.C., area in recent years, and recruiting analysts and coaches said Hill would fix that problem.
“Dalonte has built a lot of relationships, having been on the AAU circuit and being an AAU coach with a great AAU organization,” Turner said. “At the end of the day, a lot of it comes down to relationships, and he has that in his favor.”
Hill played and coached the D.C. Assault. In 2007, used that relationship to lure Beasley to Kansas State.
“If there’s no Dalonte in Manhattan, Kan.,” Bossi said, “there’s no Michael Beasley.”
The 2012 Recruiting Class
Four players have officially committed to join Turgeon’s first recruiting class that will begin playing in the fall: Shaquille Cleare of Houston, Jake Layman of Wrentham, Mass., Charles Mitchell of Marietta, Ga. and Seth Allen of Fredericksburg, Va.
Damonte Dodd, who played in Centreville on the Eastern Shore, has verbally committed to the team and is expected to sign a letter of intent next week. And Baltimore native Sam Cassell Jr. is still considering Maryland.
May 16 is the last day for teams to sign players for next season. A Maryland athletics department spokesman said Turgeon could not comment on recruiting until the end of April or early May.
The commitments by Cleare, Layman and Mitchell demonstrate that Turgeon and his staff can nab high-profile recruits outside the state.
And Bossi said he expects Maryland to land even more local players in future years.
“They’re going to [get local players]. It’s just a matter of finding the right guys,” Bossi said. “You’ll start to see things get together, but you have to give the staff a year or two to all get on the same page and get their attack figured out.”
Looking Ahead to 2013 and 2014
For 2013, the team is recruiting players like Gonzaga junior Kris Jenkins, the Gatorade D.C. Boys Basketball Player of the year.
Players from Gonzaga have not traditionally chosen to play at Maryland, but Turgeon’s sales pitch may break the trend.
“It’s an opportunity to play in the ACC, as well as be a local guy from home helping the program try to win, to have success and make a run at a national championship,” Turner said.
The team is still in the mix for talented high school players across the country, from Houston, Orlando, Charlotte and Philadelphia.
“Part of the reason Mark Turgeon took that job was not only because of great local talent base, he viewed it as a sleeping giant that could eventually recruit nationally,” Bossi said. “They want to lock down the very best players they can locally, and where they can, supplement it with national talent.”
Maryland is vying for the nation’s top high school recruit for 2013, Andrew Harrison of Texas.
Harrison has his choice of Arizona, Baylor, Georgetown, Texas, Villanova, UCLA and the reigning national champions, Kentucky. And Maryland may have to win more before they can recruit against national powers.
“If people are expecting Duke and North Carolina recruiting immediately, it’s probably not going to happen. That’s not a legitimate expectation at [all] but three or four universities in the country,” Bossi said. “Given time to show how they play and get a feel for the area and which guys fit their system, they’ll start to land talent that at least on paper will make the fanbase a little happier.”
For 2014, Maryland has already offered Mt. Saint Joseph sophomore Phil Booth a scholarship. His head coach said that although it’s early in the process, the interest is mutual.
“[Booth] was proud to receive the offer. It shows the seriousness of their interest and intent of him becoming a student-athlete at the University of Maryland,” McClatchey said. “[The Booths] are very much interested and receptive to what coach Turgeon is trying to build there.”