With the New Year almost upon us, IMS is taking a look back. In the second installment of our "12 for '12" series, we review the 12 biggest storylines of the past 12 years in Maryland basketball recruiting.
Maryland waited out Wilcox's academic status and was rewarded when he helped the Terps to a championship.
12. Terrence Ross commits … and then de-commits.
In April of 2009, Gary Williams seemingly secured a program-changing recruit when Montrose Christian star Terrence Ross verbally committed. But Ross, a high-flying swingman who was just beginning to blossom, exploded onto the national radar during the following months and announced in December he’d decided to de-commit.
The Terps never stood a shot at regaining a commitment from Ross, who moved back to his native Oregon, committed to Washington – prompting whispers that Nike had swayed him from Maryland -- a year after his original verbal and went on to become the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft after two years of college basketball.
Had Maryland signed Ross, he would have been a freshman on the 2010-2011 team, which featured sophomore star Jordan Williams but suffered numerous narrow losses before missing post-season play.
11. Bino Ranson Joins the Staff
Following the departure of Chuck Driesell, who'd served as Williams' recruiting coordinator, the Terps were in need of fresh blood and Williams hit a home run with Ranson. Though not as high-profile a name as Dalonte Hill (see No. 10), Terps fans quickly learned that Ranson was ubiquitous not only in Baltimore basktball circles, but across the East Coast.
Tabbed "Uncle Bino" because he seemingly held pre-exisiting ties to most of Maryland's recuiting targets, he reeled in Baltimore star Nick Faust -- and helped keep him on board when Williams retired -- and later was the point man for Shaquille Cleare, Charles Mitchell and Sam Cassell Jr.
10. Dalonte Hill Comes Home
Mike Jones was the highest-rated recruit during Maryland's post-title bonanza.
With one spot remaining open on his staff, new Terps coach Mark Turgeon went big, hiring then-Kansas State assistant and Maryland native Dalonte Hill. A renowned local recruiter, he’d lured high school phenom Michael Beasley to K-State and had deep ties to local AAU powerhouse D.C. Assault.
Hill had long liked the idea of coming home and coaching at Maryland, but Williams, wary of hiring coaches with AAU ties, never considered him. Turgeon, who said he'd done his homework on Hill while the two competed in the Big 12, jumped at the chance to bring in a local ace recruiter, a move that paid off and likely will continue to do so.
10. Maryland Goes National in 2002 and 2003.
Maryland basketball was an elite national brand following the Terps first Final Four appearance in 2001 and its first national title in 2002, and it showed on the recruiting trail. Suddenly blue-chip recruits from coast to coast were listing Maryland as a possible destination. Williams cashed in, landing highly touted national prospects like Mike Jones, Ekene Ibekwe and John Gilchrist.
Maryland’s new cachet didn’t pay expected dividends. Several of those heralded recruits didn’t pan out, and the Terrapins missed the NCAA tournament in the 2002 class’s junior and senior years.
9. Born Ready.
In search of an impact player, Williams joined the Lance Stephenson sweepstakes in early 2009. Stephenson, a New York City playground legend nicknamed "Born Ready," was seen as a NBA talent -- but one with offcourt baggage.
At one point, Stephenson's father said his son was down to Maryland and Arizona. Shortly before Stephenson was set to decide, sources told IMS the Terps had backed off, perhaps in part because of a Washington Post report detailing his relationship with Under Armour. The report drew the ire of Maryland fans who felt their school was being targeted, and the Post responded by saying it planned more far-reaching investigative recruiting and AAU reporting, which never materialized.
Gary Williams was long known for his ability to find hidden gems, and Jordan Williams was among the most glaring examples.
Stephenson may have tried to commit to Maryland at one point. He eventually committed to Cincinnati, where he averaged 12.3 points as a freshman before leaving for the NBA.
8. Terps Strike Gold with Jordan Williams.
Long known for his ability to find diamonds in the rough, Williams added further credence to his reputation by recruiting Jordan Williams, a borderline top-100 prospect entering his final season of AAU basketball who caught Williams’ eye. The coach never relented as schools like Arizona and UConn began to chase, and in October of 2008 the 6-9 center verbally committed.
Williams starred immediately, finishing second in the ACC in rebounding as a freshman. As a sophomore, he earned first-team all-ACC honors and set a school record with 25 double-doubles. One of Gary Williams’ finest scouting accomplishments, he would’ve challenged countless other school records and a higher spot on this list, but he opted to leave for the NBA after his sophomore season.
7. Terps Enjoy Local Resurgence
After signing a multi-regional 2012 class, Turgeon focused on the homefront. Both of the players who committed in the 2013 class – Roddy Peters and Damonte Dodd -- were Maryland products. His first and only commitment in 2014, O’Connell (Va.) guard Romelo Trimble, is a Landover native.
Some consider Peters and Trimble to be the best guards in the D.C. Metro area in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The Terps are also in the hunt for several more top prospects in the area, furthering the growing sentiment that Maryland’s finally beginning to take full advantage of its fertile recruiting grounds.
6. The Rudy Gay/Tyree Evans Fiascos
The Tyree Evans recruitment became a national story when it revealed the Williams-Yow rivalry.
By 2003, Archbishop Spalding senior Rudy Gay had become a five-star recruit and an object of affection for many of the nation’s top programs. Another Baltimore star, Carmelo Anthony, had just led Syracuse to a national title and pressure was mounting on Williams to sign Gay. But Gay opted for UConn, and it was revealed that Huskies coach Jim Calhoun had paid Gay's AAU coach more than $20,000 for an exhibition game against a makeshift team comprised of a bunch of unknowns.
Gay’s decision shed light both on questionable recruiting practices at UConn and elsewhere – the NCAA, as a result, prohibited such exhibitions – and Williams' unwillingness to compromise his principles in recruiting.
And then there was the case of Tyree Evans, a junior college guard who'd enjoyed a prolific high school career in Virginia. With Maryland in a down cycle, Williams took a chance on Evans, who had various legal and personal question marks. While some questioned the decision to take a flier on Evans, the story went national for other reasons.
Then-athletic dirctor Debbie Yow red-flagged Evans' admission after he'd signed with Maryland. Williams cut ties with him and later hinted it was Yow's fault. That led to an ugly, public back-and-forth spat between Williams and Yow, one that finally shed light nationally on an unusually toxic coach-A.D. relationship.
5. 2006 Class Saves the Day
In the midst of an extended recruiting slump, Williams put together a 2006 class that kept the program afloat during a down cycle. The prize was Greivis Vasquez (see No. 3). He was joined by Potomac (Va.) sharpshooter Eric Hayes, Oak Hill Academy (Va.) forward Landon Milbourne and little-known junior college power forward Bambale “Boom” Osby.
The 2006 class, absent in some top-25 lists, lacked the press clippings of the 2002 and 2003 groups but fared better largely because of its competitive personality. The group led the Terps to NCAA Tournament berths in three of the next four years, won an ACC title and came within a Korie Lucious buzzer-beater of a potential Final Four run. Its success kept Maryland’s post-title lull from reaching drastic proportions.
4. The Harrison Twins Saga
Cleare anchored what may be Maryland's best class in decades.
It didn’t end in the result for which Maryland fans had hoped, but Turgeon’s recruitment of heralded Texas twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison was arguably the highest-profile recruitment in the program’s history. Turgeon, hoping to capitalize on the relationship he’d established with the gifted guards at Texas A&M, chased them until the bitter end.
At times during the 18-month chase – longer if you include Gary Williams’ previous efforts with the Harrisons -- it appeared Turgeon had Maryland in prime position. But despite his multiple late-stage trips to Houston, they announced for Kentucky in early October of this year. Although Maryland didn’t land the twins, its lasting presence in their recruitment did provide the Terps some secondary national recruiting exposure.
3. The General of College Park
Little-known nationally heading ino the spring before his senior year, Montrose Christian's Greivis Vasquez began to grab attention at camps and tournaments with his flashy playmaking and crafty scoring. Gonzaga and N.C. State began to pursue, but Williams locked up his commitment early in his senior year.
A dynamic guard from Venezuela whose fiery personality matched Williams’, he was a perfect fit for Maryland. Vasquez claimed a starting job midway through his freshman year and rarely left the floor thereafter, becoming the face of Maryland's program and compiling one of the most prolific careers in Maryland history.
The ACC player of the year as a senior, he became the only player in ACC history to compile at least 2,000 career points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds and finished his career ranked second on the school’s career points and assists lists. The success of Vasquez is a crown jewel of Williams' recruiting history, exceeded only by another epic overachiever, Juan Dixon.
2. Turgeon Lays Strong Foundation with 2012 Class.
After inheriting a roster largely devoid of impact-caliber ACC talent, Turgeon was faced with the task of quickly replenishing Maryland’s talent pool. He did so in emphatic fashion, going to the Ukraine to secure 7-footer Alex Len, and then signed a 2012 class regarded by some as one of the top 10 in the nation.
The deep and talented 2012 class, which is expected to be the bedrock for Turgeon’s rebuild, was highlighted by Houston big man Shaquille Cleare. Cleare was the highest-rated post player to sign with Maryland in at least a decade. If you include Xavier transfer Dezmine Wells along with the 2012 high school recruits, Turgeon's first full class could be one of Maryland's best in recent decades.
1. Terps Steal Wilcox
Gary Williams had built a strong roster largely through recruiting under-hyped prospects, but he needed an elite physical talent to put his team over the top. He got his man in Wilcox, an explosive 6-foot-9 power forward regarded by some as the top player in North Carolina.
While some schools had faded from Wilcox as it become clear his academic eligibility was in serious doubt, Maryland continued to pursue; the Terps hit the jackpot when he made a 50-point jump on his SAT and thus was abe to enroll. As a sophomore, he provided the perfect complement to seniors Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter, playing a vital role in Maryland winning the national title before becoming top-10 NBA Draft pick.
Wilcox's career doesn't match the individual success of Vasquez, Jordan Williams and some other players during this span; Dixon, Baxter and Steve Blake were late-90s recruits and thus ineligible for this story. But the combination of Maryland beating long odds to sign him, and his putting the Terps over the hump en route to the title, earns him the No. 1 spot.