When Brad Sanders was a standout basketball player at Leavenworth (Kan.) High, Mark Turgeon was a pre-teen hoops enthusiast watching from nearby. Sanders then went on to play for the University of Kansas, where he worked as a camp counselor to Mark Turgeon.
The Terps staff will work this weekend to secure Houston standout Christian Sanders, a well-rounded combo guard targeted early by Mark Turgeon.
Turgeon later played and won a national championship at KU, and when he became the head coach at Wichita State, he enlisted Sanders’ two sons as ball boys.
Now, more than a decade later, Turgeon is the head coach at the University of Maryland, and Sanders’ son Christian is a highly sought recruit who arrives in College Park tonight for his official visit. It’s the sort of back story that occurs often in college basketball recruiting, in which preexisting relationships can pave a path toward college commitments.
“That’s how we got to know each others, so there was that natural attraction [to Maryland]. We’ve kept in touch at various points,” Brad Sanders said. “We have the utmost respect for Turge, He is about winning and about doing it the right way, and about doing it with the right kids. All of that is appealing to us. We trust him for him for sure and we think he is going to get it done.”
Christian Sanders, a 6-3 guard, was on Turgeon’s radar at Texas A&M, and that pursuit has carried over to Maryland. After a strong summer with the Houston Defenders – the same AAU program for which Terps commit Shaquille Cleare and 2013 prospects Aaron and Andrew Harrison play – Sanders emerged as a bona fide high-major recruit, garnering offers from Texas, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Colorado and Oklahoma State.
In addition to the Sanders-Turgeon family ties, the Terps may have an advantage in the form of Cleare, his AAU teammate and fellow Houston-area standout.
“Shaquille and Christian are close, yes,” his father said. “It’s not a negative, that’s for sure.”
"That would be great," Christian Sanders told InsideMDSports.com six weeks ago. "We've all had a lot of fun playing together for the past few years.
He also has a strong relationship with assistant Scott Spinelli and Director of Basketball Operations Dustin Clark, who came to Maryland from A&M with Turgeon.
In addition to Turgeon's ties to Sanders, the Terps have an advantage in the form of Shaquille Cleare.
“We love the staff and we know the staff well, and we’re going to meet the new assistants, Bino [Ranson] and Dalonte [Hill],” Brad Sanders said.
Sanders is an academically-oriented young man who’s taking an analytical approach to his recruitment, examining every facet of each of the universities recruiting him. He has several more visits planned, but isn’t locked into taking them. While there’s no guarantee he’ll commit this weekend, it wouldn’t be shocking.
“This is not a four-year decision, it’s a 40-year decision. At least that’s the way we view it. I don’t know if that makes us unusual. It’s the way that Christian is approaching this decision,” Brad Sanders said. “The idea for this weekend is to be fully informed. When we’re ready and we feel completely comfortable with a specific situation, we will [make a commitment]. We’re not saying we’re definitely going to go to all of these places, but that’s the plan right now.”
The Sanders family is also excited about the buzz surrounding Maryland’s football team and Turgeon’s reinvigorated basketball program.
“I think Christian is excited to be on campus Friday during classes and Saturday with all of the excitement going on around all of that, which is really cool, by the way,” Brad Sanders said.
Scouting Christian Sanders
When Turgeon arrived at Maryland, he seemingly targeted four recruits immediately: Cleare, Virginia guard Seth Allen, Massachusetts forward Jake Layman and Sanders. So far, he’s three-for-four. Why was Sanders on the initial top-priority list?
Though he may not come with the national rankings of Cleare (No. 32 in the 247Sports.com rankings) or Layman (No. 69), Sanders is a versatile guard who does everything well. We watched him perform at the Adidas Invitation in July and it became apparent immediately why Turgeon’s targeted him: cliché as it may be, he’s like a coach on the floor, a combo guard who can handle, shoot, pass, rebound and defend.
It’s likely Turgeon sees a bit of himself in Sanders, a coach’s son who always seems to be in the right place, making the proper play. After averaging 18 points per game while leading St. John’s to a Texas 5A state title last season, he shifted his focus to making teams pay for collapsing on Cleare and the Harrisons during AAU play, using a sweet 3-point stroke to help the Defenders to a strong summer showing – one that culminated in a championship at the AAU Super Showcase in Orlando.
Click HERE to view our video highlights (FREE) of Sanders and his Defenders teammates from the Adidas Invitational.
How Would He Fit?
The priority heading into this recruiting season was reinforcing a woefully thin frontcourt, and Turgeon has done so by snagging Cleare, Layman and Ukranian seven-footer Alex Len, a late 2011 recruit whose commitment InsideMDSports.com first reported. The Terps are likely to take one more big man.
But Turgeon also has been seeking well-rounded guards who can improve Maryland’s outside shooting. He addressed it first by gaining a commitment from Allen days after arriving at Maryland, and it’s become clear he’d like one more guard.
Sanders would seemingly be an ideal candidate for the spot because he’s a versatile combo guard who would help the team win, but without bringing a high-maintenance factor; Terrell Stoglin and Pe’Shon Howard would be juniors and Nick Faust a sophomore during Sanders’ freshman year, and Allen would be vying for minutes and shots as well. He’s the type of player who could blend in and contribute without needing the ball.
He could spell guards at both spots early in his career, provide some punch from the arc and move into a more substantial role thereafter.
“Christian is about winning as well, and doing it the right way and being able to win championships. It’s not about minutes, not about stats, it’s about winning championships. I think that’s what makes him attractive to Turge,” Brad Sanders said. “But he can play. He wouldn’t be interested if he couldn’t play dead.”
Maryland is seriously recruiting another guard, athletic North Carolinian Terry Henderson. Henderson is pure shooting guard -- in contrast to Sanders’ combo guard style-- and has an in-home visit scheduled with Turgeon for Monday.
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