The University of Maryland basketball team lost two top recruits a year ago because of National Collegiate Athletic Association probation, which banned the Terrapins from playing on live television last season and in the NCAA tournament through 1992. Now the probation apparently has cost the Terps another blue-chipper.
Yesterday -- the first day of the spring signing period -- Maryland lost its No. 1 recruit. Donyell Marshall of Reading, Pa., a 6-foot-8 1/2 , 190-pound swingman ranked among the top 10 high school players in the country, has announced that he will attend the University of Connecticut.
Meanwhile, Mount St. Mary's and Morgan State, both of which struggled through last season, were more successful yesterday. The Mount landed Joe Gower, a 6-8 forward whose stock rose after he scored 126 points in a tournament last weekend, and the Bears signed three recruits, including Charles Fagin, a 6-8 forward from Mansfield, Ohio.
Marshall's coach said the Huskies beat out the Terps for one reason.
"I think the bottom line is that Connecticut is not on probation," said Reading High School coach Mike Miller. "Maryland did a heck of a job recruiting Donyell. But he looked at UConn and saw a chance to play for a national champion next year."
Marshall told the Hartford Courant on Tuesday: "I want to go to the Final Four. I think UConn has the best chance of getting there. Maryland is on probation and is not going to be able to recruit the type of players to get them that far."
Marshall, who averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and five blocked shots last season, reportedly had been leaning toward Maryland after eliminating Syracuse because the Orangemen are being investigated by the NCAA. Marshall signed a letter of intent yesterday and will hold a news conference today to announce his decision.
Apparently, Marshall's unofficial visit to the Connecticut campus Sunday, after his appearance at the McDonald's All-America game in nearby Springfield, Mass., turned his decision in favor of the Huskies. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun reportedly convinced Marshall that there would be a spot for him in the regular playing rotation next season.
For Mount St. Mary's, patience paid off in the signing of Gower, who averaged 30.5 points and 11.8 rebounds for Lehighton (Pa.) High School. The Mount was the only Division I school to show serious interest in Gower, whose scored 76 points and grabbed 35 rebounds in a tournament game Saturday. Seton Hall, La Salle, Niagara and Loyola were among the schools interested in Gower, Lehighton coach Dan Novey said.
"I'm really happy, and I think I have a great opportunity to play down there," Gower said yesterday. "I felt that Mount St. Mary's was really interested in me, and the others just called because I scored 76 points."
Mount St. Mary's coach Jim Phelan said: "I'm happy now. Up until last week, I thought we had him hidden. All I could say was 'Oh, no' when he scored 50 [on Friday], and then it was just ridiculous when he got 76. A lot of coaches saw that performance and tried to get in on recruiting him.
"He's an excellent jumper and has a great touch," Phelan said. "He's 240 [pounds] now, and he should be able to get up to 260."
The Mount also signed Michael Watson, a 6-5 forward who started for two years at Philadelphia's Roman Catholic High School (ranked 15th nationally). Watson averaged 14.4 points (69 percent from the field) and 10.8 rebounds and was named second team all-city.
Morgan coach Michael Holmes said of Fagin, whose 23 points and 17 rebounds a game drew some interest from Ohio State: "He can play anywhere on the floor. I think he's a high Division I player. We've been fortunate he has been mature enough to realize what we're trying to accomplish."
Morgan also signed David Jon-Ming, a 6-6, 260-pound forward from Mount Vernon (N.Y.) High School (ranked 14th nationally), and Terry Wright, a 6-4 point guard from Philadelphia's Simon Gratz High School, who is coming off a two-year stint in the Air Force. Yesterday's three signings, along with the four players the Bears signed in October, should help a team that finished 7-22 last season.
With a little more than a month remaining in the spring signing period, which runs through May 14, Maryland coach Gary Williams and his staff will get back to work. The Terps, who return everybody but Cedric Lewis and Matt Roe from the past jTC season's 16-12 team, have two scholarships available from their self-imposed limit of 13, two below the NCAA allowance.
Maryland will be back on television and will be eligible to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament next season.
Maryland signed two players, point guard Wayne Bristol of Beltsville and forward Geno Soto of San Juan, Puerto Rico, during the early signing period in November. The Terps also reportedly have received an oral commitment from shooting guard Johnnie Rhodes of Washington, who is waiting to take another shot at the Scholastic Aptitude Test May 4.
Dunbar coach Mike McLeese said Rhodes intends to sign with Maryland as long as he gets the 700 required to be eligible as a freshman.
Forward Devin Gray of St. Frances High School, who is seriously considering Maryland, also has to take the SAT. Gray has visited Minnesota and Richmond and is considering Towson State, St. John's and Clemson. Gray was supposed to take the SAT last month but underwent an emergency appendectomy the day before the March 16 test.
Another of Maryland's top prospects, John Smith, 6-8, 220, of Columbia, S.C., announced yesterday that he will attend Wichita State. Smith, a cousin of former Shockers All-American Xavier McDaniel, said family ties had little to do with his decision. "He wasn't going to make the decision for me," Smith told The State of Columbia.