If yesterday's first day of the early signing period for basketball recruits is any indication, the Maryland program may not yet have turned the corner from the effect of NCAA sanctions.
Two blue-chip high school frontcourt players who had recently listed Maryland among their final choices for next fall have elected to go elsewhere, leaving the Terps scrambling for help up front.
Both Donyell Marshall, a 6-foot-8 small forward from Reading, Pa., and John Smith, a 6-10 center from Columbia, S.C., spurned Maryland's overtures for other schools. Marshall chose Connecticut and Smith selected Wichita State.
Maryland coach Gary Williams is prohibited by NCAA rules from speaking about either player until they have signed letters of intent with a school.
Smith averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds for A.C. Flora High, as well as 3.3 blocks while shooting 73 percent from the floor. He ultimately chose the Shockers over the Terps to accompany his teammate and best friend, Dedrick Craft, the team's point guard, to Wichita State.
Smith is following in the footsteps of his cousin, Xavier McDaniel of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, who also attended Flora High and Wichita State.
Marshall's case, however, is a bit more confusing. Until Sunday, all signs indicated he would enroll at Maryland.
Marshall, an All-America forward, averaged 24.1 points and 16.3 rebounds this season at Reading High. He has been rated by many as the best wing forward in the country.
After an 18-point performance at the Capital Classic all-star game two weeks ago, he told reporters that he had narrowed his choices to Syracuse and Maryland, but was leery of the Orangemen because an ongoing investigation of that program may lead to NCAA sanctions.
Marshall, the Pennsylvania state Player of the Year, seemed enthusiastic about Maryland after the Capital Classic, offering this comment about the Terps: "The Maryland coaches are just like my coaches back home . . . If you don't have a good feel for the coach and the school, you're not going to be happy."
Marshall reportedly eliminated Syracuse from his list over the weekend. That's when Connecticut moved into the picture. He visited the UConn campus after he played in a high school all-star game in Springfield, Mass., last week.
He apparently decided on Connecticut on Monday, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer that one negative against Maryland was NCAA sanctions that will keep it out of postseason play next year.
Marshall becomes the third highly touted recruit to come close to enrolling at Maryland, only to leave at the last minute.
Two years ago, Michael Tate, a 6-7 swingman from Oxon Hill, signed a letter of intent to come to Maryland, but was released from it to go to Georgetown in the wake of the resignation of Bob Wade. Tate, who changed his last name to Venson, has since transferred to James Madison to play for former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell.
Last year, Charles Harrison, a 6-2 guard from Washington, orally committed to go to Maryland, then signed with Georgetown, amid charges that Harrison had been warned by Georgetown supporters not to go to Maryland.
The Terps, who have two scholarships to offer, are still in the running for Devin Gray, a 6-7 center from St. Frances-Charles Hall, but he still has visits to make to Clemson, St. John's and College Park. Gray also is considering Towson State.
Johnny Rhodes, a 6-5 guard from Washington's Dunbar High, who was named the capital area's Player of the Year, has orally committed to Maryland, but does not yet have sufficient SAT scores to enroll there.
The Terps have already signed Wayne Bristol, a 6-2 guard from Beltsville's High Point High, and Geno Soto, a 6-8 forward from Puerto Rico, during last November's signing period. The current signing period extends until May 15.