HYATTSVILLE -- Like many high schoolers, Duane Simpkins once was thinking about how nice it would be to get away from home and go to college out of state.
"Late in my sophomore year, I started thinking about schools, and Maryland came up, and I said that was the last place I thought about," said Simpkins.
That was last year, and thankfully for Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams, Simpkins, a senior point guard at DeMatha High, has had a year to reconsider. Now, staying at home doesn't look so bad.
"After I thought about it, I decided that I wanted to go where I was most comfortable," said Simpkins. "I think I'll be very comfortable."
No doubt Williams will be very comfortable to have Simpkins, who is thought to be one of the top three high school point-guard recruits in
the country and one of the top 20 overall players. Also, he is the first blue-chip recruit to commit to Maryland in Williams' tenure.
"This is a tremendous addition to the Maryland program and a great day for Maryland basketball," said Bob Gibbons, one of the nation's most respected high school basketball talent scouts.
Williams is precluded, by NCAA rules, from talking about Simpkins until he has signed a national letter of intent, which Simpkins said he would do on Nov. 13, the first day of the early signing period for high school basketball recruits.
But DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten wasted no time predicting Simpkins' impact on the Maryland program.
"I think he'll go up there and step right in and do well," said Wootten, who has coached the likes of Adrian Dantley, Jerrod Mustaf and Danny Ferry during his years at DeMatha. "He'll run the show, and he'll be like [Duke's Bobby] Hurley and [Nevada-Las Vegas' Greg] Anthony, the point guards on the last two national champions."
By themselves, Simpkins' three-year totals at DeMatha don't look extraordinary. Through his junior season, Simpkins, 6 feet 1, 165 pounds, is averaging 8.3 points, 5.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
But Wootten and former DeMatha players point to the team's results as proof of Simpkins' worth.
He is a two-year starter for the Stags, after becoming the first freshman point guard to make the varsity. DeMatha is 56-8 during those two years and has won one city championship title, two conference championships and an Alhambra tournament title.
Last season, the Stags were 30-0 and ranked fifth in the nation by ESPN. Simpkins was named fourth-team All-America by Parade magazine.
"He's a real unselfish player and he was one of the big reasons we were undefeated," said Joe Wootten, a walk-on candidate at Maryland and a former teammate of Simpkins. "If he comes down and shoots it every time, we don't go 30-0."
"When we played together, he was erratic, but you could tell that he was going to be a great player," said Kurtis Shultz, a freshman at Maryland who played with Simpkins for two years at DeMatha.
Simpkins, also considered Wake Forest and Miami (Fla.). He said he made his decision earlier this week after returning from a visit to Wake, basing it as much on the Terps' uptempo, pressing style as a hope that Williams would be able to recruit more high-caliber players.
"I know Maryland is after some top-notch players, and they're probably close to getting them," said Simpkins. "Hopefully, if some players see that I'm coming, it might help attract some attention."
Simpkins' close friend Stacy Robinson, a 6-7 swingman from Lanham's DuVal High who is one of the Washington area's top players, attended the press conference. He is thought to have Maryland at the top of his list of schools.
In addition, Gibbons said Exree Hipp, a 6-6 swingman from Potomac's Harker Prep, and Charles Kornegay, a 6-9 center from Dudley, N.C., are very interested in Maryland.
The Terps also are counting on getting Johnny Rhodes, a 6-5 guard who was Washington's top player last year. Rhodes has orally committed to Maryland, but is attending prep school in Maine to bring his SAT scores up to the 700 level.
Perhaps the only cloud on Maryland's bright recruiting day yesterday was the announcement that Tony Moore, a highly sought big man, had chosen national champion Duke over the Terps.
Moore, a 6-8 power forward who attends Kensington's Newport Prep School, had been scheduled for an official visit to Maryland this weekend, but elected to orally commit to the Blue Devils yesterday, Cindy Morden, Newport's athletic director, said.