Booth sets pick, announcing today Terps might be choice of Dunbar star

March 12, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer Contributing writer Derek Toney contributed to this article.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- All-America basketball player Keith Booth of Dunbar High has called a news conference for noon today at the Baltimore school to announce where he will attend college in the fall -- and Maryland appears to be his choice.

Booth said last night that he had made up his mind Wednesday night, but would wait before making his decision public. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound swingman, rated among the top 25 high school players in the country, made his final choice from among Maryland, Duke, Kentucky and Towson State.

Indications yesterday from those familiar with the recruiting process were that he's chosen the Terrapins. The timing of the announcement -- Dunbar will play Fallston in a state Class 1A semifinal at 5 p.m. today at Maryland's Cole Field House -- also is considered in the Terps' favor.

"What a great way to do it: First announce that you're playing for the home school, and then go down to Cole where they can announce it to the crowd," said an assistant at another of the schools among the finalists.

"That has nothing to do with my decision," Booth said last night. "After talking to my family and Coach [Pete] Pompey about everything, I feel it's time."

Booth, who qualified academically under NCAA guidelines for freshmen earlier this month, can give only an oral commitment to the school he selects. He then would sign a letter of intent when the late signing period begins April 14.

"I talked to my mother and Coach Pompey about it, and I think it's the time," Booth said. "I have in my mind which is the best place for me."

When reached at his office, Dunbar coach Pompey confirmed that Booth would hold a news conference, but added that he didn't know where his star player was headed.

"He hasn't told me," Pompey said. "He's making the decision so everyone can get off his back and he can be relaxed and play [today]."

Maryland coach Gary Williams declined to comment in accordance with NCAA rules that prohibit coaches from talking about recruits.

If Booth winds up with the Terps, he would become the first Dunbar player to wear a Maryland uniform since Ernest Graham finished his career in College Park in 1981. He also would be another huge piece in the program's rebuilding.

Booth has been considered one of the best high school players in the country since he was a sophomore. After helping Dunbar finish undefeated and win a mythical national championship last season, Booth averaged 20.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists this season for the Poets.

An oral commitment of Booth would solidify Maryland's recruiting class for this year. The Terps signed two players, 6-9, 230-pound forward Joe Smith of Norfolk, Va., and 6-7, 200-pound swingman Nick Bosnic of Uniontown, Pa., during the early signing period. Smith is considered among the top 50 players in the country.

Coupled with last year's recruiting class -- freshman starters Johnny Rhodes and Exree Hipp, reserves Mario Lucas and Duane Simpkins, as well as injured center Nemanja Petrovic, Booth could help give Williams two straight top 10 recruiting classes.

"If they get Booth, they could be back up to the middle of the league by next year," said Tom Konchalski, who evaluates talent for his New York-based recruiting service. "He's just the perfect player to complement the kids Gary already has."

The Terps have been considered the front-runner for Booth all along, but Kentucky and Duke made strong pushes for him in the past few months. The Wildcats' interest intensified when Charles O'Bannon, the younger brother of UCLA star Ed O'Bannon, decided that Lexington wasn't for him.

Duke got into the picture late, but Booth made two visits during the regular season. He took his official visit to Durham a couple of weeks ago, and the Duke coaching staff made a home visit earlier this week.

An indication of Booth's intentions might have come on Tuesday. After Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski met with Booth at Dunbar, a meeting at the player's home was scheduled that night. His mother, Norma Salmon, and Pompey talked with the Duke coaching staff, but Booth wasn't there.

He was taking pictures for the Capital Classic -- at Cole Field House.

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