Two top recruits will keep Terps waiting James and/or Mardesich would bolster UM class

April 10, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Maryland draws first returns today on its recruiting class of 1996 with the signing of shooting guard Kelly Hite and power forward LaRon Cephas, but the players who could make the biggest difference remain uncommitted.

Neither Nate James, the 6-foot-6 forward from St. John's Prospect Hall in Frederick, nor Mike Mardesich, 6-11, of Worcester (Mass.) Academy, appears close to signing.

James, a top 30 player, and Mardesich, a coveted big man, would turn a suspect recruiting season for Maryland coach Gary Williams into a strong one.

But their recruitment will be played out over the next month, and not today, when the NCAA's late signing period opens.

Hite, a heady 6-4 guard from Tampa (Fla.) Catholic, and Cephas, a 6-7, 225-pound forward from Sanford School in Wilmington, Del., say they will sign today. Both committed orally to Maryland within 24 hours of their respective visits.

Hite, whose teams won 71 games over the past three seasons, chose Maryland over Army after visiting last weekend.

"He's an excellent outside shooter with great elevation on his shot," Tampa Catholic coach Don Dziagwa said. "He's a strong player at 6-4 and a solid 180 pounds. He's not the flashiest player, he's not the quickest player, but I don't know if I have a smarter player."

Hite shot 53 percent from the field and 37 percent on three-pointers for a team that went 25-7 this past season.

"I'm a smart player, I can shoot well and I'm a hard worker," Hite said.

Cephas made his decision a week ago. He had visits to La Salle and Xavier, but, like Hite, chose Maryland for the chance to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

What will he bring to the Terps? "Basically rebounding," he said.

After losing four seniors, Maryland has at least four scholarships to offer. The class largely will be determined by who fills the other spots. Williams declined to comment yesterday because of NCAA rules prohibiting such until players have signed.

James, who has visited Maryland and Duke, will visit UCLA this weekend. Prospect Hall coach Stu Vetter said it's not certain that James will visit Syracuse, the last school in his personal Final Four tour.

Although recruiting publications suggest James is headed to Duke, Vetter said Maryland has also made a hard run at him.

"All four schools wanted Nate very badly," Vetter said. "And Maryland is aggressively recruiting him. We've got the state Player of the Year, and they realize Nate is a player they'd love to have."

It is possible, Vetter said, that Prospect Hall's four seniors may announce on the same day -- probably in late April. That group includes 6-9 center Woni Mohamed, reportedly bound for Clemson, off-guard Raul DePablo and small forward Rico Hines.

Mardesich averaged 16.3 points and 10.0 rebounds with 52 blocked shots in 20 games for Worcester, the school that sent 6-9 Obinna Ekezie to Maryland last fall.

"They play a different style entirely," said Worcester coach Tom Blackburn. "[Mike] runs the floor, faces the basket better. He's better facing the basket than in the post. He operates very well in the high post -- he's a good passer."

According to Blackburn, Mardesich scored 1,300 on the Scholastic Assessment Test, and lists Harvard, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Penn State and North Carolina State among the schools he's interested in. His only visit was to Maryland a week ago.

"No question, he's a Division I player," Blackburn said. "I would've thought some of the schools I mentioned would be a reach for him, but he finished so strongly the last three or four weeks against the best competition in New England, he certainly has a chance at that level."

Meanwhile, Maryland remains in the running for 6-6 forward Damon Thornton of Atlantic Shores Christian in Chesapeake, Va. He also has visited Syracuse, N.C. State, Iowa and Liberty, and, pending the arrival of a new coach at State, the Wolfpack is the odds-on favorite to get Thornton.

The other big man the Terps still are recruiting is 6-11 Jermaine O'Neal of Columbia, S.C. Rated the third-best player in the country by talent evaluator Bob Gibbons, O'Neal is waiting for his latest SAT score. His coach, George Glymph, said O'Neal will consider the NBA if he does not qualify.

Pub Date: 4/10/96

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