For Terps, recruiting not a sign of spring

Letters came fast in winter, then nothing

May 18, 1999|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Maryland's basketball recruiting campaign resembled last season: great start, unfulfilling finish.

The Terps prospered on and off the court last November, when they landed their third commitment from a high school senior and climbed to No. 2 in the national rankings. Maryland fell in the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16, and it was the only member of the Atlantic Coast Conference that didn't add a player during the spring letter of intent period, which concluded last week.

Several prospective transfers have expressed an interest in coming to Maryland, but the Terps aren't expected to add more than those three freshmen next season, when coach Gary Williams will probably have just nine scholarship players available.

Even with a thin roster, the Terps could be picked to finish as high as third in the ACC, where Duke and several others took severe hits. Maryland lost five seniors, including three starters, and junior guard Steve Francis left early for the NBA, but Terence Morris will be the only returning All-ACC first-teamer.

The Terps will replace the backcourt of Francis and Terrell Stokes with sophomore-to-be Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, a highly regarded point guard who led Oak Hill (Va.) Academy to the nation's No. 1 prep ranking.

Last fall, Maryland added commitments from shooting guard Drew Nicholas and forward Tahj Holden. Since then, their only recruiting success came in the form of commitments from two juniors, Baltimore's Tamir Goodman and De Matha big man Matt Slaninka.

Maryland lost Maine Central forward DerMarr Johnson, Parade's national boys Player of the Year, to Cincinnati, and the Terps were kept waiting by Wisconsin guard Reece Gaines before he chose Louisville.

On the transfer front, Byron Mouton and Alpha Bangura have shown an interest in Maryland. Mouton, a 6-foot-6 wing, is unhappy at Tulane, but could return to that Conference USA school, where he averaged 11.4 points as a sophomore. Bangura, 6-5, averaged 18 points as a Monmouth freshman before asking for his release.

Transfers must sit out a season, so neither would be of any help until the 2000-2001 season, when Goodman and Slaninka will be on board.

Here's how the Terps' recruiting class compares to the rest of the ACC:

1. Duke. The Blue Devils could become the first team to have four first-round choices -- Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, William Avery and Trajan Langdon -- in the same NBA draft, but don't pity Mike Krzyzewski. With point guard Jason Williams, wing Michael Dunleavy, power forward Carlos Boozer and center Casey Sanders among a six-deep class, it's the nation's best.

2. Virginia. Pete Gillen's first sales pitch in Charlottesville landed six players, most notably point guard Majestic Mapp, wing Roger Mason and forwards Travis Watson and Stephane DonDon, a junior college transfer. The Cavaliers were last in the conference last season; now they could challenge for an NCAA bid.

3. North Carolina. The Tar Heels picked up De Matha shooting guard Joe Forte early, then scored late on Jason Parker, whose potential reads like Brand's did two years ago. The power forward from Charlotte, N.C., is a 6-8, 260-pounder with enormous hands. There are questions whether Parker has qualified academically.

4. N.C. State. The Wolfpack lost three players who transferred out and desperately needed to bring in some shooters, and wings Damien Wilkins and Marshall Williams fill the bill. Wilkins had a controversial departure from St. John's Prospect Hall before that Frederick school de-emphasized its program.

5. Maryland. Blake will start, and there's room in the rotation for Holden and Nicholas.

6. Clemson. Ed Scott will replace Terrell McIntyre at the point, and the Tigers could also use some offense from wing Ronald Blackshear and power forward Ray Henderson.

7. Florida State. The Seminoles got a 6-10, 380-pounder -- that's not a typo -- in Orlando's Nigel Dixon. Steve Robinson hopes that the NCAA loosens its freshman eligibility standards, because two of his other commitments don't have test scores yet.

8. Wake Forest. After two years of six-man classes, Dave Odom will bring in only Josh Howard, a 6-6 wing from Hargrave (Va.) Military.

9. Georgia Tech. A lame haul that brought in wing Clarence Moore and a teammate of his from Louisiana became more suspect when Dion Glover announced his NBA intentions.

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