COLLEGE PARK - The University of Maryland's men's basketball team, seeking to capitalize on its first trip to the NCAA tournament's Final Four, could be on course to secure its 2002 recruiting class by this fall.
According to sources familiar with Maryland's recruiting efforts, the Terps are close to landing DeMatha star Travis Garrison, a 6-foot-8 senior forward who apparently plans to make an oral commitment to Maryland as early as this summer.
The Terps also are hopeful that point guard John Gilchrist, who averaged 20 points and eight assists for Salem (Va.) High School and is considered one of the more prized recruits in the country, will commit to Maryland. Gilchrist, 6-1, also is being pursued by Kentucky, Florida, Indiana and Virginia.
Also in the point guard mix are 6-2 Deron Williams out of The Colony (Texas) High School and 6-2 Marshall Strickland, who led the Baltimore metropolitan area with a 30.5-point scoring average at South Carroll High last season. Strickland, a first-team All-Metro selection by The Sun, also is being recruited by Kentucky, Wake Forest, and North Carolina. Strickland's sister, Marche, plays for the Maryland women's basketball team.
Starting point guard Steve Blake has two years of eligibility remaining in College Park.
"We have to take advantage of the Final Four. It's going well," said Terps coach Gary Williams, who already has received an oral commitment from shooting guard Chris McCray. He averaged 28.5 points for Fairmont Heights High School in Prince George's County as a junior last winter. McCray is envisioned as the replacement for Juan Dixon, whose college career ends with the coming season.
Williams, who under NCAA rules is not allowed to talk about specific recruits until they sign letters of intent, has up to five scholarships to give to players who would start college in 2002. The one-week, early signing period takes place in November.
Williams thinks that, in addition to the higher-profile status the Terps attained with their Final Four appearance, the opening of the on-campus Comcast Center in the fall of 2002 should enhance Maryland's recruiting position. Maryland has one season left to play in 46-year-old Cole Field House.
"I didn't realize the importance of it at first, but the new building helps. We've got to use that [to attract recruits]," he said. "When you get to the Final Four, you're more visible. Kids know your program better now. They know all of the players in your program. They know the style of your play more, and that becomes important. Hopefully, all of that will give us a real good recruiting class."
NOTE: Williams said Maryland is close to securing an agreement for the Terps to play host to Illinois at Cole Field House as part of next season's ACC/Big 10 challenge.