Mark Turgeon’s first full recruiting class at Maryland got under way three days after he was introduced as the Terps’ basketball coach with the commitment of Fredericksburg (Va.) Christian guard Seth Allen, and it didn’t end until late April when Baltimore native Sam Cassell Jr. offered his pledge.
In between landing Allen and Cassell, Turgeon and his staff secured commitments from a trio of four-star prospects in center Shaquille Cleare (The Village School, Houston), small forward Jake Layman (King Philip High, Wrentham, Mass.) and power forward Charles Mitchell (Wheeler High, Marietta, Ga.). The five-man group is considered a top-15 class nationally by most recruiting websites.
Turgeon also spent his first full year on the job monitoring the transfer wire. That paid off with commitments from Michigan forward Evan Smotrycz (who will sit out this year) and Albany guard Logan Aronhalt, who has graduated and will be eligible to play immediately for the Terps.
Turgeon spoke to The Sun this week about Maryland’s incoming freshmen, transfers, recruiting for 2013 and beyond, replacing Terrell Stoglin, expectations for this season and more.
Recruiting this 2012 class started for you almost immediately after you got the job with Seth Allen’s commitment. Obviously he was a guy you were familiar with at Texas A&M. Why was he the first guy, and what do you expect from him?
Well, he was the first guy because he was the first guy to say yes. He’s a guy that was really interested in us at A&M, but it was just too far away. I thought he could play, but a lot of people were missing him. What do we expect from him this year? We need him to play and he needs to help us. We’re short on guards, but we’re running with some good ones, and we expect them all to play. Seth wants to play point guard. He can play both. He’s definitely a combo guard. He can score. We need to teach him to be more of a point guard. He’s a natural scorer, and he’s a better defender than I thought. He was well coached in high school. He had a really good summer for us. He’s young – he’s going to be 17 when he starts college. He won’t turn 18 until October. It’s a process for him, but he had a great summer and we expect him to help us.
Shaquille Cleare was next on the list, and he’s a guy, again, that you were recruiting at A&M, and Maryland was involved with under Gary Williams. How did that recruitment take shape once you got here, and what kind of role do you envision for him this year?
Shaq’s a kid that I fell in love with as a person when I was at A&M. He spent a lot of time with us there. He’s had a great summer. He’s just a great kid, great work ethic, great habits. He does what you ask. He had a great summer on and off the floor. He’s actually better than I thought. He’s a good player – better than what I anticipated when he got here. He’s just trying to learn to play the game at a little bit higher level. We expect Shaq to help us a lot. One thing about Shaq is that he likes to hit – like hit people in a physical way, and not just hitting, but contact-wise on the court. He gives us a physical presence that we really didn’t have at all last year. It’s nice to have. He’s just a big, strong kid who is improving daily as a basketball player.
Your staff was in early on Jake Layman. Did you ever expect him to be at the level where he’s representing his country on the U-18 team? And how much of a factor will he be from Day 1?
I loved him. I watched him at Peach Jam going into his junior year. I just loved him. He had so many good players on his team that he went unnoticed. I thought he had a chance to be great. He probably blew up a little quicker than I thought he would. He had a great summer with the USA team, and winning the gold medal was a great experience for him. It gave him confidence. He’s willing to learn and is just like a sponge trying to take everything he can to try to get better. We only had him here for a good four weeks [this summer]. But he’s just a guy who keeps getting better. We’re expecting a lot out of Jake. He’s primarily going to play the 3 for us. But at times we go small he might play the 4. It depends on how much he can absorb. But he’s a good player, good defender and we can use him to score in a variety of ways – shooting the 3, mid-range game. There are a lot of different ways he can score for us. He’s a fun guy to coach.
Charles Mitchell is the next guy you landed. He seems to have the body to play right away. Is that the plan?