Graduation was months away, but everyone had already made their college choices. No one had chosen to stay home and play for the most popular program in the DC area, Maryland. Roach went to Duke, Timberlake to Miami, and Dickinson to Michigan.
And so there’s a narrative – which some disaffected fans have reinforced – that the Terrapins rarely have the best views in their backyard.
No DeMatha product has played for the Terps since Travis Garrison joined the team in 2002, but Stags coach Mike Jones insists that there is no animosity between his program and his college neighbor, just two miles up Route 1. In the past decade, Maryland has welcomed only two freshmen to WCAC – O’Connell security guard Melo Trimble and St. John’s security guard Anthony Cowan Jr. Both went on to become stars in College Park, but their success hasn’t erased the conversation.
Though the number of DeMatha players is absent and the number of WCAC prospects is only comparable to other top programs in the field, Maryland relies on local recruits. Judging the entire local recruiting landscape that spans both DC and Baltimore, Maryland’s latest list of highly rated commits stacks up.
But Dickinson, who now appears as one of the best great men in the country for the Wolverines, single-handedly asked again questions about Maryland’s local recruiting success. Ahead of Michigan’s game against the Terps last month, Dickinson told reporters, “I felt a little disrespectful for not being recruited by them.”
Maryland offered Dickinson a scholarship in the fall of his sophomore year, but the Terps were absent from conversation when he mentioned his last seven options. Reigning All-Met Player of the Year Dickinson will face the Terps again on Tuesday when Maryland travels to Ann Arbor. In December, after a Wolverines win that scored 26 points and received a technical foul for staring at the Maryland Bank, Dickinson doubled his comments.
“Hopefully I’ve shown that the guys on Madison Street are pretty good,” he said, referring to DeMatha. “And they should go down there sometime [to recruit]. ”
‘What is the problem?’
Coach Mark Turgeon’s staff in Maryland gave Dickinson a priority at the beginning of the recruitment process. Dickinson once said the Terps coaches – particularly assistant Dustin Clark, who left the team in 2018 – spoke to him regularly.
“I like Hunter and his family. His parents and I had a great relationship, ”said Clark. “It was crazy to hear him say he wasn’t recruited by Maryland because it just wasn’t true. He was recruited as hard as any underclassman we’ve ever recruited in Maryland. “
Jones, who coached Dickinson during his high school career, said the 7-foot-1, 255-pounder may have used perceived trifles as motivation during that game in College Park.
“Let’s give Hunter the honor he deserves: he dominated this game,” said the DeMatha coach, who also noted Maryland’s Dickinson recruitment. “And he used some information, believe it or not, it doesn’t matter – Hunter took that and it fueled him having that kind of game.”
Dickinson averages 16.8 points and 7.7 rebounds this season, and the Terps have a big hole in the position he plays. A couple of local signatures the terps made in the previous class probably didn’t help them land Dickinson, if he was still rightly considering Maryland.
Maryland added two great men, Makhi and Makhel Mitchell of DC The Mitchells, who signed up at the beginning of the recruiting process – in August 2017 when Dickinson was entering his sophomore year of high school. When it comes to recruiting, timing and planned playing time often dictate the decisions, and for Dickinson, the Mitchells may have taken a position that is already covered. Both Mitchells left the program a few months into the 2019-20 season, leaving the Terps on their roster this year with a void that’s even more glaring due to the local talent at some Big Ten schools.
Maryland did not recruit Luka Garza, now a candidate for senior national player of the year in Iowa. Garza, a native Northern Virginia American who played for the Maret School in the district, was number 118 in the 2017 class according to the composite ranking of 247Sports. Turgeon signed Bruno Fernando instead. During two seasons at College Park, Fernando became an all-conference player and an NBA draft pick. Maryland met Iowa twice during Fernando’s career. The Terps won both encounters and Fernando prevailed over Garza each time.
“What is the problem?” Jones said, referring to any criticism of Maryland’s recruitment. “Mark Turgeon developed professionals. … What do you complain about when you are recruiting? “
As of 2010, Maryland has landed eight players rated as four- or five-star candidates by 247Sports from high schools within 50 miles of College Park. (That total doesn’t include the three local four-star players signed or signed for Maryland in the 2021 and 2022 classes.) Some of these terps, like strikers Jalen Smith and Cowan, have proven to be greats of everyone throughout their careers Times established, but others, like Makhi Mitchell and Roddy Peters, were eventually carried over.
During this time, Villanova, which won national titles in 2016 and 2018, has brought six players of this caliber from schools in the region. Miami and Georgetown have each signed three of these players. No other program – including Duke and North Carolina – has landed more than two.
“We have had a philosophy since our time in Maryland that when we have a need in a particular position, we list it locally first,” said Turgeon, who has to compete for talent with a handful of world-class programs that are short Drive away. “We try to identify early on who wants to stay at home or go to school.”
When the Terps won a share of the regular season Big Ten title a year ago, three of their starters – Cowan, along with Smith and Darryl Morsell of Mount Saint Joseph in Baltimore – had played for local high schools. The Terps have kept their pipeline in Baltimore and recently signed four-star striker Julian Reese and four-star security guard Ike Cornish, top 100 recruits to join the team this summer.
In the 2022 class, the four-star point guard Paul Lewis chose Maryland. Lewis plays for O’Connell, where Trimble starred. Top programs began recruiting Lewis after a breakout game in his sophomore year. He’d followed the Terps and been a fan since Trimble.
“To be honest, I wanted to go to Maryland,” said Lewis. “When they started recruiting me, I knew I was going to end up there.”
Offers from near and far
While Turgeon secures commitments from other local prospects, Jones has to answer a recurring question: Why doesn’t DeMatha send its top players to Maryland? Some insist that there should be a talent parade leading to College Park. Jones, who took on the legendary Morgan Wootten in 2002, said he was ignoring much of the criticism.
Though no one has visited Maryland, Jones has coached six NBA players at DeMatha, including two-time all-star Victor Oladipo and Markelle Fultz, No. 1 on the 2017 draft pick.
“It would make my life a lot easier if one of our boys went there, I acknowledge that,” said Jones. “But I will never tell my children where to go or where not to go. None of my players or their families will tell you that I told them not to go to the University of Maryland. “
Jones said any conversation about local recruiting must include the caveat that this area is different from any other for high school basketball. Not only does it spawn tons of talent, but that talent is aggressively recruited from programs around the world. The excitement of leaving the house is always there, and there is a model of how this path to success can be followed.
It all started with Kevin Durant in 2006, Jones said. The future NBA superstar played high school ball in the now-defunct Montrose Christian in Rockville. He then had a dominant season in Texas and leaving the house suddenly seemed appealing to others.
High school basketball has become increasingly national, with top players and programs touring the country in search of the best competition. It is no longer assumed that the best local players will attend the best high school in the area, let alone the nearby high major college program.
Gonzagas Judah Mintz, one of Maryland’s goals in Class of 2022, is a prototype DC prospect: a strong career with a top WCAC program offered from near and far. The Terps are joining George Mason and Georgetown as local programs that offered the four-star security guard a scholarship, but he’s also heard of Florida, LSU, and Wake Forest. Like any prospect Maryland will recruit from now on, Mintz was born after the Terps won their only national title in 2002.
Mintz, who grew up in the area and attended a Maryland basketball camp in middle school for the first time, said location won’t be a determining factor in his decision as long as he is comfortable on campus and can see his family.
In Gonzaga, northwest Washington, Mintz’s classmates give him advice and often push Maryland or Georgetown. He was unaware of any recruiting narrative about the Terps – until Dickinson’s comments sparked a new discussion on social media. But he’s unimpressed by this dialogue and thinks it’s cool to play near home.
“Everyone wants to be somewhere where it seems like people really want you,” Mintz said.
And Maryland wants the best local players. The Terps’ recent rosters show just how much the program has relied on these prospects who are becoming stars in College Park. But Maryland doesn’t always want the recruits. The player – who may be influenced by their coaches, colleagues, or attraction to play a blue blood that spawns one-off stars – must also want the terps.