Q&A with Terps assistant coach Rob Ehsan

A summer spent crisscrossing the country watching the top high school basketball players has mercifully slowed for Rob Ehsan.

But the Maryland assistant men’s basketball coach, entering his sixth season with the Terps, still has one big event scheduled for the summer: his wedding this Saturday in California, followed by a honeymoon in the Bahamas.

“She’s trying to implement a no cell phone policy. But that’s going to be impossible,” Ehsan said with a laugh.

Ehsan took on an integral role in recruiting the Terps’ 2010 recruiting class. Maryland welcomes six new scholarship players to their roster this season: Terrell Stoglin, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound point guard from Tucson, Ariz., Mychal Parker, a 6-foot-6, 190-pound wing from Washington, N.C., Ashton Pankey, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound power forward from the Bronx, N.Y., Pe’Shon Howard, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound combo guard from Los Angeles, Haukur Palsson, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound small forward from Iceland, and Berend Weijs, a 6-foot-10, 205-pound center from the Netherlands.

Ehsan spoke to Recruiting Report earlier this week about Maryland’s incoming class.The first thing that probably stands out with this class is its geographic diversity. Talk about putting together a group of players that come from all over the country.

It seems like we kind of tapped into all parts of the country, and even the world a little bit. I think some of that is due to the fact that, especially now in college basketball, you’re seeing more international kids that are having an impact at high-level programs and doing well. So being able to have Hawk and Berend, we’ve had some success with international kids in the past. So we’re excited about that. And as far as Terrell, Mike, Pe’Shon and Ashton, they’ve been guys – with the exception of Terrell – that have been around this area a little bit, or at least the East Coast. They’re just kind of from all over. In the past, we’ve had kids from all over. So it’s not too uncommon, I don’t think.

Stoglin was the first commitment of the class, and he was a guy that not a lot of people knew about when he made that commitment. How did Maryland discover him before so many other high-major schools?

Just being from California, I had heard a little bit about him. So I kind of did a little bit of research on him. The summer before his junior year, Coach [Gary] Williams and I actually saw him play in Los Angeles. We were there to watch Jordan Williams, and Terrell was actually playing on another team and he kind of caught our eyes. We definitely kept in contact with him, and in his junior year, his team was up here at a tournament at Good Counsel. And Terrell is a guy that is really extremely skilled offensively, so that was something that really stood out to us. Then after his junior year, he expressed strong interest in us and we were expressing strong interest in him, and Coach Williams felt it was the right time to offer him and shortly thereafter he accepted that.

He obviously put up big numbers throughout his high school career, but it seems like he took his game to another level as a senior. Did it surprise you how successful he was this past year?

I wasn’t too surprised because I saw the same things he was able to do in the summer. On the AAU circuit, he had some big games against some big names. When he was a sophomore, he scored like 30 against [Toronto Raptors guard] DeMar Derozan, and he had another big game against [Washington point guard] Abdul Gaddy. He’s always had a knack for scoring the basketball. So I wasn’t too surprised [about his senior year]. Part of him not getting much publicity is him coming from Tucson and not being able to show his talent on a national level until the summer before last.

If you go by the recruiting rankings, Parker is the most highly touted guy in the group. Can he be a headliner and eventual go-to scorer?

I think Mike has an enormous amount of talent and really has some physical tools and gifts that you can’t really teach. I think he has the potential to do some great things at Maryland in the future. And to be honest, we look at it as having a guy who can really do some things physically on the basketball court that are unique. He’s up there with many of the top players athletically in the country. Having to replace our guards, Greivis [Vasquez] and Eric [Hayes], and being able to have the opportunity to come in [and play], we thought Mike was a great candidate for that.

The fall signing period came and went and Howard remained unsigned. But in December, it seemed as if interest between him and Maryland picked up again in a hurry and he committed in early January. How did that renewed interest transpire?

We had liked Pe’Shon for awhile, to be honest, the whole coaching staff, ever since he was a sophomore. We loved his toughness, his competitiveness and his love for the game. When the early period came around, we had so many guards. Obviously we still had a guard [Terrence Ross] committed to us. When the stuff with [Ross] happened, we looked at it like an opportunity to really go after Pe’Shon hard. I think at the time, we didn’t have a scholarship for another guard. As soon as [Ross reopened his recruitment], we were really excited about Pe’Shon still being available and still being interested in Maryland. So that’s kind of how that developed.

Does the fact that he’s played on such a big stage at Oak Hill for the past three years make him pretty college-ready?

Definitely. I think he’s played for years now against a great level of competition, against great players. He’s a fearless competitor and there’s no question we’re expecting him to be ready to help and contribute right away come October or November.

Pankey missed his senior year with a stress fracture, so could he be a redshirt candidate? What are your plans for him this year?

I don’t want to speculate about him redshirting. That’s not the plan. But he’s been on campus all summer taking classes, working out, training, doing rehab and making sure he’s 100 percent healthy. He has been cleared to play and I think he still hasn’t completely gotten his leaping ability and his legs back as strong as they once were. But he’s getting closer every day. He’s been working hard and he’s going to have an opportunity to play right away. Whether that happens or not, that’s going to be up to how fast he can pick up whatever we’re doing. But he is getting closer to 100 percent and we hope to have him there by the time school starts.

Palsson put up big numbers in the Nordic championships, but when he played on national TV in the U.S., he was a little quieter. What are your expectations of him?

Well, I think he brings a ton of intangibles to the table. He’s a very hard-working, tough kid who wants to get better and wants to compete. I think he has a strong basketball IQ. The whole staff has seen him shoot the basketball extremely well in different settings and play very well against great competition. I think for Hawk, it’s about him being aggressive and not just being satisfied with being a role player, which seems like at times he was in high school, but they were an extremely talented team.

When did the staff decide to pursue another big man, and what was it about Berend that separated him from other guys you looked at?

I think probably in the beginning of this year, we thought that we had some scholarships available from guys leaving. When the scholarship came open, we wanted to check our avenues and find out if there was any potential player out there that could help us. Berend’s name was brought to our attention. And we did some research, watched some film on him, and talked to the head coach at his junior college. He played with our players when we weren’t able to see, but guys like Sean [Mosley] and Jordan [Williams] were really adamant about him being able to help us. They really liked him when they met him, and that was definitely big for us. We thought it would be a good situation.

Which of these newcomers has the potential to surprise fans and make a contribution this season?

I think Berend. I think Berend having a little bit of international experience and playing junior college [will help him be prepared]. I definitely think he could have a bigger impact than what the fans might think. He’s worked really hard in the weight room this summer and he’s been playing with the guys. We’ve been getting positive reports back from the players on him. He brings something different to the table. He’s probably going to be our tallest guy. He’s long and athletic. He’ll probably help with our shot blocking and rebounding. He should be able to alter shots, which will definitely help us a lot.

You lose Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne, and are bringing in six newcomers. Talk about that roster composition and sort of mixing rookies and veterans.

Well I think it’s a unique situation in that we lost those guys but we still have three seniors who have been playing behind Eric, Greivis and Landon. Now they’re going to have the opportunity to really step up and make an impact. Their leadership is going to be the key. And I know our coaches are really confident that you’re going to see those seniors do something that they haven’t really shown in the past. It’ll be finding that good mix of younger guys with veterans, and finding out who’s ready physically and mentally to help and contribute. But I think it’s a very diverse class of players and personalities. And that’s kind of what I’m excited about. Bringing in six newcomers, but none that are the same, and each of them is a little different in their own regard, is exciting. We’re really excited to watch them get better and jell with the guys that we have returning.

Are there any freshmen that you’re really counting on to be a part of the rotation right off the bat?

I haven’t seen the guys play this summer, so it’s kind of tough. I know they’ve been working extremely hard with [strength and conditioning coach] Paul [Ricci], all of them have. So that’s going to benefit them, and I think they’re a little more ready than normal freshmen because all of them have been here all summer, taking classes and working out. Hopefully it’s not as big of an adjustment period, and we have guys that don’t have a difficult time adjusting to our level of play and will be able to contribute. I think any of those guys really have the potential to step up and really help out.

With Chuck Driesell leaving for The Citadel and Bino Ranson coming in as his replacement, talk about the composition of the staff and what Bino brings to the group.

Well, I feel like pretty much everyone on our staff has known Bino before, so there really hasn’t been that big of an adjustment in terms of getting to know each other and working together. When he came in, we immediately worked pretty well together as a whole staff. He was familiar with our program, familiar with our coaches, and I think he’s definitely going to be able to help us a lot with recruiting and contributing to help us get good players. With him, Coach [Keith] Booth and myself, we not only have a good landscape of our area in Baltimore and D.C., but also nationally. Bino has recruited nationally, I have and Coach Booth has as well.

Without getting into specifics, how has recruiting for the 2011 class been going?

I think it’s been going well. We have a handful of prospects that we’ve been working really hard in recruiting. And we’re excited for the next recruiting class to see how the next couple months unfold. We’re very optimistic, at the end of the day, to have a recruiting class that can help us compete for championships.

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