Mount Saint Joseph's Jalen Smith says Terps are 'like the top' choice

Mount Saint Joseph sophomore basketball standout Jalen Smith, 15, has an offer from Maryland.

Shortly after Jalen Smith came into the world 15 years ago weighing 10 pounds and stretching two feet from head to toe, the infant's pediatrician predicted that he would eventually grow to "between 6-9 and 6-10," his father recalled Sunday.

The younger Smith, now 6 feet 81/2 inches and 190 pounds at Mount Saint Joseph's, is nearly there. Considered one of the top sophomore players nationally, Smith might also grow into something his father has envisioned for years: a Terp.

The possibility of that happening became more likely Saturday when Smith, a five-star prospect already ranked as the No. 1 player in the state and No. 17 overall by ESPN, was offered a scholarship on what was his third unofficial visit to College Park. His next will be Oct. 17 for Maryland Madness.

“I was very shocked, I didn’t know they were going to offer me this early,” Smith said Sunday. “They just told me just to stay humble, keep my head and keep doing what I’m doing.”

“He’s a very humble kid," Charles Smith said. "After he received the offer from Maryland, he got a lot of phone calls and he chose not to answer them. The attention thing, he’s not big on it. He loves to play basketball, and it’s not for the attention and it’s not for all the praise that comes along with it. He just wants to play the game.”

Smith, whose post-visit Tweet included the words #NoPlaceLikeHome” as well as a picture of the court at Xfinity Center, said that the Terps are “like the top [choice] for me because I grew up a fan of them and I really wanted to go there. It’s just a dream to get offered and I hope to play there one day.”

Charles Smith said that his son will likely take unofficial visits to Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova and Wake Forest in the coming months. He doesn't want his son to make an oral commitment, even to Maryland, anytime soon in order "not to get complacent."

Jalen Smith said he started following the Terps when he was around 6 years old, saw tapes of the 2002 NCAA title game and has long been a fan of fellow Baltimorean Juan Dixon. Of the current players, senior forward Jake Layman is his favorite.

Charles Smith said that his son has already connected with several players on the team, including the newest Terp. According to the elder Smith, Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon “really took my son and asked for his phone number and told him that he would try to catch some of his games. That was really cool.”

Jalen Smith is also impressed with Mark Turgeon and his staff, including Bino Ranson, another Baltimore native who is leading his recruitment.

“I like how they push their players to be the best they can, even some things they don’t know how to do they push them even harder,” Smith said. “They want nothing less than championships.”    

Charles Smith, who is working toward his degree in criminal justice at Maryland’s University College while finishing up a long career in the military, said Sunday that he has been a “big Terp fan” since Len Bias, Keith Gatlin, Ben Coleman and Derrick Lewis played there in the 1980s.

Longtime Mount Saint Joseph coach Pat Clatchey said the younger Smith is influenced greatly by his parents.

"They have done a tremendous job of keeping things in perspective, keeping balance in his life," Clatchey said Sunday. "He's very polite, very respectful, he's an honor roll student."

Jalen Smith started most of his freshman year on a 19-win team that didn't have any seniors, averaging around eight points, six rebounds and two blocked shots per game. Clatchey said he expects Smith to play a more important role this season.

"I don't think he's done growing physically or game-wise," Clatchey said. "He's a factor at both ends of the floor in a variety of ways. He had tremendous versatility. He has timing, he has touch. He has a good feel for the game, he's a good teammate, he's coachable. The thing that's really impressive is that that he's just 15. Looking at him down the road, he certainly has a chance to be a tremendous player."

Clatchey likely will coach Smith for his entire high school career. According to the player's father, there are no plans for the younger Smith to leave Baltimore during high school.

"He has three years left at Mount Saint Joe's and that's where he's going to be for the next three years," Charles Smith said.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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