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Jared Nickens doesn't mind flying under the radar in Maryland's recruiting class

Jared Nickens is used to being overlooked.

As a high school player in central New Jersey, Nickens and his parents decided to have him reclassified as a junior in order to give him an extra season to get better offers to play college basketball.

Now a senior at the Westtown School in West Chester, Pa., the 6-foot-6, 190-pound small forward doesn't get nearly the same attention as junior teammate Georgios Papagiannas, a 7-1 center from Greece.

In Maryland's four-player 2014 recruiting class, Nickens is largely viewed by outsiders as an afterthought behind guards Melo Trimble and Dion Wiley and 7-1 center Trayvon Reed.

That doesn't seem to bother Nickens.

"I know I can play the game of basketball, so I know when I get there I will be able to help the team out," Nickens said Saturday after scoring 19 points, with seven rebounds and four steals in Westtown's win over Reed's Life Center Academy team in the Kobe Bryant Classic tournament at Harriton High School in Lower Merion, Pa.

Asked if he feels that he should be considered in the same category as fellow four-star recruits Trimble, Wiley and Reed, Nickens said, "I feel like I should be a little higher [than ranked the 20th best small forward]. There are lot of people that I've played against that I've played well against."

But Nickens said he's not concerned about that either.

"At the end of the day, I don't worry about [that] because I have a scholarship to Maryland and did the same thing everyone else did," Nickens said. "I don't feel as much pressure as I did last year, because last year I felt like I had to prove something. This year, everything is falling into place."

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said that Nickens will have to get stronger to be a regular contributor, but that his shooting stroke is potentially as pure as anyone he has coached.

"He's come a long way in the last year and a half," Turgeon said Thursday. "I'm not making comparison, but he's like a poor man's Reggie Miller. He's not as tough as Reggie Miller or as tall, but I'm hoping he can turn into an absolute knock-down shooter. He's also very long and gets to the rim quick."

It certainly has helped Nickens to play with a prospect such as Papagiannis, a skilled player from Greece whom NBA scouts first looked at when he was 14. The son of a former European pro, Papagiannis is expected to play one year of college basketball and could be one of the top picks in the 2016 NBA draft.

Papagiannis, who has not talked to the media since coming to the U.S., is being recruited by many of the nation's top programs. Listed among the serious suitors is Maryland, and one national recruiting website recently listed the Terps among the favorites.

"It's been fun," Nickens said about playing with Papagiannis. "It started off a little rough. We just had to get used to each other, and ever since the chemistry has been getting better and we've been jelling."

Asked if he planned on helping recruit Papagiannis to College Park, Nickens said with a smile, "I stay in his ear a little bit, but I'll speak to him more about it in the spring."

Wesstown coach Seth Berger, who has coached there since leaving And1 after helping found the once popular basketball brand while at the University of Pennsylvia's Wharton business school, said Nickens' game has developed dramatically.

"It's been a process in the last year and a half that Jared's become a more complete player," Berger said. "He came as a shooter. I thought he was a really talented player who could do lots of things. Jared's one of the hardest workers I've had so that's why I think he's made such a progresssion."

Said Nickens, "During my free periods, I like to be in the gym. I lift six days a week so I can get stronger when I get to Maryland. I just focus on the little things, I try not to worry about offense too much."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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