Let's make this perfectly clear about Maryland's incoming class of basketball recruits: they are not the Fab Five and probably not anything close collectively to what Kentucky, the Terps' opening-game opponent for the 2012-13 season, will put on the court at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., come Nov. 9.
But from what I saw Saturday night in the Capital Classic at T.C. Williams High in Northern Virginia, help is clearly -- or is that Clearely? -- on the way to College Park. Had Mark Turgeon had this year's recruiting class with last season's team, Maryland would have been in the NCAA tournament. Had Turgeon had this group, those late-game fades would have not been so frequent. Terrell Stoglin might have even had a few more assists.
Of the six players who have either signed letters of intent or orally committed for next season, all but Boston-area forward Jake Layman played in the Capital Classic. Layman, who sat out on doctor's orders after a recent bout with tonsillitis, might be the most skilled player in the group and was recently invited to the national U-18 team tryout in June in Colorado Springs.
Though it's impossible to get a true gauge on players off an all-star game where the first guy who touches the ball past halfcourt typically takes the first shot -- which means that trying to measure the skills of big men Shaquille Cleare, Charles Mitchell and Damonte Dodd was a lot harder than doing the same for guards Seth Allen and Sam Cassell Jr. -- you could see flashes of what impressed Turgeon and his staff.
Here's my take on the five Maryland players -- I am calling them "The Reinforcements" -- from Saturday's game:
Cleare: First off, he does not look 6-9, the height he's listed at by the Village School in Houston. He's closer to 6-7, which means he's a power forward and not a center unless he suddenly can channel Lonny Baxter in terms of Maryland history or Ohio State's Jared Sullinger as far as the current game. I can see him being more of a shot-blocker and rebounder than a scorer early on in College Park. But at 260 pounds, he's pretty strong when he gets good position and seems to be able to finish after contact, something the Terps were terrible at last season aside from an occasional 3-point play by James Padgett. Though ACC games won't be played at the same pace as games like the Capital Classic, it does appear Cleare needs to get in better shape.
Mitchell: He's about the same height as Cleare, just a lot wider. Mitchell told me after the game that he played his junior year in high school outside Atlanta at around 285 pounds, that he's down to 265 and that he hopes to be around 245 by the time practice starts in mid-October. Considering what typical freshmen go through adjusting to college life, dropping another 20 pounds might be as hard for Mitchell as Stoglin passing up an open 20-footer. I can see Mitchell becoming a fan favorite at Comcast with his enthusiasm and physical style. More importantly, he showed an ability to put the ball on the floor -- something Maryland forwards haven't been able to do in recent years.
Allen: Turgeon's first official recruit in College Park looks to be much like what was missing with the Terps last season -- a point guard who makes good decisions with the ball and doesn't try to make a highlight play every time down the court. Maybe Allen was holding back some after getting banged up a few times the past year, but he appears to be a pretty good athlete and, even in the shoot-first setting of a high-octane pickup game, someone who looks to get his teammates involved. I can see Allen being used initially much the same way Adrian Bowie was used during his first three years at Maryland while playing behind Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes.
Cassell: He's an interesting player, to say the least. Because he's older than the other recruits after spending an extra year at prep school in Massachusetts, the son of the longtime NBA guard (and now Washington Wizards assistant coach) might make the transition to college a little quicker than the other freshmen. Though Cassell considers himself a point guard, and made a couple of nice feeds after forcing up some early shots, he is clearly a shooting guard who loves to shoot. I know Maryland thinks he can play because I don't think Turgeon would have stayed with the younger Cassell after Sam Sr. threw the whole recruiting process into a bit of turmoil the past two weeks. Like his dad, Sam Jr. wasn't blessed with great quickness but seems to have same kind of swag and the same ability to score in bunches. His attitude might need work, evidenced by the way he f-bombed an official Saturday night in earshot of press row.
Dodd: Of the five Maryland players who were there Saturday night, and were briefly used together late in the game by Patterson High coach Harry Martin, I expected the least from Dodd. Which is why I, like a few Maryland fans who I spoke with after the game, were pleasantly surprised by the 6-10 kid from the Eastern Shore. He got stripped a couple of times of the ball, meaning that he needs some time in the weight room, but he didn't have the deer-in-the-headlights look that you'd expect on that kind of stage for the first time. (Not that the gym at T.C. Williams High is close to the Capital Centre, where the game used to be played.) I am not sure what Turgeon's plans are for Dodd next season, but he looks like he's a pretty good athlete who could become a contributor in a couple of years.
All in all, I think Maryland fans have a lot to be excited about as the countdown to the season opener against the defending NCAA champions continues. Just no Fab Five comparisons, please.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun