The pipeline between the tiny private school in Rockville known for its basketball prowess and the huge state university in College Park with a resurgent men's basketball team was opened last year by the unlikeliest of players.
Freshman guard Greivis Vasquez, who came to Montrose Christian from Venezuela, became the first Stu Vetter-coached player in more than a decade to choose Maryland. Two more, guard Adrian Bowie and forward Shane Walker, will join him in College Park next season.
Those who suspected a dispute between Vetter and Maryland coach Gary Williams see Vasquez as the ultimate olive branch, but the two coaches insist there wasn't a problem between them after Exree Hipp's career fizzled with the Terps in the mid-1990s.
"His program is as visible as any program, and this area is easy to get to [for recruiters]," Williams said of Vetter and Montrose Christian last week. "There are a lot of schools and we only have about four scholarships a year, so we can't recruit everybody."
Said Vetter, who in a 31-year coaching career has sent more than 100 players to Division I but only two to Maryland before this year, "I think people felt there may have been somewhat of a rift between Gary and I, but to my knowledge we've gotten along well. Again, it's just a matter of fit."
One recruiting expert believes that there must have been a rift between the two coaches, given how much talent has come out of Vetter's teams.
"There was just suspicion of that from my perspective," said Bob Gibbons, a recruiting expert in Lenoir, N.C. "With all the players he's had, including the big kid [Kevin Durant] now a freshman at Texas, Maryland was never in the picture. It makes you almost positive that Vetter just didn't want them to go to Maryland."
Vetter, who attended Saturday's victory over North Carolina State to watch Vasquez, said he is thrilled that some of his players are staying close to home. He believes it's beneficial not only to their families and friends who can follow their careers, but to Maryland and Montrose Christian as well.
In Bowie's case, proximity was one of the main reasons he chose Maryland over schools such as Florida, Texas and Pittsburgh. The 6-foot-3 guard, who played the point this season after Vasquez left and will be used at both backcourt positions in college, grew up around the Terps.
His father, John, was the team's longtime equipment manager, and Adrian Bowie, a left-hander who was named for former Terps star Adrian Branch, can remember going on road trips with teams that included Joe Smith and Keith Booth, now one of Maryland's assistant coaches.
"I always thought I could do that, ever since I was around Maryland basketball," said Bowie, who led a 21-3 Montrose Christian team in scoring with nearly 18 points and eight assists this season. "Ever since I touched a basketball, I thought I could be a special player with hard work and determination."
Bowie realized that he wanted to stay close to home two summers ago when his Amateur Athletic Union team went to a tournament in Las Vegas and then immediately to another tournament in California.
It didn't take long for Bowie to miss Maryland.
"I always got homesick really quick," Bowie said recently.
Vetter, who has coached Durant and former college stars such as Wake Forest's Randolph Childress and George Tech's Dennis Scott, believes that Bowie will complement either Vasquez or Maryland's other freshman point guard, Eric Hayes.
A good fit
"Adrian goes to the basket extremely well, he has a little better speed than either player and I think he can really help defensively," Vetter said. "I think he is going to be an outstanding player in the ACC." Williams said, "He was known as a very good defensive player, but he's starting to score more. He gives us a little more athletic ability in the backcourt."
Walker, who averages about eight points and eight rebounds per game for the Mustangs, is typical of many of the frontcourt players Williams has recruited in recent years - more athletic than skilled at this stage of his career. At 6-9, Walker has been compared to Ekene Ibekwe and James Gist.
"Shane is going to be a work in progress, but he has potential to be good," Vetter said. "He runs well, he defends well, he's somewhat behind in his all-basketball skills, and a lot of that is because he hasn't played basketball for as many years as some of the other players."
Williams gets a bit defensive when asked whether Walker is considered a project.
"To me, he's ready to play," Williams said. "People say he's a project because he's going to Maryland. Greivis was a project, too, this year. I'm tired of hearing that."
A former soccer player who grew up in England dreaming of playing for Manchester United, Walker came to the U.S. two years ago to play for Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Va., and has been playing basketball for only three years.
Walker chose Maryland after his coach, Chuck Driesell, joined Williams' staff.
"I had a really good relationship with him," said Walker, 19, who has lived with a guardian in Rockville since coming to the United States. "He was a really good coach. He helped me a lot, on a personal level as well. He made the transition easier."
Vasquez, Bowie and Walker could be the link that Williams' staff hopes will lead to what is a loaded sophomore class at Montrose Christian.
Forwards Terrell Vinson, 6-6, and Isaiah Armwood, 6-8, were rated among the top 25 prospects by si.com. Tristan Spurlock, a 6-6 swingman, was rated among the top 35 by hoopscoop.com.
Vasquez, who has taken over as Maryland's starting point guard, knows that his success this season has attracted interested from players at his former high school.
"Maybe it opened the doors to many players from Montrose," Vasquez said after Saturday's win against North Carolina State. "Definitely it's a good benefit for us getting people from Montrose."
About Montrose Christian
The coach: Twice named national high school Coach of the Year, Stu Vetter has a 745-92 record during 31 years of coaching. He has sent more than 100 players to Division I programs.
The school: Private, grades K-12, approximately 450 students, located in Rockville.
The players: Division I players include Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez (left), Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year Kevin Durant of Texas, Uche Echefu of Florida State, as well as Linas Kleiza, who played at Missouri and is now with the Denver Nuggets.