Robert Stone was at his home in Milwaukee on Friday night when he got a text message from his son, Diamond.
“I had dropped him off at his friend's house, and he said, ‘Dad, I'm ready to pick,' " the elder Stone said in a telephone interview with The Baltimore Sun. “I asked, ‘Do you want to talk about it?' He said: ‘No, I'm ready. I know where I want to go. So he tweeted he wanted to go to Maryland.' ”
It was a tweet heard ‘round the college basketball world, as the 6-foot-10, 250-pound senior, rated the No. 2 center in the country and the No. 10 player nationally by 247Sports.com, chose the Terps over home-state Wisconsin, as well as Connecticut and Oklahoma State.
Stone's oral commitment was confirmed by a Maryland source familiar with the recruiting process. Coach Mark Turgeon, who is not allowed to comment publicly on Stone's decision until he signs a national letter of intent or completes the financial-aid package agreement for his scholarship, visited Stone in Milwaukee on Friday along with assistant coach Bino Ranson, according to a team source.
Stone has been considered a top national recruit since his freshman year, when he finished the season by blocking a state tournament-record 14 shots in the championship game. He also had 15 points and 15 rebounds in that game.
Stone's father said recently that his son would not immediately sign a letter of intent, as it binds a player to that school, regardless of whether the coach leaves or gets fired.
“You're kind of locked in,” Robert Stone said.
Regardless, Stone is expected to be the most celebrated big-man recruit to come to College Park since Tom McMillen in 1970. He will join a Terps team that last season set a record for the most regular-season wins (28) in school history and finished second to the Badgers in its first season in the Big Ten Conference.
Stone's announcement takes much of the sting off Sunday's season-ending, 69-59 loss to West Virginia in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
Stone, who recently led Dominican to its fourth straight state high school title, could help keep point guard Melo Trimble in Maryland for another season.
All indications are that the freshman will not declare for the NBA draft unless he is assured of being a first-round draft choice. Two scouts said Thursday that Trimble isn't a “lock” to be taken in the first round.
The addition of Stone to a frontcourt that will also include Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter Jr. — who averaged more than 11 points and eight rebounds as a sophomore — as well as third-team All-Big Ten Conference forward Jake Layman gives the Terps one of the most formidable front lines in the country.
The elder Stone, an All-American basketball player at Wisconsin-Whitewater in the early 1970s, said his son's decision caught him by surprise. In an interview with the Sun earlier this week, Stone denied speculation that his son would announce his decision at next week's McDonald's All-American Game in Chicago.
“I've always told him, we've got four good [college] picks, and whatever one he picked, I was going to be happy with it,” Robert Stone said. “He made his decision. That's where he wants to go. He's the one that has to be there; my job is just to be supportive.”
Robert Stone said he thinks his son chose a program on the rise.
“I think he made a very good choice,” he said. “What it looks like on paper, I think they have a very good chance to go far.”
The reaction from some of Stone's future teammates was immediate.
Junior-college guard Jaylen Brantley, who grew close with Stone when they took their official visit together to Maryland Madness, tweeted: “YOOOOO my bro bro @Diamond_Stone33 is coming to college park with your boy Jaybrant!!!! I'm excited for next year. Final four terpssssss!!”
Stone's decision to spurn Wisconsin also might be an indication of his desire to escape the scrutiny he faced in his home state.
“When he fails, people will really let him know,” Stone told the Sun after a playoff game two weeks ago. “When he was rated No. 1 in the country overall and dropped to No. 2, people were texting him, ‘We knew you were overrated.' I guess there's a lot of expectations.”
The elder Stone said that was evident in his son's Twitter profile, where the words “All Eyes On Me” are prominently displayed.
Stone likely will share the center and power forward positions with Carter, sophomore Damonte Dodd and freshman Michal Cekovsky.
According to Evan Daniels, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, Stone's offensive game is geared for either position.
“When Diamond Stone is clicking, he's scoring around the basket with hook shots, he's tossing out counter moves, he's throwing nice passes from the block, he's stepping out and making mid-range jump shots and 3-point shots,” Daniels said last week. “He has all those tools and he can block shots. His motor is up and down, but when it's going, he's really impressive.”
Stone already is considered a first-round draft choice in 2016, possibly even a lottery pick.
“He’s not Jahlil Okafor. People should not expect that out of him, but he’s very talented at the offensive end, and he’s going to be able to score at the college level,” Daniels said.