Diamond Stone, a freshman with the Terps who will be returning to his home state when third-ranked Maryland plays fellow Big 10 member Wisconsin, was not supposed to start against Rutgers. (Baltimore Sun video courtesy University of Maryland)
When Diamond Stone was coming out of Dominican High in Milwaukee last spring, most NBA mock drafts listed the 6-foot-11 center as a consensus lottery pick, going as high as seventh overall on one list.
Though Stone's stats continue to go up for third-ranked Maryland midway through his freshman year, his NBA stock seems to have taken a tumble. It could mean that Stone might be around for his sophomore year.
ESPN.com's Chad Ford has Stone listed as the 21st-rated prospect, and as a "mid-first-round pick" if he comes out in the spring.
Ford also has Melo Trimble at No. 31 and a "late first-round pick" if he leaves after his sophomore year. Ford has senior Jake Layman No. 42 on his top-100 list, and said that Terps forward could be a second-round pick or go undrafted.
DraftExpress.com, whose site owner Jon Givony is highly respected by NBA scouts and front-office personnel, has Stone as the No. 18 overall pick, five ahead of Trimble and 17 ahead of Layman.
NBADraft.net lists only Trimble at No. 19 and has no mention of Stone or Layman.
Neither senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon nor junior forward Robert Carter Jr. are listed on these mock-draft boards.
According to Stone's father, Bob, the family has yet to discuss what his son will do after his freshman year.
"We've got a long ways to go [with the season]," the elder Stone said in a telephone interview earlier this week. "We're not going to rush him out there so we can have money. It's always been about Diamond growing up as a human being. We're not going to throw him out there just to get some money."
Bob Stone was a Division II All-American at Wisconsin-Whitewater in the 1970s. Stone's mother, Cynthia, was a volleyball player in college in Arkansas and was a longtime high school coach.
Bob Stone is aware that a number of first-round draft picks have spent time in the NBA Development League this season.
"College was the best time in my life," Bob Stone said. "Why go to the D-League and sleeping in Motel 6s? Why not stay in college? They've got some of the best trainers, some of the best facilities. You can grow and still have fun and not have all that pressure on you. Go to college, have fun, mature as a human being, get some life experiences instead of leaving early and going to play in a pressure cooker."
DeShawn Curtis, Stone's longtime basketball trainer and AAU coach, said in an interview this week that one of their recent conversations gave no indication that Stone was thinking about playing only one year at Maryland.
"Even talking to Diamond, I can listen closely to things he's saying, and one of the thing he's said is, 'I can't imagine how good I'll be next year,'" Curtis said. "Even after the 39-point game [against Penn State], he said, 'I'll have a lot of games like this next year.' He's just focusing on getting better."
That is all Maryland coach Mark Turgeon is thinking about with Stone. But Turgeon acknowledged Thursday that he is developing Stone for the NBA.
"We all want Diamond to have a great career here, but also have a bright future afterward," Turgeon said. "It's steps and we knew we were going to go through it. We're doing it on and off the court, bringing a lot of discipline to his life, which he needs.
"Like I've said before, he's further along than I thought he'd be. If he continues to work like he's been working, he should be a very special player for us by the end of the year."
Turgeon said Stone is "way ahead" of where Alex Len was at a similar juncture in their careers, both physically and in terms of basketball skills, particularly on the offensive end. Len would have likely been a late first-round draft choice had he come out after his freshman season, but was the fifth overall pick after his sophomore year.
Curtis said playing on a nationally ranked team that might make a serious run in the NCAA tournament should only help Stone's status.
"His situation is a lot of different than a lot of freshman other than [Duke's Brandon] Ingram, because he's one we'll see in March," Curtis said. "Other guys are putting up big numbers, but their teams aren't doing very well and they're getting to go out there and do what they want. Maryland is playing for a national championship. It's not about going out there and putting up numbers. They have four quality big men and they don't just rely on one guy to put on a show."