As a freshman at Duke, Rasheed Sulaimon showed his promise by scoring 25 points in a win over Maryland at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It came during a season in which the 6-foot-5 shooting guard started 33 of 36 games and averaged nearly 12 points for the Blue Devils.
After two more tumultuous seasons during which Sulaimon lost his starting job twice, watched his production dwindle and eventually became the first player dismissed by legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, Sulaimon hopes to resurrect his career and rebuild his image in College Park.
Once considered a potential first-round NBA draft pick, Sulaimon announced Monday that he will transfer to Maryland after completing his last five undergraduate credits at Duke in August. Sulaimon will be eligible to play immediately for the Terps next season as a graduate transfer.
"He's just a great kid, a great student, the piece fits," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said Monday. "I've known him for a long time. He'll be a great addition to our team. Anybody who can graduate from Duke in three years with above a 3.0 [grade point average] is a very intelligent young man, his parents did a phenomenal job of raising him."
Along with having his on-court attitude questioned — a charge that even Sulaimon admitted had some merit — Sulaimon's character came under fire when he was accused of sexual assault in an article in the Duke student newspaper in early March.
Even before Maryland officials allowed Sulaimon to take an unofficial visit last week, Catherine Carroll, the university's director of the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct, talked to her counterpart at Duke regarding the player's denial in an interview with ESPN last month that a "sexual assault of any kind" took place. "Catherine led the charge and we did our due diligence," said assistant vice president for communications Brian Ullman.
What they learned, Ullman said, was that there weren't allegations by two female students, as the school newspaper reported, but by one. They also found that Duke twice investigated the allegations and found they were without any merit. No charges were filed with police.
Linda Clement, Maryland's vice president for student affairs, said Sulaimon met for several hours with campus officials when he paid his way to come to College Park Thursday and Friday.
Ullman said that along with Turgeon and athletic director Kevin Anderson, university President Wallace D. Loh, as well as Clement and Carroll, met with Sulaimon. Carroll and Andrea Goodwin, Maryland's director of the Office of Student Conduct, also met separately with Sulaimon.
"After we met extensively with the young man, our confidence [in his character] grew," Clement said Monday.
Turgeon said he has known Sulaimon since he was a seventh-grader attending the coach's camp at Texas A&M and believes he will fit in well with the Terps. Turgeon said that his previous relationship with Sulaimon and his family helped forge a new one at Maryland.
"I think it had much more to do with that than it had anything do with basketball, " Turgeon said of Sulaimon's picking the Terps over a dozen or more schools that reportedly contacted him. "The relationship we've had with him and his family probably had a lot to do with their decision and everything to do with my decision."
Sulaimon said his decision to come to Maryland had "everything to do with trust" in Turgeon and assistant Dustin Clark, who as Texas A&M's director of basketball operations helped keep tabs on the rising star when he was a freshman and sophomore in high school.
"I have a pretty close-knit family and …we've gone through a lot lately," Sulaimon said. "When my family was figuring out the things we were looking for in a school, the biggest thing we wanted to find was trust. Trust in a coach and a place where I'm going to be next. I didn't want to go anywhere that I didn't 100 percent trust the coach. Everything else that Maryland could offer me was a bonus."
Turgeon said players who'll be returning to a team already expected to be favored to win the Big Ten and contend for a national championship embraced the idea of Sulaimon's joining them.
"Our guys want to win, and our guys want to win at a high level and they felt that Rasheed was a piece that will help us do that," Turgeon said.
Sulaimon said he knows a couple of players on the Maryland team, having played with Jake Layman on the U-18 national team coming out of high school and becoming friends with Robert Carter, who will be eligible this season after transferring from Georgia Tech.
On his visit last week, Sulaimon said he talked with former Terps star Dez Wells, who came to Maryland after his freshman year at Xavier, where he was wrongfully expelled after being accused of sexual assault. Charges against Wells were dropped by local prosecutors.
"He talked about the great support system Maryland has from the coach, the community and from the president and athletic director and that Maryland is a great place to help me get through this tough process," Sulaimon said.
After finishing runner-up for Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year, Sulaimon nearly left for the NBA that spring. Krzyzewski convinced him to stay to play along side incoming big man Jabari Parker and transfer Rodney Hood. Sulaimon was eventually replaced in the starting lineup as a sophomore by Hood.
When the same thing happened last season, this time by freshman star Justise Winslow, Sulaimon admitted, he didn't handle it well. Sulaimon was averaging 7.7 points in a little over 19 minutes a game when he was dismissed Jan. 30.
Sulaimon said that he has "changed a lot" over the past few months.
"With the experience I just went through, it caused me to reflect on my life and look in the mirror," he said. "There were some things I liked that I saw and some things I had to change and grow and mature. Like I said previously I didn't do a good job managing frustrations or emotions. I learned a tough lesson.
"I'm using everything I learned to hopefully become a better person."