Keith Gatlin did not come up to Maryland for Midnight Madness when he was being recruited by Lefty Driesell. Nor does Gatlin remember much from that event during his career in College Park, which ended in 1988.
“I came up on my official [recruiting] visit to watch a football game,” Gatlin, now a high school coach in High Point, N.C., recalled earlier this week. “I came up a couple of times when I played in an alumni game and it was really fun.”
Tonight Gatlin will be back for what is now called Maryland Maryland in a more official capacity. He'll accompany his star player at Wesleyan Christian Academy, 6-foot-9 forward Harry Giles, who is considered one of the top prospects in the country in the class of 2016.
Giles and two Maryland targets for 2015 – 6-10, 250-pound center Diamond Stone of Milwaukee, the top-rated big man in the country; and 5-11 point guard Jaylen Brantley of Odessa (Tex.) Junior College – will be at the top of a list of nine recruits expected to attend the 8 p.m. event at Xfinity Center.
“It’s kind of full circle to come up now to see one of my players come up to watch it,” Gatlin said. “It’ll be interesting to see how Harry enjoys it.”
Gatlin said Giles, rated the top power forward in the 2016 class and the No. 3 prospect overall by ESPN, knows Maryland’s top scorer, senior guard Dez Wells. Giles is from Winston-Salem, where Wells played AAU ball on a team sponsored by NBA star Chris Paul.
“Dez knows my whole team,” Gatlin said. “I love Dez. He’s a great kid.”
Gatlin still has quite an affinity for Maryland, despite being in College Park during the most tumultuous period in the history of the basketball program. Gatlin had just finished his junior year when Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose in June 1986.
After being ruled "administratively ineligible" and sitting out the 1987-88 season, Gatlin returned to play under former Dunbar coach Bob Wade and helped the Terps reach the NCAA tournament. He finished as the school’s assist leader with 649 (now third behind Steve Blake and Greivis Vasquez) and scored 1,087 points.
Galtin’s ties to the program certainly can’t hurt Mark Turgeon’s chances of landing Giles next year. Gatlin said he won’t treat Giles in the recruiting process any different than he has other players who have gone to high-profile Division I programs.
“I built my program [at Wesleyan Christian] on telling kids the truth,” Gatlin said. “The kids know where I am with Maryland and Under Armour [which sponsors his school team]. I try to explain to my kids, ‘Just because I like the situation, it might not be the same for you.’”
What might be difficult for Maryland in its recruitment of Giles is getting a player some have compared to Kevin Durant out of the state of North Carolina. Theo Pinson, the star of Giles' team last year, is now a freshman for the Tar Heels. Both Duke and North Carolina are heavily recruiting Giles.
“Duke and Carolina are fighting like cats and dogs for this young man,” Gatlin said. “When recruiting a really high level kid from the state of North Carolina, the question is, ‘Can we get him out of North Carolina?’ Lefty came down here and made a living on players: John Lucas, Buck Williams, Charles Pittman, myself. Chris Wilcox came up [to play for Gary Williams].”
Gatlin said there is little in the way of loyalty to in-state schools, especially for players “who are on the fast track to the NBA.” Gatlin said Giles took another unofficial visit, to Kentucky, for Midnight Madness last year and is also being recruited heavily by Syracuse.
Gatlin rejected the notion that Giles is coming to College Park as a favor to his coach.
“No. I think he genuinely wants to look and see what’s going on,” Gatlin said. “He’s got relatives in the area. But Harry is a smart young man. In this day in time, kids have to be very conscious of their brand. And Harry gets that in what he brings to the table. He is the CEO of his company.”