Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus talks about the many pieces that came together for the Maryland men's basketball team to get five-star recruit Diamond Stone. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun)
Rankings can be deceiving. Mark Turgeon's fourth recruiting class since coming to Maryland might be ranked the lowest since he first took over from Gary Williams in 2011, yet the impact of incoming freshman Diamond Stone may help transform the Terps into a perennial national power.
Stone, a five-star prospect and the No. 2-rated center in his class, officially became a future Terp on Wednesday when he and his parents signed a financial aid package with the school. Stone joins junior college point guard Jaylen Brantley, a former 4-star prospect who played last season at Odessa (Tex.) Junior College, in the Terps' incoming class.
Barely on the radar before Stone committed last month, the two-man class is ranked 37th in the country by ESPN.com, compared to a No. 8 ranking a year ago when point guard Melo Trimble led a five-player class. Maryland ranked 18th in 2012 with a four-player class led by center Shaquille Cleare.
Yet the addition of Stone and Brantley -- who as a high school sophomore led his Boston-based AAU team to a national championship -- to a team that will also include Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter Jr., has vaulted the Terps to among the favorites to reach the 2016 Final Four.
"Three nice pieces to add to the team we have coming back," Turgeon said Wednesday.
Speaking publicly for the first time about the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Stone – a player who has already projected to be the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, according to DraftExpress.com – Turgeon said that the signing "energizes a lot of people."
Turgeon wouldn't call Stone his most significant signing since arriving in College Park.
"I get excited about all of them," the coach said on a conference call. "I knew how good Melo was going to be, so I was excited about him. I think because Diamond's ranked so high, it energizes your fan base. It energizes the team. The team was really excited about Diamond.
"The team worked really hard to recruit Diamond on his visit and throughout the year. Whenever you're able to get someone as talented as he is and is so highly thought of, it energizes a lot of people."
Turgeon said that the addition of Stone and Carter will allow the Terps to play more conventionally than they did last season "when we spread the floor and posted up Dez Wells."
"We can post Diamond, we can post Robert. Checko [Michael Cekovsky] and Damonte [Dodd's] game will grow," Turgeon added.
"I think Diamond gives you a big body. He gives you a big physical presence. We had shot-blockers this year with Damonte and Checko. They'll continue to give us that. We'll have a thickness, muscle around the rim, as Checko gets bigger and Damonte gets better. Adding Diamond and Robert, with all those pieces, we should be a much better rebounding team."
Turgeon said the "most of the credit" for signing Stone goes to assistant coach Bino Ranson, who also played a role in bringing Carter to Maryland.
"When I first got the job, he said, 'We got to go to Milwaukee, coach,'" Turgeon recalled. "I said, 'Why?' He said there's a young freshman who he thought was the best freshman big man in the country.
"I said, 'We've got enough problems not to think about a freshman.' We went out anyway. Every time I called the family and said, 'I'm coming to see you.' They said, 'Are you bringing Bino?' Diamond really likes Bino."