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Maryland forward Robert Carter Jr. declares for NBA draft

Maryland forward Robert Carter Jr. declares for NBA draft
Maryland forward Robert Carter Jr. (4) scores against Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig (24) during the first half in College Park on Feb. 13, 2016. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Robert Carter Jr. transferred to Maryland after his first two years at Georgia Tech largely to transform his game, to show he could still play inside and also shoot his share of 3-pointers.

Along the way, Carter became lighter by some 18 pounds, as well as a lot stronger and quicker. Carter is now leaving College Park, ready to prove the two years he spent there — one playing — helped prepare him for the NBA.

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Among the five starters who could all leave Maryland shortly, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound power forward was the first of three underclassmen to officially declare for the NBA draft.

Unlike freshman Diamond Stone, who according to Cleveland.com will not reportedly sign with an agent before going through the draft process, Carter indicated his time in college was done. The news of Carter's decision was first reported by InsideMdSports.

"I want to thank the University of Maryland community and all the fans for their support during my two years at Maryland," Carter said in a statement released by the athletic department. "I also want to thank Coach [Mark] Turgeon, my teammates and the entire Maryland basketball program for what they have done for me. The University of Maryland program will always be a special place to me and my family."

After averaging 10.5 points and 7.4 rebounds at Georgia Tech, then sitting out a year in accordance with NCAA transfer rules, the redshirt junior was third in scoring (12.3 points per game) and first in rebounding (6.9 per game) for the 27-9 Terps.

News of Carter's decision came a few days after a report about Stone's decision to leave, which the 6-11 center seemed to verify by retweeting it several times that day while his father, Bob, strongly denied a decision had been made that night.

For the second straight year, Turgeon is also waiting to see whether point guard Melo Trimble will return to school or enter the NBA draft.

While Stone is expected to be a first-round draft choice and Trimble, a sophomore, could be either a late first- or early second-round pick, Carter had barely been mentioned on mock draft boards until late in the season.

Carter is currently No. 51 according to DraftExpress.com, a New York-based site that many NBA scouts and general managers have said is more accurate than other sites, including ESPN, which does not have Carter mentioned in its first round.

An NBA executive who asked to remain anonymous said Wednesday that "after the lottery [the first 14 picks], there's no telling where a guy can go."

"It only takes one team to like them," the executive said. "Robert had an excellent year. It's certainly not an easy decision. There so much unknown to this draft."

Carter gained a reputation in College Park as one of Turgeon's hardest-working players.

During the year he sat out, he would have marathon workout sessions with Kyle Tarp, the team's director of basketball performance, then go back and work out on his own. It was not unusual for Carter to show up at Xfinity Center early in the morning or late at night to work on his game.

Primarily a post presence for Georgia Tech — Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory's insistence to keep Carter planted near the basket was one of the reasons he transferred — Carter improved his range as well as his array of moves in the paint.

Carter shot 55.4 percent overall, including 62.9 percent on two-point shots. After starting the season slow from 3-point range, Carter finished the year 26-for-78 (33.3 percent).

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After scoring in double figures 25 times in 33 regular season and Big Ten tournament games — including a career-high 25 in a 35-point rout of Ohio State in mid-January — Carter averaged just 7.3 points and was in constant foul trouble in the three NCAA tournament games.

Though generally quiet by nature, Carter became a vocal leader of the team, often taking over huddles. After fouling out late in a tightly contested game against then-No. 3 Iowa, Carter's insistence that the Terps would win without him proved to be a key to Maryland's biggest victory of the season.

"I enjoyed coaching Robert the past two years," Turgeon said in a statement. "During his redshirt year, he worked extremely hard to improve his conditioning and expand his overall game. This past year, Robert was a very productive player and embraced his role as a team leader."

Turgeon said that he was "proud that he achieved his goal" of graduating this spring with a degree in Family Science and "now can pursue a career in professional basketball."

Said Carter, "I will forever be a Terp."

Terps to host Towson

A campus source confirmed that Maryland will host Towson next season at Xfinity Center, marking the first time in 20 years that the two largest state schools will have faced each other. The Terps are 12-0 overall against the Tigers.

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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