Hakim Hart Jr., a 6-foot-7, 190-pound shooting guard from Philadelphia, became the fourth player to commit to Maryland as part of its 2019 class and — once he signs his National Letter of Intent — will take the last scholarship available on men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon’s roster.
Though only rated a two-star prospect according to the 247Sports Composite rankings — the lowest-rated scholarship recruit in Turgeon’s eight seasons — Hart’s stock has risen dramatically as he has grown more than three inches and put on nearly 30 pounds during the past 18 months.
In his senior year at Roman Catholic High, Hart led the perennial Philadelphia power to the city’s Catholic League championship, scoring 40 points in the final, before losing in the final of the state championship. Hart, who transferred to Roman Catholic as a junior, led the team with 21 points and shot 57 percent from the field.
“We played some of the best teams in the country and he really flourished,” Roman Catholic coach Matt Flynn said Thursday night. “Last year he was considered a shooter, then he became an all-around scorer and playmaker. He had the best assist-to-turnover ratio — 3 to 1 — two years in a row.”
Hart said that he is motivated by the fact that he has been overlooked for a long time.
“Every game I play with a chip on my shoulder because I wasn’t highly recruited and I knew I was better than most of the guys that were higher than me,” Hart said. “It’s made me play better in those games.”
Said his father, Hakim Hart Sr.: “He’s always worked hard. So everything he’s been getting he earned. That’s what we taught him from when he was 8 or 9 years old. Earn everything you get.”
Hart said that he plans to officially sign with the Terps shortly. Until that happens, neither Turgeon nor Matt Brady, who was the lead recruiter for Hart, are allowed to make any comments.
Hart initially committed to Saint Joseph’s, near his home, but decommitted after longtime coach Phil Martelli was fired after the 2018-19 season. Hart, who said he also had offers from Michigan, Penn State, Temple and LaSalle, described the past month as “stressful” for him and his family.
“After that happened, I was confident because I had a really good high school season my senior year,” Hart said in a telephone interview Thursday shortly after he posted his announcement on Instagram. “I knew more offers would come in, so I wasn’t too concerned with that.”
Said Hakim Sr., “God has a special plan for everybody.”
Hart said that he is more than just a 3-point shooter, a characterization that has been given to other recent Maryland recruits, including former Terp standout Kevin Huerter, who just finished his rookie year with the Atlanta Hawks, as well as rising sophomores Aaron Wiggins and Serrel Smith Jr.
“A lot of people say I’m smooth on the court, a two-play player, I can bring the ball up and be a point guard at times,” he said. “I like to facilitate for my teammates.”
Hart will join former Amateur Athletic Union teammate Donta Scott, as well as twin brothers Makhel and Makhi Mitchell of Washington, in a recruiting class ranked 27th in the country and third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State (ninth nationally) and Michigan State (24th).
A year ago, Maryland’s six-player recruiting class led by former Mount Saint Joseph star and McDonald’s All American Jalen Smith, was ranked seventh nationally and first in the Big Ten.
Hart fits the profile of the kind of player Turgeon is trying to sign along with more highly rated prospects such as Makhi Mitchell (No. 66 nationally), Scott (No. 135) and Makhel Mitchell (No. 159).
“We plan on him being there four years, whatever happens, happens,” Hakim Hart Sr. said. “He’s going to go and get a great education and play basketball, something he loves to do.”
Said Flynn: “He’s a big-time player. Put him in any situation and he’s going to be successful. He’s 17 years old, almost 6-7 and he can really shoot and score. His body is going to continue to develop. He’s a really good decision-maker. He’s got a very bright future.”