Orlando "Bino" Ranson unpacks his gear -- the thick NCAA manual, the Under Armour shoeboxes, the wood-framed pictures of his former players that will adorn the red and white walls of his new workspace.
As he moves his supplies into the men's basketball suite at Comcast Center, Maryland's newest assistant coach can't help but be reminded of a period long before he had a well-appointed office with a black leather chair.
The photos and files he is unloading tell the story. It was March 2002. The Terrapins were about to win their first NCAA basketball championship. Ranson, then 28 and a Maryland fan since childhood, was soliciting contributions in Baltimore for the fledgling Amateur Athletic Union team of which he was founder, president and head coach.
"I was collecting money on the corner with buckets. I was starting from scratch," he said.
"We did it all, man," said fellow AAU coach Darrick "Baseline" Oliver, now with Team Melo. "We sold our candy. We got on the court with buckets. We sold raffle tickets. Me and Bino would pick up the kids and drop them off, and they would spend nights at our homes."
Eight years later, Ranson's occasionally trying AAU experiences are expected to serve him well as the St. Frances graduate returns home after stints as an assistant at Xavier, James Madison and Marist. His knowledge of the AAU culture and the relationships he formed with fellow coaches made him attractive to Maryland, which hired him in June after former assistant Chuck Driesell became The Citadel's head coach.
Now, Ranson is trying to blend his Baltimore past with the present day.
"I think he's a people person, and recruitment is all about relationships," coach Anthony "Doodie" Lewis of the Cecil Kirk AAU program said. "I think he knows the population. He knows the places to go."
Lewis has helped produce a number of NBA players. Three of them -- Rudy Gay of the Memphis Grizzlies, free agent Josh Boone and the late Reggie Lewis -- were successfully recruited from the state by coach Jim Calhoun. Reggie Lewis played for Calhoun at Northeastern, and Gay and Boone played for him at Connecticut.
Maryland hopes to keep talents such as Gay, the former Archbishop Spalding star, in the state.
"Maryland's recruiting in the city hasn't been what it should be," Oliver said. "Bringing in [assistant coach] Keith Booth helped a lot. With Bino in there, you'll get a lot of elite players at Maryland. It might be the best move they've made in a long time."
Ranson, a former combo guard at Southern New Hampshire with a quiet intensity, said he hopes to "continue to build that bridge" leading Baltimore talent to College Park. But he disputes the notion that Maryland's recruiting was somehow lacking.
"That can be just a perception," Ranson said. "A kid chooses to go to another school, that doesn't mean there is a problem between Baltimore and the University of Maryland."
Ranson cites a number of Baltimore players -- Booth (Dunbar), Juan Dixon (Calvert Hall), Rodney Elliott (Dunbar) and current players Sean Mosley (St. Frances) and Dino Gregory (Mount St. Joseph) -- who have fared well with the Terrapins.
Ranson has grown close to the Dixon family and scores of other Baltimore players over the years.
Jermaine Dixon, Juan's brother and a former starting guard at Pittsburgh, was on Ranson's Team Baltimore in 2002. So were DaJuan Summers (McDonogh), who played at Georgetown, and Ricky Harris (Calvert Hall), who starred at Massachusetts.
Team Baltimore's goal was to "help our youth showcase their skills, represent the talent in Baltimore and gain a memorable experience," according to a 2004 fundraising letter. Ranson hasn't coached in the AAU since taking an administrative assistant job at Loyola later in 2004.
But he is fond of recalling his roots. On the wall in Ranson's new office is a photo of him with Carmelo Anthony (Towson Catholic) of the Denver Nuggets. A draft-day photo taken at a bowling alley features Ranson with Donte Greene (Towson Catholic), who played for Syracuse and is now with the Sacramento Kings.
Ranson's summer recruiting trips are lined up like planes queuing up on a runway. He planned to attend AAU events in Cleveland; Charlotte, N.C.; Augusta, Ga.; and Myrtle Beach, S.C. He said his recruiting territory will be based on relationships he has formed, and that he and Booth will be active in Baltimore.
Ranson, 35, is joining a Maryland staff that includes Booth, who was hired in 2004, and Rob Ehsan, who arrived at Maryland as a graduate assistant in 2005. In announcing the hiring, Gary Williams, who will be entering his 22nd season as Maryland's coach, cited Ranson's "proven success in recruiting" and his "work ethic."
Ranson is not permitted under NCAA rules to discuss pending recruits.
Among Maryland's targets is City shooting guard Nick Faust. Like many Maryland recruits, Faust has deep AAU roots. "We're like family," AAU coach Carlton "Bub" Carrington said of Faust. Carrington is Faust's Nike Baltimore Elite coach and is close to Ranson.
"The work other coaches might have to do for relationships, Bino already has the groundwork. They call him Uncle Bino," Carrington said. "If Bino was at Maryland, then Donte Greene and Malcolm Delaney [Towson Catholic, Virginia Tech] would have been at Maryland. Easy."
Ranson has barely had time to move into his new office and see his wife and 2-year-old son. His son shares his own name -- Orlando. The elder Ranson's nickname, "Bino," was given by his father and is derived from Babe Ruth's nickname, "The Great Bambino."
Summer recruiting requires a subtle touch. Since rules forbid contact with potential recruiting targets during this period, Ranson must adopt a creative approach to make sure he sees players -- and they see him.
"I might have my Maryland polo [shirt] on with big letters," Ranson said. "Maybe a nice pair of linen pants with some nice shoes. It can be a fashion thing with the coaches."