Maryland hosted Mount Saint Joseph rising sophomore big man Jalen Smith on campus Wednesday, and according to his Amateur Athletic Union coach, David Thurston, everything went very well.
“They took him on a tour of campus, which I know he loved, I know the dad loved," said Thurston, who heads the Maryland 3D program. "They explained to him the academics, the opportunities there. And then he met all the guys and played pickup with them, which went well. He seemed to get along with all the guys. It’s a good group of players and a good group of people down there. They’re really good citizens. I think that’s the type of program they are looking for; he’ll fit in well with those kids. He’s a very humble, delightful, unassuming kid."
The 6-foot-7 Smith, who held his own this past weekend at the Nike Elite 100 camp in St. Louis despite weighing in at just 178 pounds, has a ton of room left to grow. He's only 15 years old and has spent this summer competing on the under-16 Nike Elite Youth Basketball circuit. His future appears extremely bright, and ESPN recently ranked him the No. 14 overall prospect in the 2018 class.
"I think he’s going to develop into a kid that can defend three positions at a high-major level," Thurston said. "He’s got a 7-foot wingspan now and he’s not done growing. He’s a much better perimeter shooter than anyone’s talking about; very good form, very good rotation. And he moves well without the ball, he’s got a great set of hands and he can really run the floor.
“In this day and age, where the game’s starting to change with spreading the court a little bit and playing a little faster because of the shot clock, I think the future is really bright for him"
Mark Turgeon and his staff also are beginning to look for more mobile, skilled big men. Although the staff has yet to offer him, he seems to be a great fit for the program and could develop into a top priority in the future. The staff has hosted him on unofficial visits twice since the spring.
“I think he fits in well with how they play, and I think his personality fits in well with the coaching staff," Thurston said. "I would think with him being the best big guy in the area in the class, for sure, that they’d be very involved in his recruitment."
But what's Smith's interest level?
“High, very high," Thurston said. "He’s got a very strong family support; the mom and dad are very involved in his life and education. They’re very grounded and they’re all Maryland fans. They watch all the games, so I think for the family, for him to be part of the Maryland program would be a dream come true."
That doesn't mean Smith is going to remain idle until an offer comes. He already holds an offer from Providence and plans to make a couple of visits this summer.
"We’ll probably have him visit Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina and maybe Miami," Thurston said. "What we’d like to do is get him a feel for a Midwestern school, a Southern school, a Western school, different climates, and then see how the recruiting goes."