After losing something like 87 players before the Terps season even began - leaving coach Mark Turgeon on the hottest of hot seats - to then playing some of the best basketball the program has seen since Gary Williams' hay day (finishing second in the Big Ten), the 2014-15 basketball season was quite the ride for Maryland and it's fans. But the train isn't stopping there, as the 2015 season is looking just as up in part because the Terps will be returning something like 87 players this time around, while adding one of the most heralded recruits in the 2015 class...Diamond Stone.
Who: Diamond Stone
What's his story?: Diamond Stone, who is from Wisconsin, was long attached to Bo Ryan and the Badger program; many believed that it was only a matter of time until he signed with the in-state school. But something happened late in the recruiting process leaving Stone mildly open to other programs. While Wisconsin was widely believed to be the odds on favorite even going into the day Diamond Stone made his announcement public, Connecticut was right outside the door, trying to find a way inside.
And then in swooped Maryland.
Some have argued that the Under Armour connection (who sponsored Stone's AAU team) helped land the big mans commitment. There were also some rumblings that academics played a roll in Stone spurning Wisconsin at the last minute (with which have been heavily denied by both Stone and his father), which ultimately opened the door for Turgeon and company.
But from what I've gathered while researching Stone is that simply put, Turgeon pitched the hell out of his ability to turn big men into NBA talent, showing the recruit the workouts he put Alex Len through, having turned the former Terp from a string bean to a lottery pick in just two short years.
Recruitnik Roundabout: According to 247Sports Composite, Stone is a 6'10", 246 pound five star athlete. They have him ranked as the sixth best player in the class, second at his position and number one in the state of Wisconsin. ESPN lists the big man as a five star recruit, the sixth best in the class and second at his position and in the state of Wisconsin (right behind Marquette commit Henry Ellenson).
Does he have a social media presence?: Yes and he tweets and retweets all sorts of things. In the few short weeks that I've been writing these features, I think Diamond Stone has the most vast Twitter I've seen.
For example, you have the funny retweets showing his willingness to meet and greet with the Maryland locals:
I JUST RAN INTO DIAMOND STONE WHDJDJIAKANWHAHAKAMABIAK @Diamond_Stone33— catherine scott (@catscott25) July 12, 2015
The inspirational tweets:
Even if I don't feel like doing something I still give 100%— All Eyes On Me (@Diamond_Stone33) July 8, 2015
The "status update" tweets:
The Boogie Cousins inspired "snake in the weeds"/words of wisdom tweets:
When you do everything for someone but they act like they can't do nothing for you
Watch out for the haters
JUST KEEP IT 100!!!!!!!
And finally, his thoughts and musings on the NBA Draft (re)tweets:
Really Can't Wait For My Turn✅— All Eyes On Me (@Diamond_Stone33) June 25, 2015
Watching this NBA draft realizing my boy @Diamond_Stone33 is gonna be up there next year— Cordell Titus (@CDubz97) June 25, 2015
Next year with the first pick in the NBA draft the Milwaukee Bucks Select @Diamond_Stone33— Twon (@anthony5allen) June 26, 2015
I told you, Stone is like the Michael Strahan of Twitter... he can talk about anything.
Why should the average Big Ten fan be excited to watch him play?: I honestly couldn't wait for this part to come up. Every single Big Ten fan should be excited to watch Diamond play because his father believes that playing the drums and taking Taekwondo were integral to building the type of ball player he has become today.
From the Washington Post:
In addition to allowing the young Stone to taste experiences outside of basketball, his father is convinced both activities have played a pivotal role in his son’s development as a ballplayer. Diamond began drumming in the fifth grade, excelling in mimicry during his private lessons. It helped craft strong, durable hands and cognitive skills.
Martial arts gave him balance and toughness and also one of the earliest disappointments of his athletic career. He was an oversize 9-year-old who was forced to fight up in weight class, which often meant he would have to square off against opponents three or four years older. In his final tournament, he was penalized in a loss when a judge ruled that he kicked his opponent in the head too hard, Bob Stone said.
How is this not a movie? An over sized, nine-year old named Diamond Stone moves to Milwaukee Wisconsin during the summer. Having no new friends, he needs something to do while his parents are at work that will also teach him discipline and keep him active before basketball season. Instead of "just" hooping in his drive away alone, playing video games and eating Little Debbie snack cakes like every other nine-year old does in the summer, his dad signs him up for daily karate classes. After your prototypical "I don't want to do this/pure resistance" scene with his dojo-master/soon-to-be-lifetime-mentor, two training montages that turn into the "click moment" and a 13-year old karate-guru antagonist (who is a cross between Prince Joffrey and Draco Malfoy) stealing young Diamond's favorite pair of basketball shoes, we get the match-up we've been waiting for, where we see nine-year old Diamond Stone kick the town bully square in the mouth as hard as any pre-teen could possibly muster.
5-stars. Two thumbs up. 98% Rotten Tomatoes score.
What says the tape: I... I can't even...I just... well there's that thing... just woah.
- That is a professional hoops ready body if I've ever seen one. What a specimen. It's like he was created in a lab in Germany by every center in NBA history that is absolutely angry with people saying the center position is dead.
- Did you ever create yourself in NBA Live on PlayStation back in the day? Because I did, and every single time, I made myself Diamond Stone.
- Ok, now I'm starting to see why his dad made such a big deal about drumming and taekwondo. This kid doesn't have Stone-hands... thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.
- Watching a seven footer dribble down the floor, stop, swing the rock behind his back on the way to throwing down a tomahawk dunk will never, ever get old.
- You know that one cousin that was eight years older, a foot taller and about 100 pounds more than you, who always played basketball with all of the younger kids? And while he always started the game off passing to the little guys, he eventually got bored and turned the dial from "having a good time" to "Turnt on a Tuesday"? That had to of been Diamond Stone in high school. He's just so much bigger than all of the other little guys running around him. It actually looks funny.
- (1:07 mark) That dunk was from just inside the free throw line. Again, he's nearly SEVEN FEET TALL!
- It's going to be fun watching him storm the offensive boards. I'm totally expecting a Top-10 type one-handed-mind-numbing-put-back every other week or so.
- If he can honestly run the floor this well, teams are going to have to sell-out hard towards the defensive end, which already puts Maryland and their loaded roster at a huge advantage.
- The looks on all of those Wisconsin kids faces at the 1:44 mark is 100% how I will be watching Maryland play basketball this year. All of those reactions are on the table: Jumping out of my seat, open mouth, heavy breathing, subconsciously doing the "flicka da wrist" motion while doing those weird "holy mother of pearl" giggles you do when you see something so incredibly awesome.
- Foot work, body control and hands. It's all there. And yes, I know you don't need me to tell you this at all.
- Welp, letting Stone wander around the perimeter doesn't seem to be the best form of defense as he looks to have a decent jump shot from the outside. While I don't see him needing to take many of those type of shots during the 2015-16 season, it's a good tool that will force his defenders to think twice about leaving him wide open in Maryland's offensive sets.
- I've seen some Andrew Bynum comps on the internet and I think they're pretty fair. Stone shares a lot of the same attributes that Bynum had during his early years with the Lakers. Take a look at this video: The bait dribble/spin-out for an easy post bucket move is eerily similar. They both have a very low crouching power dribble that gets them the proper footing and positioning under the basket for easy dunks and lay-ins. I also think people forget how well Bynum ran the floor early on in his career, something again, he shares with Stone. There's definitely something to this comp.
- Last thing: Stone is very good at filling the lane in transition. He somehow shrinks his body while slithering to the strong side, keeping his defender on his back hip. When he gets in and around the block, usually just as the ball gets to the wing, he widens his frame, giving the guard an easy dump off for two.