And just like that, we’ve come to the end of our Maryland three-headed monsters profile series (Spoiler Alert: I’m going to keep this going with some additional profiles as it’s only August and we’ve still got plenty of time to dive deep into Terrapins basketball prior to the start of the season).
After previously taking a look into known entities Anthony Cowan Jr. and Bruno Fernando, it’s time to investigate the great unknown as coach Turgeon welcomes one of his biggest and most prized recruits to campus.
I sort of feel bad for Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala. In almost any other year in Maryland Terrapins basketball history, the two four-star consensus top 100 guards would be the talk of the town and recipients of a hero’s welcome to College Park.
Instead, they both represent the icing on an incredibly delicious 2018 recruiting class cake for head coach Mark Turgeon — one that ranks tops in the Big Ten and seventh nationally, thanks in large part, pun intended, to incoming 6-foot-10 freshmen Jalen Smith.
After entertaining offers from the likes of Villanova, Syracuse, Florida, Virginia, and USC, the Maryland product decided to stay in-state, marking the first time since 2013 that the Crab Cake State’s top overall player (Roddy Peters) brought his talents to Terp Nation.
The Baltimore native is incredibly only the third five-star prospect to ever commit to play for the Terps, following in the foot steps of class of 2003 guard Mike Jones and 2015 center Diamond Stone. The former represents the only five-star recruit under legendary coach Gary Williams, while the latter currently sits atop Maryland’s all-time recruiting rankings, with just the slightest of edges on the incoming Smith.
And while one could draw a comparison between Stone and Smith thanks to them both being 6-foot-10 high-profile big men recruits, the similarities almost entirely start and stop there.
Smith, for example, is 50 pounds lighter than Stone, and quite possible, 50 times the athlete he is, as well.
And where as Stone was a throw back center, who used his physical presence and raw strength to power his way to the basket, Smith is a big man in the same vein of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Deandre Ayton.
It’s that skill set which almost assuredly will have Smith, who’s affectionately known as Sticks, joining sophomore Center Bruno Fernando to form one of the Big Ten’s most athletic and talented frontcourts.
But as is the case these days with nice things, they don’t tend to stick around too long when it comes to college basketball. And much like Stone before him, Smith’s time in College Park may already be numbered.
Smith is featured prominently in a number of way-too-early 2019 NBA mock drafts, including Bleacher Report, who has the forward as a mid-to-late first round selection, and SB Nation who pegs Sticks right on the fringe of the lottery.
With that in mind, it makes the upcoming 2018-’19 season one of high stakes for Maryland, and one of an incredible amount of pressure on Mary Turgeon.
Still, I’m sure many at Maryland, Turgeon included, would sign up for the one-and-done game with Smith, assuming he leaves the program in better shape than he found it. After all, that would almost assuredly mean a return to March Madness for the Terrapins, and another step towards reclaiming its position as one of the blue-bloods of college basketball.