Analysts weigh in on Terps' 2012 hoops class
Mark Turgeon is still five days away from his first regular-season game at Maryland, but the Terps' first-year coach has already delivered on one important promise he made six months ago.
During his introductory news conference in College Park on May 11, the former Texas A&M coach assured those in attendance that he was “going to recruit like crazy.” On Wednesday – the first day of the week-long fall signing period – the fruits of Turgeon’s labor on the recruiting trail will be on display. Maryland is poised to sign a Top 25 class, culminating a hectic period for Turgeon and his coaching staff.
“You have to understand something about how difficult it is when you take over as a new staff,” said Dave Telep, ESPN.com’s national recruiting analyst. “It’s not like it was 10 years ago, because usually your big class is your second class. For them to have been able to string together a group like this, with two Top 100 guys – and they may not even be finished – it’s a very good sign.”
Maryland’s aforementioned Top 100 recruits are Shaquille Cleare, a 6-foot-9, 285-pound center from The Village School in Houston, and Jake Layman, a 6-foot-8, 190-pound small forward from King Philip Regional High in Wrentham, Mass. The Terps’ third recruit is Seth Allen, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound combo guard from Fredericksburg (Va.) Christian. All three players are expected to sign their letters of intent this week.
“We have [the class] ranked No. 3 overall in the ACC, in the Top 25 as of [Tuesday],” said Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels. “Obviously, that could change in the next day or two. But that’s where we have them right now. This is a great group. This is a really strong start for Turgeon and his guys. I think pulling Cleare out of Texas is a big deal. Jake Layman is a guy who really blew up and is in the Top 50. Then with a local kid like Seth Allen, it’s a strong start. I’m sure the coaching staff is pleased.”
The consensus headliner for the Terps is Cleare, who was first recruited by Maryland’s previous staff. Turgeon continued the Terps’ pursuit when he got the job, and beat out Arizona, Baylor, Miami, South Florida, Texas and Texas A&M for the four-star prospect’s services.
“They got a player who I think is a difference-maker on the low block in Shaquille Cleare,” said Van Coleman of Hot100Hoops.com. “He’s as an efficient a big man as there is in this class offensively on the block. He’s the kind of guy that can be a four-year player, a nucleus guy on the block who can lead the team very deep into the NCAA tournament down the road. He has that kind of potential. The biggest thing as a junior and senior is keeping him in the program. But I think he’s a four-year guy who can be a difference-maker with the ability to score.”
Said Telep: “Shaquille Cleare is going to be the rock. He’s just a big kid and we probably have him undervalued as a scorer. I think he’s going to have broad enough shoulders to carry the post and do work there for Maryland. I look for him to have a huge career there.”
Scout.com ranks Cleare the 37th best prospect nationally in the 2012 class, while ESPN.com (No. 39), Hot100Hoops.com (No. 39) and Rivals.com (No. 44) all rate the future Terp as a Top 50 player.
While Cleare was a well-known, highly coveted commodity among high-major coaches before the spring AAU period, Maryland’s next highest-rated recruit was a relatively unknown prospect nationally before he emerged over the summer. Layman had offers from Boston College, Notre Dame and Providence, but thanks to his play with the Boston Amateur Basketball Club in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, the four-star prospect added scholarships from Florida, Louisville, Maryland and Syracuse. He eventually canceled official visits to check out the Gators, Cardinals and Orange, committing to the Terps over Labor Day weekend.
“I think he has a chance to be like Chandler Parsons on steroids,” Telep said of the former Florida forward and Houston Rockets second-round draft pick. “He’s got a degree of skill to him. He’s got great length. In college basketball, coaches talk about length nowadays and how they use length on offense. Layman is going to bring both of those things. He was one of the most efficient players in the EYBL in terms of shooting and getting steals. I think both of those things are going to translate well to the ACC.”
Added Coleman: “I really like Jake Layman. He’s long, athletic, can shoot the 3 and put it on the floor. He’s so versatile. I think he’s going to play the wing forward at 6-8 in college. He’s one of those kids that can really open up the floor.”
Layman is ranked the No. 41 senior prospect in the country by Scout.com, while ESPN.com rates him No. 53 and Rivals.com lists him at No. 110.
The third member of Maryland’s 2012 class was the first commitment of the Turgeon era. Allen pledged to the new Terps coach five days after Turgeon accepted the Maryland job. Allen was a target of Turgeon’s at Texas A&M, so the relationship between player and coach had been established months prior to Turgeon's arrival in College Park.
While Turgeon was clearly sold on Allen’s ability, the scouting world shifted to discovery mode. Playing for a regional AAU team in the Virginia-based Hoop Boothe program, Allen wasn’t on the radar of most national services. Nagging injuries over the summer, meanwhile, prevented him from showing scouts what he could do.
Coleman said he hasn’t seen much of Allen, but from what he knows the future Terp is solid in the open court and can play both guard spots. Telep saw Allen play briefly at a Reebok-sponsored camp over the summer, but Allen was struggling with an injury then.
“He’s the real X-factor of this class,” Telep said. “I don’t know if we have a great evaluation on him. It’s difficult to say with any kind of certainty what level of impact he’s going to have at Maryland. I know this – the staff is excited about him and obviously they saw something that got their attention.”
The harshest critics of former Maryland coach Gary Williams often pointed to his recruiting approach, which – in the later years, at least – consisted mostly of him in a closer’s role, while his assistants did the majority of the scouting and relationship-building. Daniels says this Maryland staff is “built to recruit well,” and the three assistants have been praised for their work on the trail. Turgeon has also done his part to be a noticeable presence as much as possible.
“You’ve got a guy in Dalonte Hill that knows the D.C. area really well,” Daniels said. “You’ve got a guy in Bino Ranson who knows the Baltimore area really well. Then you’ve got Scott Spinelli, who’s been all over. I think you’ve got three really good recruiters on this staff.
“[And] I certainly think Coach Turgeon is active. I think he’s made it clear with this recruiting staff, this coaching staff, that he’s going to recruit. He’s done really well getting on the road and being visible. I think Mark Turgeon is doing a great job. He’s a pretty good recruiter. They have to be pretty happy with this first class.”
Like almost any other recruiting class, there have been several missed targets along the way. There are also still a few prospects – namely point guard Sam Cassell Jr. (Baltimore native at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass.), shooting guard Torian Graham (Arlington County Day in Jacksonville, Fla.) and power forward Charles Mitchell (Marietta, Ga.) – that have been mentioned in connection with the Terps. Coleman, Daniels and Telep all expect Maryland to add at least one more recruit in the spring period. For now, though, Telep says Terps fans should enjoy what Turgeon and company have delivered.
“There’s no reason not to be ecstatic,” Telep said. “To have two guys in the Top 100 in Shaquille Cleare, who’s going to be a frontcourt anchor, and Jake Layman, who they won in a massive recruiting battle. It’s a successful first class out of the gate.”