- Steve Alford and his staff are looking to make another big splash in the coming recruiting class. Meanwhile, Maryland benefits again from its close recruiting ties at home.
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UCLA on the verge of something big
In 2016 Steve Alford and his staff landed one of the best recruiting classes in the country. The crew included three five-star recruits, led by top-10 prospect, point guard Lonzo Ball.
Now the Bruins look ready to bring in another monster class. Already UCLA has a commitment from five-star point guard Jaylen Hands, and two more top-100 prospects, power forward Cody Riley and center Jalen Hill, are in the fold as well.
Those three would form a stellar class on their own, but more reinforcements could be on the way.
On Nov. 13 the Bruins seem primed to add top-20 prospect Kris Wilkes from Indianapolis. Technically Wilkes is still deciding between UCLA, Indiana, and Illinois, but the Bruins are the clear leader. At this point, it seems that he has made his decision and is simply waiting on a ceremony at his school to make it official.
Wilkes would be another high-upside prospect with a ton of natural ability for UCLA. At 6' 8", Wilkes is a small forward with long arms, high-level athleticism, a good motor and improving skill.
While Wilkes needs to get stronger and continue to improve his outside jumper, he is very good in the mid-range, will rebound and has the ability to be a tremendous defender.
Along with Wilkes, the Bruins are also in the mix for five-star prospect Gary Trent Jr. While Trent is thought to be leaning toward Duke, it is worth noting that he has a longstanding relationship with Wilkes dating back to middle school, when the two were AAU teammates.
Wilkes and Trent have been talking about potentially going to the same school, but they aren’t a package deal. Still the fact that UCLA could potentially have some help recruiting Trent over the next few weeks in the form of a friend and fellow five-star prospect can do nothing but improve the Bruins' chances.
Even if the Bruins only land Wilkes and not Trent, it would be an impressive class. But if they land both, UCLA could have as much talent as any school in the country heading into the 2017–18 season.
Maryland picks up key commitment
Since arriving in College Park, coach Mark Turgeon has made it clear that his priorities in recruiting are the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas. He made that clear with his staff and where they spend most of their time during open periods.
Of the three assistants originally hired by Turgeon, the one remaining is Orlando “Bino” Ranson, a native of Baltimore and a long time veteran of recruiting the area. On Wednesday Ranson again paid dividends as the Terrapins dipped into the city of Baltimore and landed top prospect Darryl Morsell.
Morsell, who attends the prestigious Mt. St. Joseph High School in the city, emerged this summer as one of the top guards in the country, going from unranked to No. 60.
After picking up offers from around 20 schools, the choice eventually came down to Maryland and Notre Dame, with Maryland winning out.
Asked about his decision to pick the Terps, Morsell said, “It came down to the wire for me. I’ve been juggling with it for the last two weeks, and after speaking with my family, I knew that Maryland was the best place for me.”
He continued, “There wasn’t one main factor, it was everything. I feel it is the perfect decision to me.”
Landing Morsell was huge for Maryland because not only did it give the Terps a commitment from the top player in the Baltimore area, but it also filled a crucial hole in the roster.
Morsell, 6' 4" is a very good athlete with a dynamic first step. With the potential for Melo Trimble to depart for professional opportunities following this season, landing a playmaker and athlete with size on the perimeter like Morsell was a must for the Terrapins.
This also gives Maryland their second four-star prospect in the class of 2017 (Maryland Commitment List). Turgeon and his staff lost a ton of talent off of the 2015–16 roster, but after a few strong recruiting classes in a row, they should be stacked for the forseeable future.
Recruiting close to campus is key for any program, but it’s especially significant for schools like Maryland that lie in fertile recruiting grounds. Morsell is just the latest local product to stay home and pick Maryland, and if Turgeon and company keep it up, the Final Four drought could soon come to an end in College Park.