Top-100 wing Ike Cornish had planned to wait until his birthday to make his college decision but with his mind made up he pledged to the hometown Terps Wednesday afternoon.
The timing was the only surprise in Cornish’s decision. All signs pointed to him going to Maryland, and with another top local target Benny Williams spurning the Terps in favor of Syracuse last week, his commitment gave Mark Turgeon and company some much needed positive momentum heading into an unprecedented summer.
The 6-foot-6 wing from Baltimore didn’t develop into a surefire high-major prospect until he transferred to Legacy Early College in South Carolina last year, where he averaged 15 points per game while playing against a national schedule, and his late rise can mostly be attributed to his work ethic and increased exposure. He has all the tools to be a successful wing at the next level, along with a bevy of intangibles he learned from his time as a tertiary offensive option at Dulaney (Md.) High. He also benefited from the mentorship of his older brother Josh, a 6-foot-2 guard at Bowie State.
Cornish could be the glue of the Terps’ 2021 class. He’s filled a number of different roles throughout his high school career as he worked his way up the proverbial pecking order, and that should benefit him at Maryland as he’ll join a roster with plenty of other talented players, including fellow Baltimore native Julian Reese who became the program’s first pledge in the class last month.
The best thing about his game might be how well it meshes with other top players and that could benefit the Terps moving forward as they look to complete the rest of the class over the next several months. He has a strong relationship with AAU teammate Jalen Warley, who becomes arguably the staff’s top priority with Cornish off the board. While Cornish has an all-around game that could allow him to contribute right away as a freshman in a supporting role, the Terps could still use a more natural scorer in the backcourt and Warley -- a top-30 recruit who cut his list to 10 schools last week -- has the ability to fill that need. So does Dominican Republic native Deivi Jones, who kept Maryland in consideration after cutting his list to seven Sunday. Turgeon could also look to the transfer market to add an instant impact bucket-getter, and former Utah guard Both Gach -- who has the Terps in his final five -- is another name on the radar.
Cornish has a similar build and athleticism as Aaron Wiggins, but he appears best suited to replace Darryl Morsell as the team’s glue guy early in his career. He doesn’t have the same explosiveness or strength as Morsell, but he comes from the same AAU program and his long arms and quick-twitch athleticism give him the ability to guard multiple positions. With Morsell graduating next year, Turgeon will need someone to step up as the team’s top perimeter defender of the future and Cornish has the tools to be that guy.
The lanky 16-year-old projects as a small forward at the next level and unlike Morsell appears more likely to see extra time as a shooting guard than a power forward given how the roster is shaping up. That goes along with Turgeon’s pitch to him and staff’s continued activity in the power forward market even with Reese, Donta Scott and Boston College transfer Jairus Hamilton in the fold. Turgeon offered 6-foot-9 junior college forward Langston Wilson hours after Cornish committed and also expressed interest in Indiana graduated transfer Justin Smith before he pledged to Arkansas Monday. He’s also after a couple of class of 2021 combo forwards, including James Graham and Eric van der Heijden.
With Reese and Cornish in the fold, the Terps are off to a good start in the 2021 class and have a foundation that could be appealing to other high-ranking recruits as both are good players but neither necessarily project as Day One starters. There’s room for a high-scoring guard like Warley, Jones or Gach, and the frontcourt will also need to add bodies with Chol Marial the only center in the fold beyond next year. Turgeon is one of just five coaches with multiple four-star pledges in 2021, and he still has three available scholarships.
2021-22 roster (as things stand):
PG: Eric Ayala (Sr.)/Aquan Smart (So.)
SG: Aaron Wiggins (Sr.)/Hakim Hart (Jr.)/Marcus Dockery (So.)
SF: Jairus Hamilton (Jr.)/Ike Cornish (Fr.)
PF: Donta Scott (Jr.)/Julian Reese (Fr.)
C: Chol Marial (Jr.)