First elite recruit can change it all

October, 8, 2012
Maryland's Mark Turgeon swung for a grand slam recruiting haul.

He missed this time, but he's not alone. Nabbing elite recruits away from the perceived favorites is exceedingly rare.

Turgeon had a built-in advantage in that he had recruited the Harrison twins -- Texas natives Aaron and Andrew -- while he was the coach at Texas A&M. The Under Armour influence in College Park was perceived to be a help, too, but clearly that wasn't going to be the difference.

Had Maryland beaten John Calipari and his Kentucky recruiting empire, it would've been a major boon to the rebuilding efforts of the Terrapins, who went to back-to-back Final Fours in 2001 and 2002 but have been mired mostly in mediocrity since.

But look back at how often a school beats out a perceived power for an elite recruit. It's rare. And you can't count examples like Ray McCallum Jr. or Trey Zeigler choosing Detroit and Central Michigan, because their fathers were the coaches at those schools.

Indiana was able to keep Cody Zeller home, and that has proven to be a game-changing situation for the Hoosiers in Tom Crean's revival.

Michigan was able to get Mitch McGary away from Duke, North Carolina and Ohio State, and that may prove to be a decisive move for the Wolverines, who now are a legitimate Big Ten title contender.

Travis Ford ultimately may preserve his long-term security if Marcus Smart lives up to expectations at Oklahoma State. Smart chose the Cowboys over North Carolina, Texas and Kansas.

Turgeon is doing fine in recruiting, though, having landed Nick Faust, Alex Len, Jake Layman, Shaquille Cleare and a player who may turn out to be better than projected in Seth Allen.

"My thing was the whole reason I came to Maryland was to try to win a national championship," Turgeon said. "The team that usually wins the national championship usually has the most pros. We'll sign players in the 50s and they'll end up making the NBA because we'll make them better. You try to recruit the best, do that in a region that you have a connection with. At some point [a top-10 recruit] will pop for us."

It did for Baylor when the Bears got Perry Jones. He may not have had a consistently stellar career in Waco, but Jones was part of an Elite Eight team as a sophomore, and his commitment helped change the perception of the Bears nationally.

"You have to have a player and his family buy into the vision and dream for your program," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "They have to want to be a leader. There is and was peer pressure. They want to go to the hippest and coolest place.

"Perry was the first perceived national recruit to commit to us and it was hardest for him to come here because people questioned him, 'Why Baylor?' "

Jones had a unique situation where he wanted to be close to his family and stay in state. He also bought into building a program.

Will Jabari Parker, a Mormon from Chicago, upset the establishment and do the same for BYU? Will Maryland bounce back from the Harrison disappointment and land an elite, game-changing prospect?

Landing that first one is sometimes all that is needed to change the perception of the program.

"Once you get one," Drew said, "it gets the ball rolling and [recruiting] can get a lot easier."

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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