In April 2009, University of Maryland coach Gary Williams was working on one of his best recruiting classes yet. With the 2008-2009 season finished up, the coaching staff was looking to find the replacements for one of the best classes at Maryland. Next season was the last year of eligibility for Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Landon Milbourne, one of the better classes Gary Williams had assembled and coached.
With big men Jordan Williams and James Padgett set to arrive in College Park that summer, Coach Williams was looking to add versatile guards to the line up. He had already secured commitments from Arizona leading scorer, Terrell Stoglin, and Richmond stud Mychal Parker. Stoglin gave Maryland another crafty guard, but one who could score from anywhere on the court, while Parker’s athletic ability was raw, the talent was there to be a successful college wing player.
With both of them on board, Coach Williams turned his attention to a 2009 All-Met player from local powerhouse, Montrose Christian. Another ESPN Top 100 player, Terrence Ross, was the final piece of an already loaded 2010 class. The 6’6″ SG/SF not only had range, but tremendous athletic ability. In April of 2009, Coach Williams and the rest of the staff’s hard work paid off, as the senior to be verbally committed to the University of Maryland. Coach Williams not only had one of the top teams in the ACC for next season, but he had now secured the future of the program.
For those who do not follow the up and down cycle that is college recruiting, god bless you. There is nothing quite like vesting interest in where a 17-year-old chooses to go to college. So, if you are not familiar, a verbal commitment is just that, a verbal agreement between the player and coach. There is nothing binding between the two, its like telling a friend that you will pick them up from the airport. If you don’t do it, you won’t be any serious trouble, your friend will think that you’re a dick , but that’s pretty much it.
That summer, Terrence Ross, opted to stay out of the AAU Circuit. Instead he went home to Oregon to work on his game in private. When he returned to school, he began to shoot up the rankings. Recruiting guru’s were blown away by the progress he had made during the summer. Ross had just cracked the top 100 for most services before the summer, when he returned he became a consensus top 50 player. Of course as Maryland fans we were pumped! We knew that the 09-2010 team would be great (we didn’t realize how great), and now we had legitimate studs in Ross and Parker coming in.
November marks the first period in the year that recruits can sign their letter of intent with a college. The next step from a verbal, the letter of intent is a binding document that holds the player committed to the university they choose. Terrell Stoglin, Mychal Parker, and Ashton Pankey (as my friend Firestein would say, “a real pack of winners.”) had all signed their letters with Maryland. The final piece of the puzzle was Montrose star, Terrence Ross.
After Gary Williams retired as head coach of Maryland in the summer of 2011, the common theory was that it was a result of Jordan Williams decision to forgo his final two years to enter the NBA Draft. This will be tackled later on, as it presents a popular what-if in Maryland sports. However, I think what happened with Terrence Ross was the bigger blow to Coach Williams, and Jordan Williams was the straw that broke the camels back.
Gary Williams had always been known as a coach who did not play the AAU and shoe company game. It’s tough to remember, but shoe companies play a big hand in college basketball. The increased coverage in high school recruiting and the want to be the first to find someone have created an environment where shoe companies are looking for the future at a young age. Nike, Adidias, and Under Armour all sponsor AAU and high school teams across the country, along with college teams. The hope is to get players to continue through the shoe companies ranks of their AAU team, then their college, and then be sponsored by the shoe company once they enter the NBA. Those three shoe companies have their flagship schools, they are higher profile schools that can showcase a player at the biggest level. Nike has Duke and Kentucky, Adidas has Louisville and Kansas, and Under Armour has Maryland. Before Under Armour began developing basketball gear, Maryland was a Nike school. The switch to Under Armour happened in 2008 for basketball.
Getting back to our friend Terrence Ross and his strange recruitment. Ross and his good friend, Terrence Jones, were both teammates in Oregon before Ross left for Montrose. They were back to back Oregon player of the year winners at Jefferson High School. They were also both in the same high school class, and going through recruitment together. A month after Ross had declined to sign a letter of intent with Maryland, he officially de-committed in December 2009. He was re-opening up his recruitment to Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas, while also still considering Maryland. This was a tough pill to swallow as Maryland fans, it was literally our basketball hell, we once had a top 30 player who could have us content with Duke every year, but now he was leaving us and going to play for the rival Blue Devils!?
The story began to get even more complicated as Terrence withdrew from Montrose Christian in February 2010, in the middle of the high school season. He left Montrose to return home to Oregon, to be reunited with long time friend, Terrence Jones. Ross was declined a waiver to play high school basketball at Jefferson for his senior year, meaning that he would now have to sit out the remainder of the season. Ross and Jones recruitment became a package deal at this time. Both were considering similar schools, with the additions of Washington and Oklahoma, and they were back in the same area. Back to the shoe company focus, Oregon is home of Nike, and aside from Kansas, their list of schools was all Nike schools. Jones and Ross both elected to play their college basketball at the University of Washington, a Nike affiliate. But the saga continued, this time with Jones declining to sign a letter of intent with Washington after the two announced in late April 2010. Jones later switched his commitment to the University of Kentucky, also a Nike school.
View Part II here