Maryland's frontcourt recruiting was in poor shape when Mark Turgeon arrived. Turgeon made it a priority, signing four frontcourt players in his first recruiting class. With just one high school big man, Damonte Dodd – along with 2013-eligible transfer Evan Smotrycz – joining the team next year, Turgeon will be looking to continue bolstering the frontcourt in the 2014 class.
Among his top targets is Abdul Malik-Abu, a 6-foot-8, 210-pound power forward from Kimball Union Academy (Meriden, N.H.). We recently caught up with Abu's high school coach, Mike Olson, who said that Abu's just beginning to tap into his vast potential.
"I think that Abdul is being recruited on the basis of potential more so than production," Olson said. "There's a big difference between AAU ball in July and our league play in the New England Prep Conference. He blew up last summer in AAU. I think he's averaging around 10 points and eight rebounds a game right now, although he [recently had] 15 points and 15 rebounds, which was his best game.
"He's midway through his junior year and I think production has to catch up with potential. That can often be the difference between kids."
Olson wasn't trying to undermine his young big man, but instead stressing that in relation to his upside, he's far from a finished product. An explosive, aggressive big man who attacks the rim powerfully, Abu was beginning to show a much-improved perimeter game in preseason but is still working to replicate it in game play.
"He has a chance to be special," Olson said. "All fall he was knocking down 3s in open gym, so [college] coaches saw that. Now that he's got people defending him and taking things away, there's limited freedom. He's very explosive … He's 6-8 and will play at 235 pounds and he's very quick. I think you have a 3/4 hybrid forward. He's got great potential."
And plenty of recruiters would agree. Miami and Florida State are the most recent offers for Abu. Pittsburgh's been showing increased interest, as has UConn, which has offered. Wisconsin and Iowa State have made him a priority. And of course, the same can be said of Maryland.
"Maryland has been around. Mark Turgeon was at our game [two weeks ago]," Olson said. "Maryland has been pretty involved for a while."
But good luck figuring out which way Abu's leaning. A mature, understated young man whose ringback tone is classical music, he's not one to overindulge in recruiting hype or seek attention.
"He doesn't love the attention. I think he's a pretty humble kid that wants to get better. He's a great kid. Nicest kid you'll ever meet," Olson said. "He has to improve his skillset, but he's just a superb young man."
What will Abu focus on when it comes time to choose a school?
"He has actually said to me that no one is off the list yet," Olson said. "I think he'll be looking at a combination of academics and coaching and the best group of teammates. He will not go into a hornets' nest where guys are coming and going. I also think he will want to go to a school that's stable in its league. Consistency of characters will be important to him, as well as loyalty. He's a very thoughtful kid."