In the days following last month's nationally televised announcement that Texas twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison had chosen Kentucky over Maryland, there was a lot of message board chatter about Mark Turgeon possibly losing out on other top recruits, including Roddy Peters of Suitland.
The predictions of doom proved to be premature, as Peters announced less than two weeks later that he was coming to College Park next season.
The expected arrival of Peters, which should become official when the week-long national signing period begins Wednesday, is a clear indication of a sea change on the local recruiting scene, where the Terps had often come up empty during the last few years of Gary Williams' 22-year career at Maryland.
"They've turned on the spigot," ESPN.com recruiting analyst Dave Telep said recently. "Don't expect the water to start pouring right away. They're not going to get every local player or every D.C. Assault [the AAU team Peters and others played for] player.
"But Mark Turgeon is starting to carve out his own program. Gary Williams had a Hall of Fame career and he did it his way. It's always hard to replace a legend. Turgeon is just establishing his vision for Maryland."
Turgeon is quick to point out the players Williams had over his last few years who are now in the NBA rather than take a shot at his legendary precessor.
"I think Gary recruited great players," Turgeon said in an interview last month with The Baltimore Sun. "You don't win a national championship without recruiting great players. You look at all the pros he had over the years; he did a great job recruiting, and his staff. Give those guys credit. They recruited their butt off for a while. It was toward the end [that recruiting slowed down] but [Greivis] Vasquez is in the pros, Jordan Williams got drafted. I think it's a little misleading."
But one local coach who asked not to be identified out of respect for Williams said, "It's like night and day" when comparing the recruiting philosophies between the former Maryland coach and his 47-year-old successor.
Said St. Frances coach Nick Myles: "The old staff did a good job recruiting players like Sean [Mosley]. But there's a new energy. There's also a big difference in the level of player they're recruiting."
Turgeon said that one of the keys has been the assistant coaches he hired: Scott Spinelli, who he brought with him from Texas A&M; Dalonte Hill, who had established a pipeline between D.C. Assault and Kansas State; and Bino Ranson, the only coach retained from Williams' staff.
In Turgeon's first year, Maryland had its first Top 20 recruiting class in nearly a decade and Peters, who was also considering Kansas, UCLA and Georgetown, its first player from local AAU powerhouse D.C. Assault in a number of years. Maryland is also expected this week to sign power forward Damonte Dodd, a Queen Anne's County native who's spending a post-grad year at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va.
"I hired three guys who really know how to recruit," Turgeon said. "All three of them have relationships, all three of them know how to do it and are really good at it, and that gives me comfort. My whole thing is that they don't get comfortable with one class. We have to have 10 classes or however long I'm here."
Turgeon said that he had to go outside the area the first year to get players such as Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman and Charles Mitchell while he established relationships with local high school and AAU coaches. He also brought in transfers Dez Wells from Xavier and Logan Aronhalt from Albany, and Evan Smotrycz, who is sitting out this year after two seasons at Michigan.
But his goal coming in was "to lock down the area" in terms of the top local recruits, which now include two Baltimore prospects, current juniors Phil Booth (Mount St. Joseph) and Dwayne Morgan (St. Frances), both of whom have offers from Turgeon.
"The first year is hard. We missed on a couple of kids," Turgeon said. "I'm hoping as we move forward and continue to grow, we'll be able to keep more kids home.That's what we're thinking. We talk about it every day. It's huge for us, and it's so hard and so competitive, people have no idea. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't. You've just got to get your name in there with a lot of players, work hard."
Longtime Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey, who sent Dino Gregory to Maryland in 2006, said that Turgeon has been to his team's games or practices "five or six times" and describes the second-year Terps coach as "very active, very hands-on, assertive in recruiting local guys. It's one of his priorties to keep the local kids who are talented enough to help Maryland win games and championships."
Clatchey said that a key figure in the local recruiting is Ranson, a Baltimore native who was hired by Williams prior to his final season after recognizing that he needed someone with ties to the AAU circuit.
"He can get into doors without even knocking on them because of the relationships he's established," Clatchey said of Ranson.
One of those doors might be at the Howard County home of Phil Booth Sr., a former star in his own right at Coppin State. More than two decades ago after Booth helped the Eagles upset Maryland at Cole Field House in Williams' first season, he might return someday to watch his middle child play at Comcast Center.
Phil Booth Jr., a 6-3 ½ guard with size 15 feet, is seriously considering becoming a Terp, according to both his father and high school coach. While he won't say where Maryland stands on his son's recruiting list, Booth Sr. that "I know he's a priority to them" and he can see where Turgeon "wants to lock down all the kids in the area along with recruiting nationally."
That's not to say Phil Booth Jr. wouldn't have been in the same position had Williams not retired in May of 2010, since former Maryland assistant Keith Booth, who is not related, had started to recruit the younger Booth during his freshman year at Mount St. Joseph. Phil Booth Sr. sees a different type of approach to recruiting at Maryland under Turgeon than he did when Williams was there.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Gary Williams — he's a Hall of Famer," Phil Booth Sr. said. "Gary grew up in coaching when the AAU teams were not that prevalent. I'm not a big fan of AAU either. It's more of a necessary evil for coaches now."
As a result, Booth Sr. said that Turgeon was at a number of his son's games the past two summers and has taken the time to get to know the family to the point of mentioning to Booth Sr. that they knew "I had a scoring title [in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.]"
Turgeon said that it's all about building relationships with the high school and AAU coaches, as well as the parents.
"I've always recruited AAU," Turgeon said. "Sometimes it's the high school coach, sometimes it's the AAU coach, sometimes it's the parents. Every case is diffeent and you've got to figure it out."
Along with recruiting for an ACC school, one of the advantages Turgeon might have eventually within the ACC is his age, since he is much younger than one of his mentors, North Carolina coach Roy Williams (62), as well as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (65).
"I'm just hitting my prime as a recruiter," Turgeon said. "I think we need to recruit at a better level. I'd like to. But I'm really pleased where we are right now."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times