Maryland Basketball In the Race for Pair of Four-Stars

Maryland basketball locked in a big piece to the 2023 class earlier this month when new IMG Academy (FL) four-star Jamie Kaiser announced his decision to join the Terps over Indiana and Virginia. With Kaiser now paired with St. Frances guard Jahnathan Lamothe, Maryland still has their eyes set on securing the backcourt and that still starts with a local guard.

Fresh off vacation, there’s chatter that Paul VI (VA) four-star DeShawn Harris-Smith is closing in on a decision within the next few days but his mother tells Inside the Black and Gold that a decision is expected at the end of August at the latest. Maryland is primarily battling Villanova for his services while Indiana has remained in contact.

“I’ve been talking to coach [Tony] Skinn quite frequently. I talked with coach [Kevin] Willard over the weekend,” his mom told Inside the Black and Gold. Surely, having Kaiser aboard has only helped Maryland’s chances as the two played on Virginia’s PYBL team. “They talk quite frequently, they’re still good friends. It’s not pressure [to join him], but they’re definitely in his ear,” Harris-Smith’s mother added. Kaiser also spoke with Glenn Clark about his recruiting efforts when it comes to Harris-Smith. “I try to talk to him as much as possible. I’m just like we can just build something that’s crazy that make people want to stay home because I feel like if the DMV had guys that stayed home, they’d be contending for championships every year.”

Additionally, Skinn’s longtime relationship with former teammate and roommate Lamar Butler, currently a Team Takeover and Paul VI assistant, boosts Maryland’s chances as the staff works the closing stages. Chatter broke out after Kaiser’s decision that Maryland emerged as the leader for Harris-Smith and while an exact commitment date remains murky, there’s no doubt that it’s the Terps trending and confidence in College Park. With that, I feel comfortable bumping the local four-star to WARMER on the big board as we await a decision.

With Maryland’s backcourt possibly close to being finalized, the staff is still in pursuit of South Kent (CT) four-star guard Elmarko Jackson who soon plans to trim his list to seven. Maryland is expected to make the cut with assistant Grant Billmeier leading the charge and the rest of the staff chipping in. “Maryland’s message is I could come in as a freshman, get good minutes immediately and kind of just get the winning culture back there at Maryland,” he told Zagsblog last week. “Just kind of stay close to home, create our own name and get the culture back to where it was.”

Still, the bulk of the attention will shift to the frontcourt as four-star center Papa Kante remains the priority target. While he’s still in Senegal with his family, it sounds like Kante might be closer to a decision than previously expected as Maryland remains in the thick of his recruitment. Michigan and Rutgers remain two teams battling it out for his services while Pittsburgh also drew an official visit, but contact between Kante and Maryland remains strong as they hope to drop the first domino in the frontcourt.

Prolific Prep (CA) center Mike Nwoko included Maryland in his top nine, as expected, and promptly released four official visits already set. There isn’t as much optimism in Nwoko’s recruitment as there once was, leaving the Terps prioritizing Kante as assistant Grant Billmeier pitches his prestige as a big man developer. Michigan will also host top-35 prospect and 7-foot-2 center John Bol on an official as the Wolverines have other center targets this cycle. Maryland is still in pursuit of juco big man Okechukwu Okeke, a 6-foot-9 center, but his recruitment is still wide open.

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