There was a moment this weekend when Jared Nickens first stepped through the tunnel and onto the Comcast Center floor. The bleachers were folded against the wall, making the already-capacious arena seem even bigger. His eyes widened and lit up. “It felt like an NBA arena,” the New Jersey small forward would later say.
Nickens was mere minutes into an official visit to the University of Maryland, perhaps already leaning towards an oral commitment to Coach Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins, but seeing his future stomping grounds clinched it. The next evening, at dinner Saturday night, Nickens made it official.
“I just fell in love with Maryland,” Nickens said by phone, fresh from the airport back home in New Jersey. “I was able to imagine what it was like. Some of the players told me, you can’t even hold a conversation with the person next to you, it’s so loud.”
“He probably had a preconceived notion he was going to go there anyway,” his father Bobby said, ”but when he saw that building and walked onto that floor, he knew. It was joy.”
The visit was typical, logistically little out of the ordinary, but Nickens saw a new home. The current players traveled as a pack, adopting Nickens as one of their own, rather than him sticking with one or two specific hosts. They toured the campus, saw the weight room and visited the business school. Nickens plans to major in business management.
“The players were enthusiastic, said I was part of the family and all that,” Nickens said. “They took me out with them and everything. Nick Faust, Damonte Dodd, Roddy Peters, Dez [Wells], Charles [Mitchell], Jake [Layman], Evan [Smotrycz], it was everybody. Seth Allen, everybody.”
He also played pickup with the Terps, for three or four games on both Friday and Saturday. Maryland views Nickens as a hybrid two-three guard, capable of rolling off screens and sticking three-pointers. Dion Wiley and Romelo Trimble, the two other current class of 2014 commits, also regularly shoot above 45 percent from beyond the arc.
Wiley and Nickens played together at the Mary Kline Classic, and Wiley texted his future teammate congratulations on Sunday. Before Nickens came on board, ESPN.com had ranked Maryland’s class of 2014 third nationally. Now the Terps add another four-star prospect and can focus on rounding out the class with a post player.
Sitting down to dinner with his parents, Turgeon, Wells and Maryland’s coaching staff at the Washington D.C. Capital Grille, Nickens tapped his water glass and rose up from the table.
“I’d like to make an announcement,” he said. “I’d like to thank Coach Turgeon for recruiting me, and I want to become a Terp.”
Everybody clapped. Turgeon turned to Nickens’ parents, sitting across the table.
“Are you okay with that?” he asked.
“We’re all on board,” Bobby Nickens said.