When the news broke last November that Maryland would flee the ACC for the Big Ten, Terrapins men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon overwhelmed himself with research. During his second season in College Park, Turgeon became unexpectedly caught between two leagues, forced to both prepare for navigating the ACC gantlet at hand and keep watch over the Big Ten schools the Terrapins will face starting next season.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s overwhelming watching two leagues,” Turgeon said Wednesday at his third and final ACC media day. “Last year, trying to develop your program, you’re in the ACC, you know you’re leaving, you’re watching who the Big Ten teams are signing, you’re watching to see who’s the ACC signing.”
Ever since Turgeon arrived at Maryland, each season has brought new relief. Last winter, Turgeon was able to coach players he recruited rather than those who reluctantly stuck around after Gary Williams retired. This year, it’s the absence of the ACC-Big Ten duality that yanked him in polar directions.
“This year the ACC signs players, it’s like who cares? ‘Oh, Duke got him? Okay, that’s fine,’ ” Turgeon said. “It’s been a little bit different. You just concentrate on Maryland.”
To support the widespread theory that conference affiliation matters little to recruits these days, Turgeon often cites an informal survey conducted by former ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep that concluded “conferences no longer matter to recruits.”
“The Big Ten and the ACC are such big leagues,” Turgeon said. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, the Big Ten’s real physical.’ Yeah there’s physical teams, but there are physical teams in our league, too. My recruiting won’t change. I’m still going to recruit to my style. Look at the two best teams in the Big Ten last year, finesse teams. Indiana, Michigan. It’s just about getting the right players.
“Kids don’t even know which league most teams are in anymore. So it’s more about relationships.”
For his class of 2014, currently ranked third nationally by ESPN.com, Turgeon balanced two local stars with a pair of rising out-of-staters. Bishop O’Connell’s Melo Trimble might have challenged for Maryland’s starting point guard role were he college eligible right now, and Dion Wiley can contribute immediately with his three-point shooting. Mid-Atlantic small forward Jared Nickens and Georgia center Trayvon Reed are both four-star recruits, according to 247sports.com.
Recruiting geography, Turgeon said, depends more on class year than conference. Assistant coach Bino Ranson, formerly at Xavier, has Ohio ties that may help Maryland gain ground in the Midwest, but it mostly hinges on whether local talent is deficient enough to cause the Terps to seek help elsewhere.
To wit, according to 247sports.com, Maryland has offered 17 players for its class of 2015. Rivals.com lists 18. Three, regardless of recruiting website, are from the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region. Four, for comparison, hail from Georgia, Ranson’s stomping grounds, and four more come from New England, where assistant coach Scott Spinelli makes his living. Compare this to 2014, when eight Maryland offers out of 26 remained in the DMV.
“I think it all depends on the year,” Turgeon said. “Some years we’re going to have so many players in our area, I won’t have to get on an airplane. There will be other times where there’s not that many people around, so I’ll have to get on airplanes.”
Turgeon fundraises money to charter airplanes for recruiting, and Maryland’s new 8 a.m. preseason practices allow him to oversee workouts, immediately hit the skies to visit prospects, then return for the next morning’s practice. Moving into Big Ten territory may expand Turgeon’s recruiting reach somewhat, and he joked about having one simple request when the move is finally complete.
“If they’re going to pay more money, I need more money,” he said. “I’m going to spend more.”