Gary Williams’s retirement as Maryland men’s basketball coach evoked memories, elicited tributes and triggered speculation over who will succeed him. But perhaps no reactions were more important to the immediate future of the Terrapins’ program than those of current recruits.
Within an hour of the news breaking Thursday afternoon, New Jersey point guard Sterling Gibbs, one of Maryland’s top two recruits for next season, told Web sites that he and Baltimore forward Nick Faust were going to reconsider their college choice.
“The family is willing to give the next coach the opportunity to hear what he has to say, but obviously he was recruited by someone else,” said Gary Charles, who coaches Gibbs on the New York Panthers travel team. “So because of that, he has to listen to other schools.”
Because Faust and Gibbs have signed binding national letters-of-intent, they would need releases from Maryland to play as freshmen at other schools this fall. Maryland could delay granting such releases until after hiring Williams’s replacement, thereby giving the new coach an opportunity to re-recruit the players.
Charles said the players will ask for their releases in the next few days and would prefer not to wait for Maryland to make a hire before being able to consider their options.
“There is not a lot of time,” said Charles, who added that some schools have expressed interest to him, though NCAA rules prohibit them from contacting Gibbs directly. “Just like Maryland has to do what is best for them, the kids have to do what is best for them.”
Montrose Christian standout junior forward Justin Anderson, who orally committed to Maryland in March, plans to wait until a new coach is hired before thinking about his plans, according to Montrose Christian Coach Stu Vetter.
“Justin, right now, is committed to the University of Maryland, and once a new coach is hired, he will evaluate from that point,” Vetter said.
In the long run, according to local coaches, a coaching change in College Park might have a significant impact on the Terrapins’ recruiting efforts.
The Washington area has long been one of the country’s deepest high school basketball talent pools, but Maryland has never been a dominant player in it.
Williams and his staff, instead, focused on finding and developing players who were talented but not heavily recruited, such as Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Greivis Vasquez and Jordan Williams.
“Gary Williams recruited his way, coached his way and it got him a national championship and, sooner or later, it’s going to make him a Hall of Fame coach,” said DeMatha Coach Mike Jones, who has two players being heavily recruited by Maryland, junior forward Jerami Grant and sophomore center BeeJay Anya. “He did it his way and was very successful at it.”
The Terrapins need “to make sure they hire somebody who is active and someone who will run down players to get the program back to what it once was,” said Keith Stevens, whose Team Takeover travel team includes several of the area’s top players. “You’ve got to be able to control your area.”