By now, the process has become so familiar. As a 17-year-old high school student, he committed on his first visit, to Florida International. Then he transferred to North Carolina A&T, with limited options otherwise. So by this time, the third time around, he has become much wiser, much more in tune with the ins and outs of choosing a new school.
“Yeah,” Richaud Pack said recently, “I have it down for sure.”
With only one season of college basketball remaining, Pack knows he must make it count. Wherever the rising fifth-year senior chooses will be his home for the next season, the place he will attain his master’s degree.
“I think that’s what’s making this decision difficult and different,” Pack said. “I only have one year. It’s just hard, because you almost have to make the right choice. Right school, right team.”
A worldly, studious guard with a future in international business who loves traveling to foreign countries, Pack has whittled his choices to TCU, Maryland and Texas A&M. He has visited the first two, including College Park this past weekend, but has not checked out the Aggies. He still has plenty of questions left for Coach Billy Kennedy, and if things don’t pan out there, Pack is content choosing between the Horned Frogs and Terrapins. He turned down plenty of other schools, whether because of an improper academic fit or because they were located too far from home. (Originally from Detroit, his family now lives in Atlanta.)
The haste with which Pack committed to FIU has shaped his perspective for this more critical choice. He was 17, wowed by the lights of South Beach. Now he is 22, a college graduate capable of looking at a situation and understanding its merits.
“It’s definitely a major difference in what I’m looking at and how I can gauge what I want,” he said.
What he wants is to earn his MBA and contribute immediately on the floor. On his visit to College Park, Pack said, Coach Mark Turgeon told him that the Terps would play Pack at shooting guard, though that is a fluid situation in Maryland’s secondary break offense.
“He said it would be a combination, because everything’s interchangeable,” Pack said. “The way I look at it, I’m still at the two if I bring the ball up and hand it off to somebody. If I’m at the scoring guard position, I’m still at the two. To me, Russell Westbrook is still a two guard to me. He’s always in a scoring position and looking to score. That’s his main job, or at least still his main job along with passing.”
With three of their top four scorers returning, despite the mass exodus of four transfers this offseason, the Terps have been searching for a veteran guard to stabilize the backcourt and help spell incoming freshman Melo Trimble. As other options have moved into the SEC – Hawaii’s Keith Shamburger committed to Missouri and IUPUI’s Ian Chiles went to Tennessee – Pack has increasingly become Maryland’s best option. Last season, he averaged 17.0 points per game for North Carolina A&T, shooting 44.1 percent from the field with a roughly one-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio.
With three seasons under his belt at two schools, Pack would also bring an experience necessary to a Maryland team that, under Turgeon, has never truly been old. The fourth-year coach has only had three scholarship seniors over the past two seasons
during his tenure, none of whom averaged more than 16 minutes per game. Pack, for instance, eschewed graduation celebrations to hit the gym for an extra workout.
“One of those rare kids that comes through and loves basketball,” said Pack’s high school coach, Jose Andrades. “When things are going bad, he rallies the troops. Let’s get this done. Defensively, offensively. He did that at a young age.”
During the 2012-13 season, while Pack sat out per NCAA rules, North Carolina A&T reached the NCAA tournament with seven seniors. Last season, with a roster Pack said had “way more talent,” the Aggies finished 9-23 overall and 5-11 in the MEAC.
“Man-for-man better,” Pack said, “but man-for-man doesn’t matter if you don’t have senior leadership and intangibles, because we had a way worse season with a way more talented team. I think senior leadership is underrated.”
It’s something Pack could certainly provide alongside rising seniors Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz. That is, if he chooses Maryland. Pack enjoyed his official visit, he said, and plans to decide within the next week.
“I definitely feel it coming close,” he said. “I just want to weigh out everything and talk to my mom, talk to my dad, get some advice and make a sound, confident decision.”