“He’s never done that, because we’ve always been in AAU or we’ve been traveling. And he’s never really had a chance,” Bob Stone said. “He’s really excited about going to his prom.”
There was a certain relief for the Stone family when they woke up on Saturday morning, just hours after their son made the decision to commit to Maryland’s basketball program – and now he can look forward to the rest of his senior year of high school without the weight of his recruitment bearing down.
Shortly after Bob Stone had dropped him off at a friend’s house early Friday evening, he received a text from his son, who wanted to announce on Twitter. Diamond Stone didn’t want to make a formal announcement on ESPN or at next week’s McDonald’s All-American game or even at his school, all of which were options for the family. His father simply told him: “Do your thing, man.”
It was a low-key approach that made a large-scale impact (by Saturday evening, his announcement had been retweeted 5,200 times). The announcement was both stunning in its timing and in its potential impact for a Maryland program that enjoyed a revival of sorts this year. The Terps achieved so many breakthroughs – their first NCAA tournament appearance in five years, winning a regular-season record 26 games, cleaning up with numerous individual Big Ten awards – and now it can add the commitment of Stone to the list.
Barring a major surprise, Maryland will return two of its top players in Melo Trimble and Jake Layman – both will evaluate the NBA Draft process before making a final decision to return or leave – and alongside freshmen forwards Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley on the perimeter, they’ll add a talented ball-handler in junior college recruit Jaylen Brantley.
The front court will return quality depth, too, as Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter becomes eligible after sitting out this season and is expected to have a major impact at center. Sophomore Damonte Dodd and freshman Michal Cekovsky bring added depth to the rotation after adding seasoning this past season.
But Stone could add a completely different dimension, a 6-foot-10 250-pounder with athleticism to go with a powerful post game, sporting an ability to shoot from mid-range or finish with either hand around the basket. He averaged 24.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game at Dominican this season.
He is the rare top-end center prospect in guard-centric recruiting market, and on Saturday, his father said that from an early age he always has possessed skills that scouts have “marveled” at. He’s ranked as the seventh-overall player by ESPN, and is a consensus top-ten player by the major recruiting services.
The national attention began to ramp up in eighth grade, Stone said, when his son had a standout showing at a basketball camp put on by former Maryland star John Lucas in Houston. The process of vetting coaches began shortly after, and Stone said that he wanted to shield his son from the process and allow him to remain a normal teenager.
“I don’t think anyone, if they are honest, raise their kid to be the number one player in the country and all this other stuff. Because that stuff is so subjective,” he said. “We tried to shield him away from it and just grow up and be a kid. We wanted him to grow up and enjoy his teen years. We just pretty much just went through the process of vetting all these coaches and trying to come up with something that we were willing to trust with our son.”
They found trust in Maryland’s staff, but it remained hectic over the past several months. Stone said his son wrestled with deciding between a host of schools, including Maryland, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State and Connecticut, although his decision to spurn the home-state Badgers for a rival Big Ten school will likely continue to be a story line. Stone said his son just wanted to be able to focus on the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago this week and not worry about his recruitment. Diamond Stone traveled to Chicago on Saturday.
He’ll also get to wrap up the rest of his senior year without the decision looming over his head, which will include prom. Bob Stone said he doubts his son will wear a tuxedo for the event.
“I don’t know what he’ll do,” he said. “I doubt he goes formal.”