By the time the two-day wait was over, Morsell sat down in front of a packed room at the school Wednesday and read a prepared statement from his phone, looking antsy to tear open a wrapped present on the table. He smiled like a child on Christmas morning as he ripped the purple paper off a cardboard portrait of himself wearing a black Maryland uniform. Morsell later put on a Terrapins hat for good measure, becoming the first Baltimore prospect to pledge to Mark Turgeon since he took over as head coach at Maryland in 2011.
“Baltimore produces a lot of good players. So it’s just crazy,” said Morsell, who also becomes the second player to join Maryland’s 2017 class, alongside IMG Academy big man Bruno Fernando. “It’s a good feeling, but my work isn’t done yet.”
Morsell and his family had handled a tight-lipped recruitment, which took a turn when the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Morsell burst onto the national recruiting scene this summer. Wednesday was the next step in a remarkable rise for Morsell, who just last spring held only a handful of low-major offers.
Dayton had been considered a sentimental early favorite because it was one of the first schools to offer. Notre Dame had been considered a front-runner throughout the fall by national recruiting services, offering Morsell the prospect of early playing time and the allure of developing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
But Maryland had also made Morsell a priority over the summer, with assistant Bino Ranson spearheading the push to add a hard-nosed player who could immediately contribute and, maybe more importantly, help expand the program’s presence in the Charm City. Morsell had taken official visits to all three schools — he attended Maryland Madness last month as he went back and forth on his decision — but Maryland had made a late push with an in-home visit last week.
Maryland’s staff had gotten creative — the staff arrived for another in-home visit in the team bus last month — and Morsell had been intrigued by staying home. Turgeon had done the same. He grew up in Wichita and chose to play at Kansas during the 1980s. He included that history as part of his pitch to Morsell.
“He also went to Kansas, his hometown school, so he helped me out in talking to me about how that would be. So I got a pretty good understanding of it,” Morsell said.
Turgeon had coached other Baltimore prospects during his first five seasons at Maryland. Nick Faust, who had originally committed to Gary Williams in 2010, is from the city, as is Jon Graham, who played two seasons under Turgeon after transferring from Penn State in 2013. Turgeon has prioritized his program’s visibility in the state’s largest city — Maryland defeated Princeton last season in its first appearance in Baltimore since 1999, and it will host another game there against Charlotte in December — and Morsell represents continued progress. Also in the crowd at Morsell’s event Wednesday was one of his teammates, junior power forward Jalen Smith, who is considered one of the country’s top players in the class of 2018 and whom Maryland is prioritizing. Ranson is taking the lead on Smith’s recruitment as well. Morsell burst into laughter after a reporter asked Wednesday whether he would help recruit Smith to College Park.
“You already know,” Morsell said with a wide smile.
Maryland is still eyeing other prospects to fill out its 2017 recruiting class, including the No. 1 point guard in the country, Trevon Duval, who isn’t expected to announce his decision until this spring. But while Maryland is currently stocked to the brim in guard depth, it very well could lose junior point guard Melo Trimble to the professional ranks after this season. Morsell is expected to add toughness, elite perimeter-defending skills and rare versatility, giving Turgeon a combo guard who can play multiple positions in the future.
“To be honest, I always thought he was this caliber of a player,” Clatchey said. “I think it was playing really well in front of the right people, at the right time.”