When Cornish told his mom earlier than expected that he had made a decision, she was shocked. He wanted to play for Maryland, the school only a short drive away from his home. With Cornish’s commitment, the Terrapins added to their recent success in pulling standout players from Baltimore. Senior guard Darryl Morsell, soon-to-be NBA draft pick Jalen Smith and Julian Reese, a fellow member of the 2021 class, all grew up in the nearby city and have various ties to each other through their pre-Maryland careers.
“We’re a family [in which] we don’t take things for granted. This is just amazing,” said Cornish’s mom, Patrice, whose son Josh plays at Bowie State. “This is a mother’s dream.”
Cornish, Reese and James Graham III signed Wednesday to play at Maryland. The three players are all four-star prospects, and together they form the 18th-best recruiting class in the country and the third-best class in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports. Coach Mark Turgeon and his staff managed to assemble this class during the coronavirus pandemic, when recruiting efforts became entirely virtual and players could not visit campus.
Reese, a 6-foot-9 power forward and the No. 82 player in the country, committed in May, and Cornish and Graham followed. Graham said the trio talk almost every day, and the Milwaukee native joked about how sometimes his classmates’ Baltimore-influenced lingo throws him off.
“I think we have one of the best classes coming in 2021 for next year, just because I feel like we’re all on one mission,” said Cornish, the No. 102 player in the country. “We all feel like we can make a difference at our school. No one is really coming in thinking, ‘I’m coming here just because I feel like it’s a good school.’ No, we’re actually trying to make a difference at this school and make a big impact as soon as we get there.”
Reese will join his sister, Angel, ESPN’s No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2020, in College Park. Angel begins her college career this season while her brother finishes high school at St. Frances Academy. When Reese committed, he said Maryland coaches envision him taking on a role similar to that of Smith, the 6-foot-10 forward who declared for the NBA draft this offseason.
Maryland was “one of the first schools to be interested in me, so that’s one of the leading factors in why I picked the school,” Reese said in May. “They really believed in me.”
The Terps staff also discovered Graham earlier than other major programs, extending a scholarship offer when he was unranked and had received offers from only Rutgers, DePaul and Wisconsin Milwaukee. Graham, a 6-foot-8 small forward, became a fast-rising prospect over the summer. After Maryland’s offer, dozens of programs flocked to him with interest. Graham surged up various recruiting rankings. He is now No. 52 in 247Sports’ rankings and No. 100 in the site’s composite rankings.
“Maryland offered me when I was nothing,” Graham said. “Even with Turge, he was the head coach calling an unranked kid, a high-major school. That really showed me he really, truly believed in me. I really think he’s going to put my talents to use better than any other coach in the country.”
Cornish, who attended Dulaney High in Cockeysville, Md., before transferring to Legacy Early College High, which plays a national schedule, committed in June. Cornish’s older brother played with both Morsell and Smith at times during their youth careers. Even when Josh Cornish attended Calvert Hall in Towson, Md., and Morsell and Smith played for Baltimore’s Mount Saint Joseph, the families would see one another at high school games.
Before Cornish’s commitment, his mom said she talked with Jalen Smith’s mom about the recruiting process. Once Cornish announced his decision, Smith’s dad sent him a long message with advice. A couple of weeks later, Cornish’s mom ran into Morsell’s mom, who offered enthusiastic congratulations.
“Whether they’re local or whether they’re from a long distance, we treat them all the same,” Turgeon said. “… I like recruiting local. I like when guys stay home. And I like when guys get better. So really, that’s what we do. We really work hard in making guys better. And it’s fun. It’s what makes coaching fun.”
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