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Maryland basketball signs a trio of four-star players, including two with Baltimore roots

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Ike Cornish didn't expect to choose a college near his hometown. The Baltimore native had already relocated to Greenville, S.C., to play his final two seasons of high school basketball, and he has thrived while living on his own. As he weighed his options, Cornish didn't rule out any location.

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The four-star shooting guard instead wanted to find the best place for him to continue his career, and he impressed his mom by how he thoughtfully laid out the positives and negatives for various programs.

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 first-round 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, we don't take things for granted. This is just amazing," said Cornish's mom, Patrice, whose 20-year-old son 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 four-star prospects, and together they form the 18th best recruiting class in the country and the third best in the Big Ten, according to 247 Sports. Coach Mark Turgeon and his staff managed to assemble this class during the novel 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, then Cornish and Graham followed. Graham said the trio talks almost every day, and he 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. When Reese committed, he said that the Maryland coaches envision him taking on a role similar to 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, a Milwaukee native, earlier than other major programs, extending a scholarship when he was unranked and had only received offers from Rutgers, DePaul and Wisconsin Milwaukee. Graham, an 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's now No. 52 in 247 Sports' 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." 

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 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." 

 

Published : November 11, 2020

By : The Washington Post · Emily Giambalvo · SPORTS, BASKETBALL