By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO
The University of Maryland’s basketball program was supposed to have landed a gem when highly recruited prospect Diamond Stone chose to play for the Terps. But after his underachieving cameo season in College Park the University is now part of a nationwide FBI investigation which has led to federal subpoenas and tarnished its reputation for no reason.
Had Stone been a transcendent player who brought glory – or at least a trip to the NCAA Tournament – to the program maybe this drama would’ve been worth it. However, Stone’s legacy may be best remembered for redefining what the term “one and done” means. After one season the player who doesn’t live up to his hype heads to the NBA and leaves the program he derails facing some form of NCAA probation.
The FBI is investigating how former University of Maryland star and current Utah Jazz center Diamond Stone was recruited to the school. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
This FBI investigation has exposed the way flesh peddlers broker deals for college basketball players during the recruiting process using money from sneaker companies funneled through elite programs. It has ruined the careers of legendary coaches like Rick Pitino at powerhouse programs like the University of Louisville, which was stripped of its Final Four appearance in 2013.
Ironically, the investigation has put the last two coaches that Maryland coveted under federal investigative scrutiny. Mark Turgeon, who was ultimately Gary Williams successor, was the second choice of then athletic director Kevin Anderson after current Arizona head coach Sean Miller turned down the offer. Miller, according to sources, felt the academic requirements were too strict at Maryland for him to bring the type of athletes into the program that would return the Terps to their prominence among the nation’s elite.
Turgeon and Miller represent the new age of college coaches that are on the cutting edge of the recruiting process. Instead of scouting high schools and developing relationships with those coaches they court summer league or AAU team managers which opens Pandora’s Box. They speak emoji and develop relationships through social media and instant messaging. Each recognizes that the best way to connect with talented prospects is through Twitter or Instagram and by getting one of their assistants to make nice with the player’s “advisors” who help influence the decision on which school to sign with.
Bino Ranson, the recruiter on Turgeon’s staff, took the lead in landing Stone. Though names were redacted, it is widely assumed that Ranson’s personnel file was requested by the federal investigators who subpoenaed Maryland for information involving the Stone case and another recruit in March. Silvio De Souza was chased hard by Ranson and the Terps but ultimately signed with Kansas, Turgeon’s alma mater, and went to the Final Four.
Neither Williams nor any of his assistants played that game with the warlords of college basketball, which is probably why the Hall of Fame coach is enjoying his time on the sidelines as a celebrity at various charity events while playing golf.
Louisville, Kansas, and Arizona are programs that have been implicated in the same FBI investigation that has shamed Maryland. At least they have made deep tournament runs while the Terps haven’t played beyond the Sweet 16 under Turgeon. If the program is going to be implicated in a federal investigation they should at least be a contender for national championship.
That’s not a good look for a program that was once an easy sell to recruits around the country. Maryland has all the amenities to contend for national championships without all the drama that is associated with an FBI investigation. Turgeon has proven he can recruit with the best but the evidence in this case points to a coach who can’t play the game with the big boys yet.