COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Head coach Mark Turgeon and the University of Maryland men’s basketball program welcomed forward Jalen Smith, guard Eric Ayala and guard Aaron Wiggins to the Terps for the class of 2018 Wednesday. This marks Turgeon’s sixth consecutive nationally ranked recruiting class, with the 2018 class currently ranked No. 6 overall by 247Sports.com.
“I’m thrilled and excited to welcome Jalen, Aaron and Eric to our Maryland basketball family,” said Turgeon. “They are three tremendous young men who are going to make outstanding contributions to both our program and University. I’m eager to begin working with them. I’m proud of the efforts of our coaching staff as they’ve identified three special student-athletes with high character who will fit well within our program’s culture.”
Smith is a 6-10 forward tabbed as a five-star recruit via 247, ESPN and Rivals and was high school teammates of current Terp freshman Darryl Morsell. Smith was ranked No 15 in ESPN’s top-100.
“This is a great school and basketball program,” said Smith. “For me it had a hometown theme and Maryland had my major information technology. I really like the coaches, they always contacted me to check up on me. They were more concerned with me as a person. The coaches are competitive and placed me in a great position to be successful. It’s a great group of players, they have great camaraderie. I’ve been working a lot over the summer on my game, I’ve spent a lot of hours in the gym. I want to me a big man who can do a variety of things that can impact the game.”
Nicknamed “Stix”, the Baltimore, Md. native was named the Baltimore Sun All-Metro Co-Player of the Year, the Baltimore Catholic League Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year and Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year last season as a junior.
Wiggins is a 6-6 guard from Greensboro, N.C. and consensus four-star recruit named to the All-Under Armour Association Team in 2017.
“The atmosphere at Maryland just felt comfortable for me and fit me best,” said Wiggins. “The program is competitive year in and year out under Coach Turgeon, and I know he’ll make me successful as both a basketball player and a man. Coach Turgeon has guided great players into the pros, and he will help me develop and elevate my game. College Park is an amazing location and Maryland will provide me great opportunities academically and for my future. There’s a great group of players here with chemistry on and off the court, and I’m excited to become a part of it.”
Wiggins was tabbed as the No. 3 prospect out of the state of North Carolina and the No. 9 small forward in the country via ESPN.
Ayala is a 6-5 guard rated as a consensus four-star prospect and as one of the top combo guards in the country. He is rated as the No. 76 recruit in the nation via 247Sports.com.
“This is an exciting step for me,” said Ayala. “I’m looking forward to being a part of this outstanding program. It’s a well-established program, the campus is great and there is a lot of pride in this university. I feel like I will be provided with all the tools to be successful both on and off the court. I’m really excited to play for Coach Turgeon. He coaches with a lot of passion. He always plays his best players. Coach is a great man and throughout this process he has always called in to check on me and it’s never been about basketball. It’s always about my well-being, my family and my academics. The University of Maryland is a big and impressive campus, and to have the opportunity to meet work and learn from many different people across campus and the community is something I’m very excited about.”
Ayala was a standout player at Putnam Science Academy in Putnam, Conn. and is spending a prep year at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Maryland’s 2018 class is ranked as the No. 6 class in the nation via 247Sports.com.
“I love this class,” said ESPN National Director of College Basketball Recruiting Paul Biancardi. “With all these kids the arrow is pointing up. Mark Turgeon and is staff do a great job identifying and evaluating talent. Mark has had six top-100 players (ESPN) and two other players right on the cusp of that list over the past three recruiting classes. They bring in talent, however, it’s guys who like to work. They have the work ethic Turgeon wants combined with the talent and athleticism to help elevate the program. They all have a learning curve, but Maryland identifies guys that will work and play hard for Turgeon.”
“Maryland signed three very versatile players,” said Rivals National Recruiting Analyst Corey Evans. “It gives coach Turgeon a lot of different options. Each of these three guys are day one producers.”
Jalen Smith (6-10, 195)
(Baltimore, Md./Mount Saint Joseph)
BEFORE MARYLAND: Five star recruit via 247, ESPN and Rivals…Four star recruit via Scout…Baltimore Sun All-Metro Co-Player of the Year…Played with Terps’ Darryl Morsell at Mount Saint Joseph’s…2016-17 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year…Averaged 17 PPG, 9 rebounds/game, 3 blocks/game at Mount Saint Joseph’s…Baltimore Catholic League player of the year and defensive player of the year…Honor Roll student…Averaged 64% shooting pct…Finalist for 2016 USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Championship Team… USA Today’s Maryland Player of the Year and First Team headliner…Rated #15 in the ESPN 100…Rated #4 PF in the country via ESPN…Rated #4 recruit in the east via ESPN…Rated #2 recruit in the state of Maryland via ESPN…Rated #22 recruit in the country via 247…Rated #6 PF in the country via 247…Rated #2 recruit in the state of Maryland via 247…Rated #30 in the country via Scout…Rated #7 PF in the country via Scout…Rated #1 recruit in the state of Maryland via Scout… First team at Nike Peach Jam Invitational…Played AAU with Team Takeover…Won the Jordan Brand “8” Tournament with Team Takeover…nickname is “Stix”.
Head Coach Mark Turgeon: “I’ve watched Jalen grow up and I’ve enjoyed watching his progress as a player and person. He is an outstanding young man and a great student. He has a wonderful family. Jalen played for a great high school coach in Pat Clatchey who will have him very well prepared. He has a strong understanding of the game and how to play effectively. He’s a very skilled big man, good shot blocker, has an impressive 7-2 wingspan and has the ability to play inside and out. We’re really excited to have Jalen join our family.”
Paul Biancardi, ESPN National Director of Recruiting: “Nobody had a summer like Stix. He went from flashes of brilliance, to a highly productive player. He’s just more than a rebounder, shot blocker and finisher. He has now become a post player with perimeter skills. This summer he became a basketball player. Jalen had one of the best summers in terms of development and improvement in the class of 2018.”
Pat Clatchey, Head Coach at Mount Saint Joseph: “Jalen is the total and complete package. He is an outstanding young man and a very highly motivated student. He values education, and has wonderful parents. The sky is the limit for Jalen, he’s a skilled 6-10 big man who can impact the game in a variety of ways. Jalen grew up watching Maryland; it’s an institution with great academics and has a great basketball tradition. Its close proximity for his parents to watch him play. It’s great that he will be continue to play with Darryl Morsell, they both had great success individually and collectively while at Mount Saint Joseph. Maryland is the best place for him to continue his education and basketball career.”
Keith Stevens, AAU Coach Team Takeover: “As a good as a basketball player Jalen is, he’s even more of a special young man. He has a strong work ethic and a serious mentality that will help him be successful not only in basketball but in life. Jalen can really shoot the basketball and he’s a strong shot blocker. He will fit in very well at Maryland, he’ll have a strong understanding of what is expected of him. His workman-like mentality will serve him well. Coach Turgeon allows his players to showcase their skills, which will make this is a special and unique opportunity for Jalen.”
Brian Snow, 247Sports National Recruiting Analyst: “Jalen is one of the top interior players in the country. He took the next step over the summer and made some great strides. He showed maximum effort and his desire to dominate helped him become a player that could make an immediate impact for the University of Maryland.”
Orletha Smith, Jalen Smith’s Mom: “There’s nothing like representing your hometown and home state. Coach Turgeon developed a plan and what he provided will help Jalen thrive both academically and athletically. We have great trust in him. He was very genuine and he has a great understanding of what a special and unique talent Jalen is. The University of Maryland has a reputation of having an outstanding academic profile. Jalen is an honors student who was a part of the honors program. He’s very academically inclined. Maryland is an outstanding school. He will be able to get the best of both worlds in his backyard.”
Aaron Wiggins (6-6, 180)
(Greensboro, N.C./Wesleyan Christian Academy)
BEFORE MARYLAND: Consensus four-star recruit…2017 Steph Curry Camp MVP…Rated the #9 small forward in the country via ESPN…Rated the #15 recruit in the southeast via ESPN…Rated the #3 recruit in the state of NC via ESPN…Rated #39 in the 2018 ESPN 100…Rated the #41 recruit in the country via 247…Rated the #10 small forward in the country via 247…Rated the #4 recruit in the state of NC via 247…Rated the #50 recruit in the country via scout…Rated the #12 small forward in the country via scout…Rated the #2 recruit in the state of NC via scout…Played AAU with Team Charlotte…Averaged 15.1 PPG at Wesleyan Christian…Had a high of 34 points at Wesleyan…Averaged 15 PPG, 7 rebounds/game for Team Charlotte AAU…Named to All-Under Armour Association team…Won AAU Super Showcase title with Team Charlotte…National Honors Society Member…National Beta Club Member…honor roll student.
Head Coach Mark Turgeon: “Aaron is a very humble and outstanding young man who comes from a great family. He’s a complete basketball player. He’s a great defender, pure passer and is an elite level scorer. He has tremendous upside and has a great feel for the game. Aaron is an outstanding fit for our system as both a player and person.”
Evan Daniels, Director of Basketball Recruiting Scout.com: “I’m a big fan of Aaron Wiggins’ game. He is long, athletic, a good shooter and has great potential as a defender. He has tremendous upside. He has impressive physical gifts and can really turn into a big time player for the University of Maryland.”
Keith Gatlin, Head Coach Wesleyan Christian Academy: “Aaron is a great person who comes from a wonderful family. He’s been a joy to coach and I’m ecstatic that he’s decided to go to college at the University of Maryland. Coach [Mark] Turgeon and coach [Dustin] Clark did a great job throughout the entire process. They made Aaron an immediate priority. They’re getting a player in Aaron who has a 6-11 wingspan and is getting much stronger. He can shoot, he can handle the ball and he can defend.”
Tim Wiggins, Aaron Wiggins’ Dad: “After a couple visits Aaron immediately knew what he wanted to do, and that was to be a part of the University of Maryland and their basketball program. He immediately committed to the process. Coach Turgeon came through in the process and saw him grow as a basketball player. Aaron got to know him very well, and got a strong feel for what type of coach he was. Aaron wanted to play for coach Turgeon, he also wants to pursue a career in sports medicine. Maryland was the perfect fit.”
“I like coach Turgeon’s temperament, I like his approach to the game and his players. I’ve been familiar with coach Turgeon’s background in the game as both a player and a coach. He demands the best out of his players and he always gets maximum effort. I know he cares about his players, he helps them grow, he’s a good teacher. Coach Turgeon, coach Clark and the rest of the staff are a perfect fit for Aaron.”
Jeff McInnis, Head Coach AAU Team Charlotte: “Keith Gatlin called me about Aaron and said, ‘I have a great kid that I think would be a great fit for your team.’ I saw the tools that he had right away, and was impressed. He joined our team, didn’t start right away but worked really hard. Then last year he really took over our team and became not only the best player on our team but one of the best players in the circuit. Aaron became much more confident and he has able to grow as a leader. He became more vocal and showed great maturity. This is a great coach for Aaron. The way he plays and the way Turgeon coaches will work out well. I know Aaron will be ready to be a strong contributor.”
Corey Evans, Rivals National Recruiting Analyst: “Aaron is the definition of versatility. He plays multiple positions and is a perfect fit for Maryland. He has improved exponentially. He took the biggest jump from the summer to the fall and has really become a really confident player. I loved Mark Turgeon’s class last year, but this year’s class is even more talented.”
Paul Biancardi, ESPN National Director of Recruiting: “Aaron flew under the radar, but in watching him in camps and tournaments over the summer he showed a great level of consistency. He’s become very productive and consistent, which will complement his athleticism and skill. I love the growth in Aaron’s game.”
Eric Ayala (6-5, 180)
(Wilmington, Del./IMG Academy)
BEFORE MARYLAND: Consensus four star recruit… played AAU with Team WeR1…Rated #76 recruit in the country via 247…Rated #7 combo guard nationally via 247…Rated #10 recruit in the state of Florida via 247…Rated #81 nationally via Scout…Rated #7 combo guard in the country via Scout…Rated #2 recruit in the state of Florida via Scout…Rated #91 in the ESPN 100…Rated #22 PG nationally via ESPN…Rated #21 recruit in the East via ESPN…Rated #1 in the state of Florida via ESPN…Rated #68 nationally via Rivals…Averaged 14.2 PPG and 6.3 rebounds/game with WeR1…Led WeR1 to consecutive titles.
Head Coach Mark Turgeon: “Eric is a very mature outstanding young man. He can play multiple positions and has a great feel for the game. He fits really nicely into our culture. Eric is a winner, he’s a great teammate and his teams have won at a consistent high level. It’s a great match.”
Tom Espinosa, Head Coach and Dean of Athletics Putnam Science Academy: “Eric is a winner. We’re fortunate to have him for his junior and senior seasons. We won a lot of games in those two seasons we went 71-9. He helped us to two final four appearances, and he played at the highest level. He’s a big guard, he’s very quick and he can get to the rim. He’s got great strength and can score. He’s a smart young man and a great kid. He’s going to be physically ready to play on the college level and the University of Maryland is a great place for him.”
Evan Daniels, Director of Basketball Recruiting Scout.com: “This is a great addition for Maryland. Eric is a versatile guard who can really score. He can make shots at all three levels, he’s very aggressive and can attack the rim. He competes at both ends of the floor. He fills a role for Maryland and can play either position point or off guard very effectively.
Brandy Truitt, Eric Ayala’s Mother: “We are so excited that Eric is attending the University of Maryland. It was the first college we visited and we immediately fell in love with the University and basketball program. The coaches and team made it feel like a really nice family atmosphere. I was team Maryland from the beginning. The coaching staff has strong values, stress education and really will help Eric with his transition into college. I know Eric will become better both on and off the court and grow as both a player and a person at Maryland. Eric is a winner and a leader, and he will thrive in this environment. The coaches will be great role models for him, there will be a strong presence for him both on and off the court and I know they’ll take very good care of Eric and always have his best interest in mind.”
Terrell Myers, Program Director of WeR1 AAU Team: “Eric is a winner on and off the court. He understands the importance of being a leader. He has a strong understanding of the game, he’s like a coach on the court. He can play multiple positions; he’s a physical guard that should be able to handle the rigors of college basketball in the Big Ten. This is an outstanding opportunity for Eric to play at Maryland and be a part of a nationally ranked program.”
Paul Biancardi, ESPN National Director of Recruiting: “Eric is a steady, solid combo guard who plays to win. He brings a steadiness and size to Maryland’s backcourt. He can set up players but can also score as well. Eric has great composure which will serve him well in the Big Ten.”