Former Maryland signee Sterling Gibbs, who was released from his national letter of intent last week, said Monday he will attend Texas next fall.
Good for Gibbs, of course. He signed with Gary Williams, saw Williams retire earlier this month and decided it would be wise to go with a whirlwind courtship rather than assume new Maryland coach Mark Turgeon would be as fond of his skills. It’s the way the game’s played.
The intriguing element in all of this isn’t the fairly mundane element of a player looking out for his best interest and a new coach allowing him to do so. It’s the sense from some that this is, well, all that catastrophic in the long term.
And frankly, that seems sort of silly.
At the very least, it’s worth noting defections (not just Gibbs’, but also the possibility of losing Martin Breunig and Nick Faust) are part of life of a coaching change. It happens just about everywhere, it has nothing to do with the individual recruits and and there’s little reason to think Maryland is immune from it.
Of the 23 players who had signed with a current ACC school when a coaching change took place between 2002 and 2010, eight never played a minute for the school they signed with. Another three were gone within two seasons.
But dig a little deeper, and it becomes fairly obvious that even most of the players who stick around for a new coach don’t develop into stars. Some of that is a function of guys signing with coaches who are so embattled they face an extremely difficult recruiting sales job. And some of it is connected to not being an especially good fit for a new coach.
That will unfold in College Park as well. Gibbs is already gone, and his two fellow signees are no guarantees to stick around. It will create headaches initially, but next season was looking like a scramble at best once Jordan Williams bolted town.
The upside is this: For every guy who skedaddles just after a coaching change, it’s one more scholarship for a new coach to allocate to a player he believes will fit his style. If the coach is capable, then things will work out in a few years. And if he isn’t, there will be far greater problems to deal with than a signee asking out of his letter of intent and finding another school.
For those curious, here’s the full rundown of signees at ACC schools when a coaching change occurred (with Miami and Virginia Tech barely pre-ACC changes also included). Players who signed after the new coach was hired are not included.
FLORIDA STATE, 2002
G Todd Galloway: The lone player signed by Steve Robinson before his final season in Tallahassee, Galloway played in 123 games over four seasons and averaged 5.9 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists. He was a solid rotation player throughout his career, averaging 22.9 minutes. The undersized guard was never a star, but was nonetheless useful for Leonard Hamilton.
G Vernon Hamilton: A three-year starter, the Richmond product was extremely useful for Oliver Purnell. Hamilton averaged 9.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists for the Tigers and played in all but one of Clemson’s 128 games during his career.
G Jimmy Hudson: The Florida native averaged 4.7 minutes in his two seasons at Clemson. He had fewer points (31) than games played (44) before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he pieced together two solid seasons for the Wildcats.
F Lamar Rice: The junior college transfer lasted a season at Clemson, averaging 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds. He played his final season at Georgetown (Ky.) College.
NORTH CAROLINA, 2003
F Reyshawn Terry: The 6-foot-8 North Carolina native wasn’t a significant regular his first two seasons, but produced impressive averages (14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds) as a junior under Roy Williams. He posted 9.7 points a night as a senior – the lowest scoring average of five starters on an Elite Eight team. The arrival of a monster recruiting class including Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Brandan Wright played something of a role in the dip.
VIRGINIA TECH, 2003
None. At least as far as can be figured, anyway. Seth Greenberg signed three players in the weeks after taking the Virginia Tech job – Zabian Dowdell, Jamon Gordon and Coleman Collins. That’s a heck of a class considering what the Hokies needed, but none of those guys preceded Greenberg.
C C.J. Giles. Here’s the evidence this isn’t an imaginary concoction. Perry Clark’s last signee was released from his letter of intent shortly after Frank Haith took over. Giles lasted two years at Kansas before getting booted, then spent a season and a half playing for Oregon State before he was dismissed from the Beavers’ program as well. The two freshmen on Haith’s first team – Raymond Hicks and Antoine Mayhand – both signed after Haith’s hire.
G Mamadi Diane. The DeMatha product played in all four seasons Dave Leitao prowled the sideline at Virginia. It wasn’t an entirely even stint – after starting throughout his sophomore year, he got the nod 22 times as a junior and in 12 games as a senior. He’ll always have Senior Night – a 23-point outburst against Maryland at JPJ – and he did crack the 1,000-point plateau (1,022). But based on his sentiments late in his senior season, it didn’t turn out to be an ideal experience.
F Lars Mikalauskas. The Lithuanian, who at times seemed to take up permanent residence in Leitao’s doghouse, played in 80 games in Charlottesville, starting 25. He averaged 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds before leaving the Cavaliers after his third season.
C Sam Warren. The Colorado native left the program before playing in one game.
N.C. STATE, 2006
G Larry Davis. Davis was released from his scholarship and proceeded to spend two years at Seton Hall before transferring to Loyola Marymount. He averaged 7.4 points for his career between the two schools.
F Dennis Horner. The one member of Herb Sendek’s last class who remained to play for Sidney Lowe, Horner wound up achieving a decent level of utility. He averaged 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds as a senior in 2009-10, making 35 of his 46 career starts in his last season.
F Dan Werner. Got his release and eventually landed at Florida, where his career-high in scoring was 9.1 points as a sophomore.
G Jontel Evans. A product of Hampton’s Bethel High School, Evans fulfills two major criteria for a Tony Bennett guard: He plays a bunch of defense and doesn’t turn it over much. He’s averaged about a steal a game in his first two years and owns almost precisely a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He might never be a dangerous shooter – he’s taken 16 3-pointers in 32 career ACC games – but has the look of being a useful four-year player.
G/F Tristan Spurlock. The D.C.-area product lasted a season under Bennett, averaging 2.4 points and 4.6 minutes in just 13 games for the Cavaliers. He transferred to Central Florida, where he sat out last year.
BOSTON COLLEGE, 2010
G Brady Heslip. A bit of an odd case since he joined the Eagles after his fall semester at a prep school, but included largely because he was part of Al Skinner’s final recruiting class. He got a release and landed at Baylor, where he’ll be eligible to play next season.
F Kevin Noreen. He never made it to Chestnut Hill, instead getting a release and attending West Virginia. He averaged 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in seven games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
F Papa Samba Ndao. Make it a clean sweep. All three Eagles’ signees departed, with Samba Ndao signing last fall with Saint Joseph’s.
F Marcus Thornton. Out went Oliver Purnell, in came Brad Brownell. Eventually, out went Thornton’s release. Thornton landed at Georgia, where he averaged 1.5 points and 1.9 rebounds in 9.4 minutes as a freshman.
WAKE FOREST, 2010
G Tony Chennault. The Demon Deacons salvaged all five of Dino Gaudio’s signees after Jeff Bzdelik took over. The early returns are mixed. Chennault averaged 4.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists during an injury-plagued freshman season.
C Carson Desrosiers. Last winter was a learning experience for many of Wake’s young players, including Desrosiers. He managed 4.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while starting 22 games in his first season.
F Travis McKie. He might wind up being the best player on this list. McKie averaged 13.0 points and 7.7 rebounds and was easily the brightest spot of Bzdelik’s first season. Expect him to contend for at least third-team all-ACC (if not slightly better) as a sophomore.
F Melvin Tabb. The North Carolina product played only 14 games, scoring 22 points during a season that featured a suspension and then a dismissal from the team.
G J.T. Terrell. One thing can be said for certain about Terrell’s freshman season: He’s not bashful. Terrell hoisted 140 shots beyond the 3-point line in 32 games and did so while averaging 24 minutes. Put another way, he needed less than six minutes on average to try a 3-pointer. There’s some promise, but also plenty of room for for improvement for a guy who averaged 11.1 points.
So of the 15 guys who stuck around, this is probably a fair starting five based on effectiveness during their ACC careers:
G Vernon Hamilton
G Jontel Evans
G Mamadi Diane
F Reyshawn Terry
F Travis McKie
If you wanted to go big, Dennis Horner could be a third forward and Jontel Evans could head to the bench. There’s a case to be made for that as well.
The greater point is this: None of the last 11 ACC schools to make coaching changes wound up holding onto more than one of their signees from the previous coach for four seasons (though Wake Forest will have a chance to beat those odds).
With Gibbs gone before he arrived, there’s little reason to think Maryland is any different – or that, ultimately, any departures will matter all that much beyond the next season (or maybe two). Coaching changes mean roster changes, especially for those who haven’t even received their first uniform number at the college level.