Guard Adrian Bowie had just finished with Thursday’s Capital Classic, his first game at Comcast Center, and already was looking foward to many more nights there.
The high school all-star game was, in fact, a convergence of all four incoming freshmen who have signed with Maryland and perhaps another who could agree to join the Terrapins within a week.
Bowie, high school teammate Shane Walker and Baltimore products Braxton Dupree and Dino Gregory all were invited to the game, although Dupree sat out with a sprained ankle. Nevertheless, it was a fitting step for all of them to close their high school careers on the floor they presumably will call home for the next four years.
“I see us having a big impact,” Bowie said. “Knowing that a lot of seniors left and there’s going to be a lot of spots for the freshmen, I’m real excited.”
The group could grow if forward Cliff Tucker signs with the Terps. Tucker, who said he likely will make his decision Wednesday when the spring signing period begins, would provide an extra wing player for a team that loses starters Mike Jones and D.J. Strawberry.
Maryland, which went 25-9 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament, also will be without forward Ekene Ibekwe and reserves Will Bowers and Parrish Brown next season. That could make it vital for at least a few of the newcomers to establish themselves quickly.
It’s a possibility Dupree and Gregory have talked about on an almost weekly basis. The Terps’ late-season push, including a seven-game winning streak to finish the regular season, provided a boost both to the perception of a program that missed two straight NCAA tournaments and to the group joining the team next fall.
“It was great. You can see what it’s like when a team works hard,” Dupree said. “They all work together and do what they can do on the floor. It was a big jump from last season to this season. We went from the NIT to the NCAA tournament.”
There were some interested onlookers as Bowie scored 14 points and Gregory added 12 in the defense-deficient game. Future teammates Jerome Burney, Eric Hayes, James Gist and Greivis Vasquez watched from the stands with an eye as much on the newcomers as the rest of the proceedings.
Gist and Vasquez are the two starters returning next season, and Gist promised a summer of hard work whether the incoming freshmen have “a good time or a hard time.” He also noticed an obvious trait of the class — three of the Terps’ recruits are 6-foot-7 or taller.
“We have a group with nice size, and that’s the most important thing,” Gist said. “The ACC is not a small league. We have some guys who are real big. It’s going to be real interesting to see how they come in and how we play.”
There was similar interest before last season, when Hayes and Vasquez were looked upon to play significant minutes at point guard from their first game. Vasquez is eager to help his new teammates acclimate themselves so the Terps can secure some more fulfilling postseason results than last month’s NCAA loss to Butler, which clearly still gnaws at him.
“They have big responsibility on their shoulders,” Vasquez said. “They might start, they might not, who knows? But they’re going to play. At some point, they’re going to have to help us with whatever they do the best.”