By Dave Glenn, ACC Sports Journal
July 28, 2003 COLLEGE PARK Maryland's basketball staff continues to recruit as though it has a third scholarship available for the 2004 class, which had many diehard fans (and even some insiders) scratching their heads all summer long. There is no question that the current roster makeup leaves only two scholarship openings for 2004, which has led to rampant speculation that the staff knows one player will be departing before exhausting his eligibility.
At first look, this could be a simple case of the staff covering its bases and (as always) recruiting multiple players for the lone scholarship that remains. (Power forward James Gist, a top-50 prospect, already has committed for one grant.) There's no question that in-state wing forward Rudy Gay of Archbishop Spalding a top-25 prospect whose reputation skyrocketed this summer is the Terps' top remaining priority and will get the other grant if he chooses to commit.
However, sources told the Sports Journal that Maryland will continue to recruit point guard Mike Walker, combo guard Isaiah Swann and big man Joakim Noah even if Gay commits. That's because the staff believes there's a very good chance another grant will come open by next fall.
The most likely scenario involves junior swingman Michael Grinnon, a top-notch student who might graduate early. Grinnon, a nice kid who's unlikely to ever play a meaningful minute for the Terps, is ahead of schedule academically and potentially could earn his undergraduate degree by the end of next summer.
Obviously, the coaching staff doesn't want to come out publicly with that information, especially since it's dependent upon Grinnon continuing to take a heavy course load and earning extra credits through summer school and the mini-semester in January. But the early word is that Grinnon is interested in attending medical school and might be able to start a postgraduate program by either September or December 2004.
If it works out that way, Grinnon would forego his final year of eligibility, thus opening a third scholarship for the 2003-04 recruiting class.
In the past, Maryland coach Gary Williams has kindly informed players of Grinnon's ilk (e.g., Nick Bosnic, Kelly Hite) that they are not likely to ever become part of the rotation and that they might be wise to transfer following their sophomore campaigns. However, Grinnon is one of those happy to be here types, and there is no question that Williams has changed his thinking after getting slammed in recent years about the program's poor graduation rates.
Realistically, Maryland now has enough talent to carry a non-contributor such as Grinnon. The staff also has come to realize the value of having a strong student who can improve team chemistry, raise the team's grade-point average and graduate on time. Ultimately, that's likely to be Grinnon's greatest contribution to the program.
According to insiders, Williams would not mind one bit if Grinnon chooses not to graduate early and thus uses his final year of eligibility. No one is trying to push the Long Island native out of the program. However, the timing would be perfect for an early departure, as the Terrapins are extremely low on scholarships at a time when recruiting is going through the roof. Various analysts report that both Noah and Swann would love to play for Maryland, and it would be a shame if there was no room for one of them.
The staff is pushing hard for a commitment from Gay, one of the stars of the recent Nike camp. The athletic leaper would fill the team's primary need at wing forward, albeit for only a year or two if he continues to develop. Connecticut and Syracuse are the primary competition.
Pretty soon, fans will know for sure whether or not Maryland thinks a third grant will become available. If Williams and his staff continue to recruit prospects after a second commitment comes on board, the only possible answer is yes.