First there was Damonte Dodd, the 6-foot-9 power forward from Queen Anne's High School who gave his verbal commitment to Mark Turgeon and the University of Maryland in February. Eight months later, Roddy Peters, Suitland's powerful and explosive 6-foot-4 guard, announced that he would join Dodd and the Terrapins. Those two preceded Melo Trimble, a 6-foot-2 guard from Bishop O'Connell, the most recent Turgeon recruit that lives just a few hours away from College Park.
The three have taken very different paths in becoming Terrapins. Each recruitment, however, can be traced back to a single commonality: Amateur Athletic Union team D.C. Assault.
Dodd was a public school product at Queen Anne's when he committed to Turgeon's 2012 recruiting class, which included Fredericksburg, Va., combo guard Seth Allen, Houston center Shaquille Cleare and Wrentham, Mass., small forward Jake Layman. But Dodd would bypass Maryland for a prep year at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va.
Peters played his entire high school tenure in the public ranks. It was cut short on Friday after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. At Suitland, he became arguably the county's best public or private school player.
Trimble, an Upper Marlboro native, is a private school product at O'Connell, where former Terp Dave Neal once starred.
But this past summer, the Assault became their common denominator, as did a new relationship with Maryland.
“It opened up a whole lot,” Peters said of his exposure with the Assault. “Before I played with [D.C. Assault President] Curtis [Malone], I think I had one scholarship. Now I got a lot.”
Prior to the 2011 circuit with the Assault, Peters' lone Division I offer was from St. Joseph's in Philadelphia. After traversing the country with coach Eddie Jordan and the Assault, Peters had offers from Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, Rutgers, Seton Hall, UCLA, Xavier and Maryland.
But it would be Dodd who became the first player in the D.C. Assault's 18-year history to receive a scholarship from Maryland — Spencer Barks walked on in 2011. Longtime Maryland coach Gary Williams, who retired after 22 years in May 2011, never fully embraced AAU recruiting, even if that meant turning his back to the talent hotbed that lies in Maryland's backyard. Such has not been the case with Turgeon.
“They make it feel like they want you to come here,” said Assault coach Matt Parker, who is now coaching the U-17 Gold team, which Peters, Dodd and Trimble all recently graduated from. “They want to pack the house because they have guys from here. And there's no disrespect to Gary, he was a phenomenal coach, and Turgeon has big shoes to fill. It's just more that they reach out to you now where it used to be that you had to reach out to them.”
The relationship, which Parker and Assault General Manager Damon Handon both insist is not a burgeoning pipeline, has been smoothed over by Dalonte Hill, an assistant for Turgeon and a former Assault coach who, in his tenure with Kansas State, once lured lottery pick Michael Beasley to the Wildcats.
“Naturally, he would have a good relationship with us,” Handon said. “Turgeon and his staff has worked hard to recruit locally … it's just good, old fashioned hard work. I don't think he's doing anything special. I think a lot about recruiting is relationship driven and that's where [Hill] excels.”
In keeping tight-knit relationships, Turgeon and Hill have become regular faces at Assault practices and games. This past summer, Turgeon flew in to watch the Assault play at the Orlando Super Showcase and both Hill and Turgeon were in attendance during the DMV Tip-Off Classic two weekends ago at Henry A. Wise High School where Dodd and Peters played in back-to-back games.
“It's real nice just seeing [Turgeon] there,” Dodd said. “It boosts my confidence and makes me want to play even better.”
Peters has been to the majority of the Terps' home games this season and has already formed friendly relationships with guards Nick Faust and sophomore transfer Dez Wells, who have been talking to him about eating right and lifting weights. Dodd, meanwhile, has become especially close with freshman forward Charles Mitchell.
As for Trimble, a junior, “I was waiting for him to commit,” Peters said. “I knew he liked Maryland, too, so in practice I always said little things to him. So now all the players from the area decided to come to Maryland.”
The sweetest part for Maryland faithful is that the Terps appear to be getting the first crack at local talent, especially with the D.C. Assault. In the past five years, Duke has successfully recruited Assault alumni Nolan Smith, Quinn Cook (one of nine Assault McDonald's All-Americans), Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston.
“I think that coach Turgeon has really made a priority to keep the local talent in this area,” Handon said. “The new staff has aggressively recruited the local players.”