When Maryland fell just short in the second round of the NCAA tournament against LSU, no player took it harder than freshman forward Jalen Smith. At the time, many thought it could be his last game for the Terps, as he is seen as a viable draft prospect.
Following the heartbreaking loss, Smith was quick to address his future.
“A lot of people tell me to look at Bruno, him coming back. … I know he took that path, and maybe my path will be the same, maybe it won’t be the same. But I’ll just do what’s best for me and best for my team,” Smith told reporters.
On Monday, Smith made his decision official, as he has chosen to forgo the NBA draft and return to Maryland for his sophomore season. The announcement came via the school.
“I am proud of Jalen’s decision to remain in school and develop his game while continuing his education,” Coach Mark Turgeon said in a statement. “Jalen did so many great things for our program this season and his potential was on full display in the NCAA Tournament. He has the opportunity to take his game to another level as he works with our strength and coaching staff this offseason. Jalen is a special individual from a great family and we are excited to have him return to College Park.”
Smith had a solid freshman campaign that saw him finish very strong. He was named to the All-Big Ten freshman team. Smith averaged 11.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, and in the tournament he saw those numbers increase to 17.0 points per game and 10.0 rebounds per game.
The lengthy big man arrived in College Park as a five star prospect and orignial thinking had him pinned as a one-and-done player, but this season showed he still needs a bit of time to develop.
“I’m excited to return to Maryland for my sophomore year and advance my education as I continue to develop both on and off the court with my teammates and coaching staff,” Smith said in a statement. “This past season was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for our team. I’m appreciative of Coach Turgeon, the staff, my teammates and Terp Nation for all of their support.”
With the return of Smith, Maryland brings back nearly every contributor to a team that was in the top-25 nearly the entire season. The Terps are still awaiting word on the future of Bruno Fernando, but either way, the 2019-20 team oozes potential. They have already appeared in several “way too early top 25’s” and with the return of Smith, one expert even has them as a top-10 team.
This is MASSIVE for Maryland. With Jalen Smith, Anthony Cowan, Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Daryll Morsell back, Maryland will start next season in the Top 10. Book it https://t.co/TYYD2yAAuV
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) April 8, 2019
With Spring workouts starting this week, the focus in College Park is now on the 2019-20 season, which could be a special one now that “Stix” is back in the picture.