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SoCalHoops Recruiting News

Around The Nation:  DJ Strawberry,
Ekene Ibekwe Sign With Terps--(Nov. 15, 2002)

Two more SoCal players signed letters of intent yesterday.   The University of Maryland, defending national champions announced that they have received signed National Letters of Intent from five players, including Carson's Ekene Ibekewe and Mater Dei's D.J. Strawberry.  Here's a copy of the press release issued by UM late yesterday afternoon:

Maryland Basketball Signs Five Top National Prep Stars To Letters Of Intent

Nov. 14, 2002

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams has announced the signing of five prep players from across the country that comprise one of the strongest recruiting classes in Terrapin history. All five players have been ranked among the top 100 high school players in the country, or among the top 20 players at their position.

The five high school seniors who have signed with the Terrapins are, in alphabetical order:

Player   Ht.   Wt.   Pos.   Hometown   High School   (Coach)
Wil Bowers   6-11   230   C   Hanover, Md.   Archbishop Spalding High School   (Mike Glick)
Ekene Ibekwe   6-9   190   F   Carson, Calif.   Carson High School   (Richard Masson)
Hassan Fofana   6-10   270   F/C   Worcester, Mass.   Hargrave Military Academy   (Mike Preston)
Mike Jones   6-5   180   G   Dorchester, Mass.   Thayer Academy   (Rob Dixon)
D.J. Strawberry   6-4   175   G   Santa Ana, Calif.   Mater Dei High School   (Gary McKnight)

About his recruiting class of players who will attend Maryland in fall 2003, Williams said, "We're very pleased with our recruiting class. Hopefully, these players will be able to contribute early in their careers. We have a good balance of speed and strength. Each player has had an outstanding high school career, and we look forward to them joining this year's class of freshmen as the nucleus of our team for the next few years."

The Terrapins, back-to-back participants in the 2001 and 2002 Final Four and national champions last spring, have successfully managed national caliber recruiting classes with 10 highly-acclaimed signings in the past two years. Here is a closer look at this season's signing class:

Wil Bowers is a local Maryland product who has excelled while helping Archbishop Spalding become one of the country's top prep powers. At 6-11, he averaged 15.5 points, nine rebounds and three blocks as a junior, and was named to the Baltimore Sun's All-Metro second team. A lifelong Terrapin fan, Bowers averaged 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks as a sophomore. He has been rated by one recruiting network as the 17th-best center prospect in the country.

Added Williams, "Bowers has improved greatly within the past year and he is a pure center, which is hard to find."

Ekene Ibekwe, rated as high as the 22nd-best overall prospect in the nation, is a 6-9 forward known for his quickness. At Carson High School in Los Angeles, he is an excellent shooter and athlete for his size. Ibekwe averaged 19.7 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks as a junior. He is regarded as the top prospect in the L.A. area and one of the premier prep prospects in the U.S., ranked as high as the sixth-best power forward in the country. His brother, Onye, is a freshman basketball player at Oklahoma State. His parents are originally from Nigeria.

"Ibekwe is one of those players who combines great quickness to go with his 6-9 size," said Williams. "He has faced outstanding competition in the Los Angeles area, and he is just now becoming the player that we think he can be."

Attending the same school that produced Maryland All-American Lonny Baxter and current Terps point guard Andre Collins, Hassan Fofana attends Hargrave Military Academy after three seasons at Holy Name High School in Massachusetts. A native of Conkary, Guinea, the versatile power forward has been ranked as high as the ninth-best center in the country, averaging 15 points and 15 rebounds in each of his sophomore and junior seasons. He is a former soccer player who possesses good footwork for his 6-10, 270-pound size.

Williams' assessment of Fofana: "At 6-10 and 270 pounds, his strength as a power forward and center is amazing. But what is more impressive is the quickness, to go with his size. And, for someone not having played a great deal of basketball at an early age, he has really become a good player."

Mike Jones is a 6-5 shooting guard from Thayer Academy near Boston who has consistently been rated as one of the top two shooting guards in the nation. Also a state runner-up in the 100-meter dash, he was the first of this year's Maryland class to commit to the Terrapins. Jones is considered as a superior scorer who has great range on his shot. He averaged 20 points per game as a junior and has been ranked throughout the summer and fall recruiting periods as one of the country's top 15 players.

"Jones is very strong for a guard," said Williams, "but with that strength he is very fast, given his track background. He is one of the top high school guards in the country."

A shooting guard or small forward, D.J. Strawberry will attend Maryland after completing a career at prep power Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif.. Strawberry, the son of former major league baseball player Darryl Strawberry, is 6-4 with long arms, a strong, slender frame, and room to grow. He saw limited playing time at the powerhouse program as a junior, but has widely been regarded as a top 100 recruit for his athletic ability and AAU experience. He averaged 11.5 points per game during the 2001-02 season.

Commented Williams, "D.J. Strawberry reminds me a lot of Drew Nicholas coming out of high school. At that 6-4 size, he is the kind of player that can play point guard, shooting guard or small forward. He is a very good passer."

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