Adjusting to a college lifestyle is hard for any 18 year-old. It is likely the first time a young adult lives away from home, and the school work drastically increases.
But for the highly touted Maryland 2019 basketball class, the adjustment is going smoothly on and off the court.
“It’s been a good connection since the summer. We all like each other, it’s a good group,” said freshman forward Makhel Mitchell. “We just work hard and prepare for what’s ahead.”
Mitchell and his identical twin brother Makhi are apart of the freshman class that also includes forward Donta Scott, guard Hakim Hart, and center Chol Marial. The group was ranked as the third best recruiting class in the Big Ten by 247 Sports.
On the court, the younger players have meshed in well so far. Makhi Mitchell and Scott could be in line to see minutes right away, while Hart, Makhel Mitchell, and Marial should be effective later in their careers. The veterans on the team are already speaking highly of them.
“All really smart guys that bring a ton of energy everyday into practice,” said sophomore wing Aaron Wiggins. “Donta is that big energy guy. Hakim, he’s a really big shooter. The twins, they are both great passers. Makhi is able to catch it in the post and look to score but also make a good pass. And Makhel with his aggressiveness, he can jump with anybody in the gym. He’ll block anything.”
Marial, however, has not been practicing this fall as he recovers from surgery to repair stress fractures on both his legs. Head coach Mark Turgeon said he hopes Marial will be cleared on November 25th. Nonetheless, his 7”2’ frame and infectious personality are hard to miss on campus.
In the classroom, things are going well too. While they are on a tight schedule between practice and schoolwork, the group has learned how to manage their time.
“The biggest transition has been time management. We get a lot of time after practice, so we have to prioritize ourselves and have a plan of what we are doing after,” said Makhi Mitchell. “Whether it’s study hall, recovery, getting extra shots up and classes.”
Just because the freshman group might be taller or more athletic than the average student, doesn’t mean they still aren’t normal teenagers. They love to go out in College Park and eat together, citing Board and Brew as one of their top choices.
They also love to compete, specifically at video games. Donta Scott, who is known as the best singer and dancer of the group, holds the title as the best Call of Duty player. Makhi Mitchell claims him and his brother are the best at Fortnite, while Hakim Hart says he is not only the best NBA 2K player of the freshman class but on the whole team.
“I’ve seen Hakim play. Hakim is really good at 2K,” said Wiggins. “It’s between Hakim, Eric (Ayala), Anthony (Cowan), and maybe Darryl (Morsell).”
Ayala claims he held the title as the best 2K player last year, but Hart came in on his official visit and beat him.
“He beat me on his visit. He’s at a different level,” said Ayala, who says he is the best Madden NFL player on the team.
With several key returning players from last year’s team, it will be hard for every freshman to find time. But this appears to be a group that can improve Maryland basketball in the long run.
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