Allegany Communications Sports­­

Derik Queen, 6-foot-10, 245-pound center for Montverde Academy, the No. 1 high school team in the country, made this disappointing season and the future of University of Maryland basketball far more hopeful by publicly committing to the Terps on Wednesday.

A Baltimore native, Queen is an immediate impact player, not only because of his size and talent, but particularly for his polished play and understanding. He is not going to be a raw freshman who will be overwhelmed by playing big-time college basketball for the first time.

Scouts say Queen carries an extremely high basketball IQ, and not only can he play with his back to the basket, he is also an accomplished passer, who can face the basket on the high post and put the ball on the floor and lead the break, which will bode well with how he and current Maryland center Julian Reese, who is expected to return to College Park, will mesh.

He and Reese, who were teammates for one season at St. Frances in Baltimore, will provide Maryland with one of the best 1-2 big-man punches in the country.

The Terps recruited Queen in the same way they coach and play — they didn’t give up. The process began when Queen was a freshman at St. Frances and Mark Turgeon was still the Maryland head coach, and came to a head over the weekend toward the end of Kevin Willard’s second year as head coach. It will continue into at least Willard’s third year as well, as this commitment changes everything for Maryland, as far as who will return and who will now arrive.

Just like that, Maryland’s recruiting picture went from being dormant to being incredibly promising.

Maryland’s patience and determination are about to pay off, as players like Queen are the players other players with high ceilings want to play with. He is, in every sense, the hub of the future of Maryland basketball and every expectation and every roster move that will be made from this point on will happen because of his presence.

The outlook for the future of Maryland basketball under Willard took an immediate turn for the better the moment Derik Queen posted Wednesday on social media, “I’m coming home.”

Queen, who quietly committed to Maryland on Sunday night before making his announcement, chose the Terps over Indiana, Houston and Kansas and is the Terps’ second-highest rated recruit of the modern era behind 6-foot-10 center Diamond Stone in 2015. Queen is 247Sports’ No. 12 player and No. 3 center in the class of 2024, while ESPN has him rated as No. 10 and No. 2 respectively.

There was a day quite some time ago, long before there were ratings, recruiting services and stars (Queen is a 5-star, by the way), when Maryland landed the unquestioned No. 1 center and player in the country. His name was Moses Malone.

Malone, from Petersburg, Va., signed a letter of intent to play for Lefty Driesell’s Terps in the late spring of 1974 and attended summer classes for two and a half days before learning he had been drafted by the Utah Stars of the old American Basketball Association. He signed a $3 million, five-year contract and proved to be an immediate success. Playing guard until he bulked up enough to withstand the physical demands of center, Malone averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds his rookie season and was named ABA Rookie of the Year.

He later moved to the NBA where he became three-time league MVP, led the Philadelphia 76ers to a title and was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996.

Driesell, who died last Saturday, said in a 2015 Baltimore Sun story reporting Malone’s death at age 60, “I was disappointed, sure” at Malone’s decision. But he said he understood how poor Malone’s mother was and how that influenced the player’s decision.

Malone and Driesell remained close friends right up to the time of Malone’s sudden death in Norfolk, Va. In fact, Malone, who was in town to play in a golf tournament the day he died, had made dinner plans with Driesell and his wife Joyce for after the tournament.

What could have been had Moses Malone stayed in College Park to play for a team, led by future NBA No. 1 draft pick John Lucas, remains to be seen. We’ll never know, but it’s safe to say Malone made the right choice for himself and for his family.

Even without Malone, the 1974-75 Terps advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight and finished the season ranked No. 5 in the country. You’ll never convince any Maryland fan from the time that the Terps wouldn’t have at least made the Final Four with Malone.

That said, this is not meant to compare Derik Queen to Moses Malone; it would be unfair to compare any basketball player to Moses Malone. Yet all indications are Queen is a player who is capable of having an enormous impact on any program he would have chosen.

That he chose to come home to do it at Maryland at the latter stages of a season that has been disappointing from the start is absolutely huge and makes a powerful statement. Kevin Willard and his staff have given themselves the best start they could have hoped for in making sure a season like this one never happens again.

They deserve a lot of credit.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT