For Fatts Russell, Chance To Chase National Title Aspirations Key To Picking Maryland

When former University of Rhode Island point guard Fatts Russell entered the transfer portal, he was focused on finding a school where he’d join a winning culture and compete for a national championship.

By transferring to Maryland, Russell believes he’s found that spot, joining a host of players with whom he’s familiar. He was high school teammates with Donta Scott at Imhotep Institute Charter High School in Philadelphia and also knows Hakim Hart and Eric Ayala.

Ayala and Aaron Wiggins, Maryland’s two leading scorers last season, both declared for the NBA Draft but still could return to College Park, Md., since they maintained their college eligibility. ESPN currently has the Terps as the No. 6 ranked team in the country for next season, while CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein has Maryland ranked seventh.

“I wasn’t going to go to a place where I felt like we couldn’t make a run at this,” Russell said on Glenn Clark Radio April 9. “So, I feel like I picked the right spot and we definitely have a chance.”

Soon after entering his name into the transfer portal, head coach Mark Turgeon and the Maryland coaching staff reached out. After dominating the Philadelphia high school hoops circuit with Scott, Russell is ready to replicate that production in the Big Ten.

“As soon as I put my name in the transfer portal, they called me and it just piqued my interest,” Russell said. “I know a lot of people on the team and coach [Mark] Turgeon and that whole coaching staff is just great, just piqued my interest as soon as they showed interest.”

However, Russell isn’t the only marquee addition for the Terps via the transfer portal. Shortly before Russell’s commitment was announced, Maryland landed former Georgetown center Qudus Wahab. Wahab’s commitment only intensified Russell’s interest in Maryland, as both players addressed two of the major needs on Maryland’s roster.

“I heard he was committed and that made me definitely more interested in Maryland,” Russell said. “I know how good he is. I know how good of a big man he is. I definitely wanted a chance to be able to play with him.”

Turgeon has coached and developed point guards throughout his tenure in College Park, Md., including Melo Trimble and Anthony Cowan Jr. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Russell has a chance to be the latest in a strong lineage of Maryland point guards in recent years.

Russell was a first-team All-Atlantic 10 selection and an All-Defensive Team pick in 2019-20. He averaged 18.8 and 14.4 points in 2019-20 and 2020-21, respectively, leading the team each season. He was also the team’s steals leader with a combined 130 steals in 53 games throughout the last two seasons.

“I watched Anthony Cowan, I watched Melo Trimble and I know that Coach Turgeon is a point guard coach,” Russell said. “They have a lot of point guard coaches on the staff and you know that plays a factor as well just to be able to learn from them and just get better.”

Another factor in Russell’s decision to transfer to Maryland was the proximity to Philadelphia. Now less than three hours from home by car, Russell’s family will be able to come and watch him play more often.

Russell played four years of varsity basketball at Imhotep and is the all-time scoring, assists and steals leader at the school. The desire to win is what’s driven Russell throughout his career, according to Imhotep boys’ basketball coach Andre Noble.

“Extremely passionate, plays much bigger than he is physically,” Noble said. “Very fast and quick, and has been a guy that can really guard the ball defensively. It’s really hard to keep him out of the lane. I think Fatts is a winner. He’s always just trying to win and that’s really what drives him.”

At Maryland, Russell will be able to continue fostering that competitive fire in one of the top leagues in the country.

“I think that Maryland has a chance to be really special adding him and Qudus with what they already had,” Noble said. “I think they have a chance to be extremely special.”

For more from Russell, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Allen Kee/ESPN Images