Rising senior Sean Obi, who spent the last three seasons at Duke, will transfer to Maryland and be eligible for the 2017-18 season, the Terps announced April 20.
Obi, a power forward, will graduate from Duke in May and enroll in graduate school at Maryland in June, per the Terps.
"I am very appreciative to have the opportunity to attend the University of Maryland," Obi said in a news release. "I want to thank Coach [Mark] Turgeon and the staff.. I immediately created a unique bond with the coaches during my visit. Maryland is a place where I am confident I can make a major impact.
"The campus is also in very close proximity to where my family lives, and they'll be able to come see me play. Maryland is a great university with outstanding tradition, and I am very excited to be a part of it. I am looking forward to playing for Coach Turgeon and doing something special with a great group of guys next year."
A native of Kaduna, Nigeria, Obi came to the U.S. at the age of 15 and settled in Connecticut. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Obi began his college career at Rice, averaging 26.4 minutes, 11.4 points and a Conference USA-high 9.3 rebounds per game during the 2013-14 season. A bright spot on an Owls team that went 7-23 that season, Obi earned a spot on the Conference USA All-Freshman team for his efforts.
After Ben Braun, Obi's head coach at Rice, resigned after the 2013-14 season, Obi decided to transfer and chose Duke. The Blue Devils won the national championship during Obi's first year in Durham, N.C., but he was required to sit out the 2014-15 season due to NCAA eligibility rules.
Obi played in 10 games during the 2015-16 season, averaging 2.7 minutes in those contests, as Obi was stuck behind other talented big men in Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski's frontcourt and was hindered by knee problems; he needed knee surgery last June. Obi, who also had shoulder issues at Duke, didn't play at all this past season.
However, Obi's rebounding ability is attractive to a Terps team that has struggled in that area in recent years and is losing two senior big men in Damonte Dodd and L.G. Gill. It'd be additive if Obi can rekindle his scoring ability, as well, though Maryland should improve upon last year's interior scoring as it is with a healthy Michal Cekovsky, a developing Ivan Bender and a talented newcomer in Bruno Fernando.
"We are excited to welcome Sean to Maryland," Turgeon said in a news release. "As a graduate transfer, he brings high character, experience and maturity to our team. Sean is a good rebounder and gives us another physical presence inside. He is also a very good student. Sean is healthy and ready to contribute."
Maryland likely will look for Obi to improve their rebounding first and foremost. The Terps were 11th in the Big Ten in rebounding margin this past year, and struggled mightily down the stretch with giving opponents second and third chances. Turgeon didn't get a lot of rebounding from his bigs, particularly those he played at center. Dodd had 4.4 rebounds per game; Bender, 3.2; Cekovsky, 2.8; and Gill, 2.1.
Turgeon may elect to play bigger than he did last year to beef up the Terps' rebounding and interior scoring, particularly if Obi proves capable of staying on the court. Turgeon could move Kevin Huerter, who played the three last year, to the starting two, and Justin Jackson, who played the four, to the starting three. That would leave the four and five positions to Cekovsky, Bender, Obi, Fernando and Joshua Tomaic, who redshirted last year.
The Obi addition leaves Turgeon with two open scholarships for the 2017-18 season. Look for Turgeon to use at least one, with a ball-handler probably being the top remaining need on the roster, especially given Jaylen Brantley's departure. The Terps have just one true point guard on the roster in Anthony Cowan, though Huerter played point guard in high school and could probably run the half-court offense some, particularly with his passing ability and vision.
Maryland may also seek an athletic wing that can score in isolation, finish at the rim and get to the line. But between Huerter, Jackson, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens and Darryl Morsell, Maryland is probably covered as far as wing depth. If the Terps don't bring in a wing, they'll count on Huerter and Jackson in particular to develop into scorers that can create with the shot clock winding down now that Melo Trimble is gone.
Maryland is scheduled to have three seniors next year -- Obi, Cekovsky and Nickens -- and currently has five scholarships available for the 2018-19 season. The Terps likely want as much flexibility as realistically possible for a 2018 recruiting class that's loaded locally, which may sway them to go the graduate transfer route again to fill a need.