Maryland basketball coach Mark Turgeon has been carefully crafting a championship roster in College Park. This time next year, for the first time, the Terrapins will have the full allotment of 13 recruited, scholarship players. Guard Nick Faust will be the only remaining holdover from the Gary Williams era. The super smooth Faust is one of four juniors on the Maryland roster and figures to be the team leader as the senior member of the program.
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This season is another story as Turgeon enters his third season, again a bit shorthanded. Maryland has nine scholarship players, ten if you count Penn State transfer Jonathan Graham who is still awaiting word from the NCAA concerning his waiver requesting immediately eligibility. Normally, transfers must sit out a season, Graham hasn’t said publicly what his reasoning is.
Maryland’s program began their Wednesday morning with a bad break, a break in the foot of sophomore starting point guard Seth Allen to be exact. Allen fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot while landing awkwardly during practice Tuesday night. The Woodbridge, Virginia native is expected to miss anywhere from eight-to-ten weeks with surgery scheduled for Thursday in Baltimore. If all goes well, Allen will return in time for conference play, which begins the first week of January.
We are devastated for Seth,” said Turgeon. “He was playing at a very high level throughout the summer and fall and was poised to have an excellent start to the season. We will support Seth during his rehabilitation process and will prepare him, so he can get back on the court with his teammates.
Allen’s loss will require some creative lineup shuffling by Turgeon as Maryland’s only natural point guard is true freshman Roddy Peters. Maryland was caught off guard in April when rising senior point Pe’Shon Howard transferred to the West Coast to be closer to his sick grandmother. Howard started 24 games for the Terps last season and at a minimum was expected to share the position with Peters his senior campaign.
For now, swingman Dez Wells will take over the point, with Peters serving as his backup. Wells is Maryland’s go to player offensively with the skills of a future NBA player. Wells saw some time at point a year ago, as did Faust, who will certainly get minutes at the position as well. As for Peters, Turgeon has very high expectations for the District Heights, Maryland native and he should. Peters was a five star prospect coming out of Suitland High school, rated the third best point guard in America by 247sports.com. Turgeon will try not to rush Peters, but I for one, wouldn’t be surprised if he takes over the starting job by the first of the year and contends for freshman of the year honors in the ACC.
The good news, help is on the way next season with arguably the best class at Maryland since Albert King and Buck Williams in the late 1970’s. Maryland’s four man class of 2014 is ranked third in the nation, a whisker behind North Carolina and Ohio State. Point guard Melo Trimble is among the top five point guards in his class, playing for Bishop O’Connell this season in Arlington, Virginia. Another local star at shooting guard in Dion Wiley, playing for Potomac High School in Oxon Hill and the number two ranked recruit in all of Maryland. Pure shooter Jared Nickens from Westtown School in Norris, Pennsylvania is among the top-100 players nationally and one of the fastest rising prospects. How about a big man to round out the class with 7’1″ Trayvon Reed? The Georgia native, among the top five centers nationally is playing his senior season in New Jersey.
While the future is extremely bright in College Park, Maryland has their sites set on returning to the NCAA tournament this season, their final campaign in the Atlantic Coast Conference. While short on quantity, the Terps are loaded with quality and flexibility. Maryland lost 7’1″ center Alex Len to the NBA after just two seasons at the Comcast Center, the Ukrainian chosen fifth overall in the first round by the Phoenix Suns, but Turgeon is reloading not rebuilding, without a single senior on the roster. Manning the middle, attempting to lessen the blow of Len’s early departure is 6’9″ 265 mountain of a man Shaquille Cleare. Cleare, who started eight of 37 games last season as a true freshman, was plucked from Houston, Texas where he was among the nation’s top-30 players. Atlanta native Charles Mitchell arrived in the class of 2013 after the 6’8″ 260 pound power/forward powered his way to a top-100 player ranking nationally. Mitchell averaged nearly 14 rebounds per 40 minutes as a true freshman, tops in the ACC. Freshman shot blocker Damonte Dodd arrives from the Eastern Shore, but the 6’9″ 240 pound forward/center took a detour for a season at Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia. Are you familiar with the term “stretch forward”? You probably heard Wizards star John Wall pleading for Wizards management to get one the entire off-season. Well, if you look up the definition in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Evan Smotrycz. Although he stands 6’8″ and weighs 230 pounds, the Michigan transfer shot over 40% from three point range for the same Wolverines that played in the national championship game in April, the year following his transfer. Last, but certainly not least, is sophomore Jake Layman, who I believe is a leading candidate for most improved player in the ACC this season. Layman started 17 games at guard and forward as a true freshman after arriving as one of the top high school players in the state of Massachusetts. Layman led the Terps with more than 21 points per game in a three game foreign tour in August.
Maryland begins exhibition play on Sunday when Catholic University visits for a 1pm tip. The Terrapins will again begin regular season play at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, with a November 8th date with Connecticut. Last season, Maryland tipped off regular season play with a 72-69 loss to preseason number one Kentucky.
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