With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, our Big Ten team previews continue with a look at Maryland.
Melo Trimble is gone, but Maryland fans should still be bullish about the future of their program.
Trimble, who spent three years in College Park leading the Terps to 38 Big Ten wins and three NCAA tournament appearances, was not picked in June’s NBA draft.
Now Mark Turgeon and Maryland must move into the post-Trimble era with three sophomores at the forefront. The headliner is Justin Jackson, who may still be under the radar nationally to college basketball fans, but is being mentioned as a potential lottery pick next summer.
The 6-foot-7 wing made 44.1 percent of his 3s last season and has the ball skills to play multiple positions. His best spot, however, is the stretch four. By bulking up this offseason, Jackson should be more than capable of holding his own in the paint while also stepping out to knock down shots.
Maryland’s backcourt is one of the Big Ten’s best with sophomores Anthony Cowan at the point and Kevin Huerter on the wing. Cowan played alongside Trimble as a freshman, but will take over full-time as the team’s primary ball handler this season. In 29 minutes per game last season, he averaged 10.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Cowan posted a ridiculous free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 70 percent last season. He attempted 154 free throws in 32 games and knocked down 76.6 percent.
The 6-foot-7 Huerter is a shooter who made two 3s per game last season and hit 38 percent of his attempts from deep. With opponents focused on Jackson and Cowan, look for Huerter to get plenty of open looks and connect at a higher rate in his second season.
Senior Jared Nickens is also capable of helping Maryland stretch the floor (34.2 percent on 3s last season). Junior guard Dion Wiley, a former top 60 recruit, will hope to stay healthy after appearing in just 19 games last season. Wiley made close to 39 percent of his 3s last season. Freshman Darryl Morsell, a top 100 recruit, is a tough nosed Baltimore kid who should provide backcourt depth.
Up front, Maryland graduated Damonte Dodd, but returns senior Mikal Cekovsky, junior Ivan Bender and welcomes freshman Bruno Fernando and graduate transfer Sean Obi. Redshirt freshman Joshua Tomaic is another name that could crack the rotation.
Cekovsky is 7-foot-1 and a capable post scorer, but battled injuries a season ago. He appeared in just 17 games as a junior, but is expected to be healthy to start the season. Bender, the older brother of Phoenix Suns forward Dragan Bender, averaged close to five points in 32 games off the bench last season.
Fernando, a 247Composite top 100 signee, gives Turgeon another physical presence inside at 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds. Given his talent, it won’t be long before Fernando carves out a significant role. Obi, who began his career at Rice before transferring to Duke, has battled injuries through his career. The 6-foot-9 Tomaic redshirted last season and played for Spain in this past summer’s U19 World Championships.
Bottom Line: Maryland is flying under the radar because of Trimble’s departure, but this is one of the Big Ten’s most talented rosters entering the season. The sophomore trio of Cowan, Huerter and Jackson gives Turgeon a solid nucleus and Maryland also has several options to replace Dodd in the post. Although Maryland didn’t accomplish much in the NCAA tournament in the Trimble era, the program does appear to be headed in the right direction under Turgeon’s leadership. Maryland already has two top 50 recruits committed for 2018 and is in the mix for a few other prospects that could eventually lift the group into the top 10 nationally.
Quotable: “The effort has been great. I’m impressed with their attention to detail and our guys have shown a lot of enthusiasm. Now we’ll have to continue to sustain that but the returning players know what needs to be done and are bringing our young guys along.” – Turgeon on October 3 following practice.