Mark Turgeon's shown in his time at College Park that he's not afraid to go after big names, but he's also shown he's not averse to adding unknowns and springing surprises. The latest in that list, joining Alex Len and Damonte Dodd, is Logan Aronhalt, a 6-3 fifth-year-senior-to-be guard, who announced yesterday that he'll transfer to Maryland from Albany and be eligible to play immediately.
Albany's starting shooting guard, Aronhalt was a cornerstone to a decent team last season, averaging upwards of 30 minutes and 13 points per game and playing through an injured knee late in the year. (He had surgery, for what it's worth, and is still recovering, but should be healthy before practices start.) He's the latest in the trend of graduate transfers, the NCAA rule that allows a player to transfer without having to sit out a year if they're pursuing a graduate degree in a field their current school doesn't offer. (If you're wondering: kinesiology.) Per Matt Bracken's piece in the Baltimore Sun, Aronhalt also considered Purdue, Kent State, and UMKC (though I'd assume his options were limited to the schools that offer kinesiology).
Just like the last time Maryland had a transfer, this addition was paved by another's departure, but I'm not sure it was Ashton Pankey's. (The two would, after all, not exactly be walking on each other's playing time.) Instead, when Terrell Stoglin joined Mychal Parker in leaving the program, Maryland's perimeter depth had quietly been depleted. As it was, Mark Turgeon was going to have to rely (to some extent) on the freshmen trio of Seth Allen, Sam Cassell Jr., and Jake Layman to eat up minutes. The arrival of Aronhalt seems the logical counter to that; an experienced 6-3 guard, probably able to play either guard spot, he can allow Nick Faust to stay back in his more natural 3 and make sure that Allen and Cassell aren't rushed into playing time if they're not ready for it. He's a shooting guard, not a point guard - only one assist per game last year, to nearly two turnovers - but you'd expect him to be able to occasionally spell Pe`Shon Howard if he has to. He could challenge for a starting spot for all I know, but at the very least he'll provide Maryland with a much-needed safety net.
He also gives Maryland another deep threat, an area Turgeon has clearly looked to strengthen. Terrell Stoglin was a bona fide sniper last year, but with him gone the Terrapins looked distinctly shooter-less: the returning players made a grand total of only 38 three-pointers last year, at a woeful 27%. Faust has proven that he can knock down a jumper, but he's hardly automatic; same goes for Howard. Maryland needed to add shooters, and they did. The aforementioned freshmen trio of Allen, Cassell, and Layman all have reputations as shooters to varying degrees, and Aronhalt will add to that. He shot a respectable 36% from three over the past two years, averaging more than 2 a game, and his eFG% of 49% was 11th in the Atlantic East last season. That's a bit short of qualifying for "knock-down" status, but he's clearly dangerous from outside and can provide another outlet for the long ball.
Of course, he brings at least one more asset, and it could be the most important of all for Maryland: experience. Turgeon will rely heavily on at least five freshmen to eat up minutes and provide quality off the bench; he'll rely even more heavily on sophomores Faust and Alex Len, who will need to be the team's cornerstones. Only two upperclassmen are on the roster at all, junior Howard and senior James Padgett. Aronhalt, who will be a fifth-year senior, has been there and done that. He's been part of a rebuilding process. He's played on awful teams. He's played on decent teams. He's even played in the postseason - sure, it was the CIT, but that's more than anyone on Maryland's roster can say.
And hey, he does little things. He rebounds: 4.5 a game over the past two years. He's a smart defender, with one of the lowest fouls committed rate in the country. And, sweet Juan, he makes his free throws: 89% last year.
He's not a perfect player (and if he was, he wouldn't be playing at Albany). If he logs any minutes at the point, he'll be getting shoehorned in. He's turnover-prone and has middling assist numbers. He took a lot of shots. (Hey, he's basically like a mini-Stoglin! Minus the weed.) And there are going to be physical limitations at the ACC level that he's not used to facing on a regular basis.
But when picking up a player like this, you're not looking for Juan Dixon II. You're looking for a contributor; someone who can give minutes, fill a role, and fill it well. Aronhalt should be able to do that just fine, and he's a good fit for what Maryland needs. At the very least, he'll provide quality, experienced depth at a position that needs it. And if they're lucky, maybe he challenges for a starting spot, or provides a spark off the bench.
This a tactic we've seen be successful first hand: Alex Johnson provided crucial reserve minutes at point guard for N.C. State last year, and Illinois-via-Bradley guard Sam Maniscalco torched Maryland for 24 points in their meeting last year (although the rest of his year was remarkably average). It's smart and low-risk. Aronhalt will have only a year of eligibility left, meaning he doesn't alter the long-term make-up of the program Mark Turgeon is clearly building in his image. He doesn't change future recruiting in any way. This is a short-term fix, which is probably preferable right now with guards like Rysheed Jordan and the Harrisons on the horizon.
In fact, there's still another open scholarship if Turgeon wants to use it. Who knows if he will, but if he does I wouldn't expect it to be someone who will take up a scholarship for more than a season unless he considers them to be a part of his plan. (Guessing that means no Roscoe Smith.)
Aronhalt won't be a fix-all and I still think the tournament is a bridge too far for next year, but I'll rest much easier knowing that he's a choice in the backcourt. In the end, he represents an experienced guard option with basically no risk. And that sounds mighty nice to a team with no experience and limited guard options.