After the Florida State loss on Saturday, many Maryland fans were quick to remember that basketball season was just around the corner. The unofficial start to the season begins today, when Maryland hosted their annual media day press event at the Comcast Center, where head coach Mark Turgeon held a press conference, followed by player availability shortly after.
There was a lot of information from today, so I'll try to break it all down in a coherent way below.
First and foremost, Mark Turgeon believes he has a solid group of players who are more mature and experienced, despite having just one senior on the squad. "Last year we were so inconsistent we had to change lineups." He continued, saying "This is a huge year for us to improve on what we did last year and I think we should." Turgeon said that he believes there are "seven and a half starters," on the team right now, referring to freshman Roddy Peters as the half, who he believes will soon become the eighth. Turgeon said that Peters is even better than they expected him to be at this point. "Roddy's been a pleasant surprise...he's put time in the gym. He's changed his shot. He's a good player." He continued on about Roddy, noting that sometimes as a coach, you scout a player and believe they have a certain level of talent, but once you integrate them with your team, you realize they're even more talented than what you initially thought. That's how he feels about Peters.
Turgeon discussed sophomore Seth Allen, who will likely be the starting point guard when the season begins. "Seth's come a long way. He's such a dynamic scorer. Seth can get a shot whenever he wants to get a shot" Turgeon said. "Seth needs to score for us...he's just got to know when he's guarded and when he's not guarded. When Seth figures that out, he's a basketball player. Maybe not necessarily a point guard, but a basketball player." Finding that balance can be hard though, if you remember back to a player like Greivis Vasquez. Greivis had a certain style and if you took away that style, you might cut down on his turnovers, but you'd also take away his ability to hit a miraculous, fade away shot off the back board against Duke. I think Seth needs to find that balance. Turgeon also feels that Seth needs to play better on defense. That seems to be an emphasis for this season and improving on the defensive side of the ball will factor into who is starting and who is coming off the bench.
Another position many fans are curious about is center. It appears that sophomore Shaq Cleare currently has the lead in that battle, mostly because of the improvement he made this off season on the defensive side of the ball. Turgeon said that last season's team really struggled when it came to playing defense, but Alex Len helped mitigate some of the defensive inefficiencies of his teammates, which is why they're really going to miss Len's defense more than his offense. "We're going to miss Alex."
Last season, Turgeon felt he had four freshmen who could play, but each struggled on defense. Shaq and Jake have improved in that area, so you can expect to see more of them at the start of the season. Nick Faust also struggled on defense last year and Turgeon is hoping he can continue to improve in that area and eventually be the player who guards the opposition's best perimeter shooter.
When talking about Dez Wells, Mark Turgeon noted that Dez is doing a great job in a leadership role, using the right type of tone to lead the team. He also said the Dez needs to work on his turnover, noting that he had about 100 last year, but needs to be at around 60 this year.
A position where Maryland is very strong this season is at forward, where Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz should both make significant contributions this season. "I think about Jake last year on this date to today's practice...wow. It's not even close" Turgeon said. And when asked about Evan Smotrycz, Turgeon said ""He's developed a lot. He's become a better athlete. He feels comfortable with his teammates. He's a pretty valuable piece to our puzzle."
When Smotrycz was asked about the differences between his game and that of his teammate Jake Layman, Smotrycz noted that Jake is more of a slasher while he has more size and the capability to post up and score inside.
Turgeon also discussed freshman Damonte Dodd, noting how much he has improved since Turgeon offered him a scholarship. "Damonte's come a long way since the first time I saw him and decided we were going to offer him a scholarship." Turgeon said that height wise, he's "about 6'10" now, maybe a little taller. He can run all day, never gets tired."
It seems like making the NCAA tournament is a goal for Turgeon and this year's team. He said it would have been nice to sneak into NCAA last year, but that the team didn't deserve it. He also noted how tough the ACC is going to be this year, especially with the addition of Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame, saying there should be around 12 really strong teams. As a result, this year's team really needs to improve in league play if they're going to be successful.
We'll have more this week as we countdown to Maryland Madness. Pete will give his take on who the starting five will likely be come November and also provide some additional notes and analysis from today.
What are your expectations for this year's team? Anything from today surprise you?