The good news is that next year, almost our entire team will be returning, with the exceptions of Logan Aronhalt (the sole bright spot in our last game, but the definition of a role player) James Padgett (a high energy but limited in talent player), and almost definitely Alex Len. Our team will be older, stronger, more skilled, more cognizant of Turgeon's varied offensive and defensive plays, and hungrier after having a promising season (presumably) end with the NIT. The next time these guys get a big win, such as the Duke game from Saturday, they will know first-hand the risk of an emotional letdown such as the BC loss - they will be able to remember how they feel right now and call on that to motivate them towards a constant killer instinct.
We will miss Len's length and athleticism, his shot blocking, his dunks, and the attention that he commands with double teams that open up the perimeter. His role will not be filled by anyone else in the near future, though the starting center position will probably become Shaq Cleare's, as he develops his skills (FT practice, please). Charles Mitchell has shown an outstanding feel for rebounding, and tremendous energy for a player his size. Our front court depth will remain the same, with Evan Smotrycz providing a stretch PF element that is currently lacking, and Damonte Dodd being an athletic X-factor off of the bench.
Our guards will develop. Seth Allen has interspersed boneheaded turnovers with ebullient driving layups and timely 3-pointers. Dez Wells will be with us until he can claim a consistent outside shot as part of his arsenal of skills, and will continue to excel in transition offense and defense, while cutting down on bad decisions, and improving his range. Nick Faust will have to concentrate on improving his handle, his shot, and his confidence on the road to truly understanding what he can become as a player. Pe'shon Howard will have the opportunity to contribute off of the bench as a designated FT shooter and elder statesman. Roddy Peters will hopefully bring new outside shooting, passing, and ballhandling to our team, but we'll have to reserve judgment until we see him as he will be a freshman coming off of a long break from organized play.
Jake Layman has shown flashes of dominant play, at times, between his currently-streaky outside shooting, athleticism, length, and defense. He could be an outstanding player as his career continues and he packs on some muscle.
Overall, while this moment may seem to carry nothing but bitter disappointment with what could have been, the future looks bright. Coach Turgeon has flaws, but has historically shown himself to be a wonderful teacher, and his staff has already proven that they can recruit great talent to College Park. If the team can somehow pull together and make the NCAA Tournament, they will be ahead of schedule, and such an accomplishment would be truly stunning and a boon for our program. However, In a way, I wonder whether the players would benefit more from a deep run in the NIT than from a first-round exit from the Dance.
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