I've been critical of Mark Turgeon a lot this year. Most would probably say too critical. So perhaps it takes a lot of chutzpa to chide others for being overly critical, but I think the fanbase's treatment of Pe Shon has reached a point that is almost disgraceful.
Lets briefly review Pe Shon's career:
Few remember this but Pe Shon was widely thought of to be a great get at the time we signed him. He chose us over offers from UCLA, South Florida and Virginia. Moreover he wanted to be a Terp--and understood what that meant:
“A coach like Gary Williams is the same type of coach as I am a player -- he expects to win,” Howard said. “He’s a fiery coach, and he pushes his players hard to get to the next level. He always expects the best and I know my [future] teammates do too every year."
He asked, and was given permission by none other than Greivis Vasquez to don the number 21.
When Pe Shon arrived at college park he outplayed the more heralded Stoglin at first, sinking a game winning shot to push the Terps past a feisty College of Charlston team (seriously look at some of the plays Pe Shon was making in this game). As most Freshman are prone to do Pe Shon had an up and down year but still averaged roughly 4 points and 4 assists in 21 minutes per game as a freshman.
Then the program fell apart. Gary retired, Jordan Williams left for the pros, Dino, Cliff, Adrian all graduated. Even Hawk left and went back to Iceland.
Then Pe got injured. He broke his left foot and it caused him to miss the first nine games of Turge's innaugural season. When he came back, he looked great averaging 6.5 points per game and still averaging his 4 assists per game.
Then he really got injured. He tore the ACL in his right knee last February. About 9 months later, this season began and he hasn't missed a game for us. It's been clear that he is not the same (in terms of explosiveness) that he was before this injury. He's struggled mightily this season. His shot has been awful, he's statistically one of the worst offensive players in the country. At times he's looked like he's never played the game of basketball, let along point guard.
But look at what Pe Shon has quietly been doing since the suspension.
Against UVA at home--in that game Pe got some burn and did an excellent job on Joe Harris, in fact he was about the only player on the team who seemed to want to play any kind of defense that day. He also played efficiently on the offensive end with 5 points and 2 assists in limited time. This was the first sign of life.
He followed that up with another OK outing against BC, putting up 5 points and 3 assists on perhaps the worst night of the season for our team.
He didn't play much against Clemson or GTech but then he had his best game of the season to that point against Wake scoring 8 points and netting 4 assists and emerged as our best off ball defender.
Not much can be said about Pe's performance against UNC because the whole team laid an egg that night but against UVA, he was the reason we built our early lead--totally frustrating Joe Harris, fighting through screens, turning him into a driver, making him put up constested shots. It was a harbinger of things to come and the best defense we had seen from Pe all year.
Then came the ACCT. Wells gets a lot of the pub for our improved play (and deservedly so!). After that the next guy you're likely to hear is Faust or Len. But I submitt that Pe Shon Howard was just as valuable to what we did in that tournament as any of them. Locking down CJ Harris and Seth Curry and then doing an admirable job on Bullock, he still managed to put up 7 points and 3 assits per game, shot 12-15 from the line, and had only 2 turnovers in 3 games.
He was tough, he didn't let his man get free, and he was efficient in getting us into our stuff when he was on the court. Add to that the fact that he started to show a little bit of scoring touch when he was completely ignored, and it was really promising stuff.
Everyone has an opinion on Pe Shon. Here's mine: The kid is a TERP, and I'm really excited to see what he can do in the NIT and think he is the odds on favorite to be our starting point guard next year given his defensive prowess.
It's a shame that his ascendance in the tournament has been lost in the shuffle, because I found it really sweet given how much heat he has taken. With another year between him and that ACL tear, I look for bigger and better things from Pe Shon next year. I think he could really be a 8-10 point per game, 4-6 assist per game kind of kid who brings you tough defense every night. If that's the case, I think we are more set at PG than people think.