Terp fans received the rather shocking news yesterday that 2014 7-footer Slovakian Michal Cekovsky had committed to Maryland, beating out such powerhouse programs as Florida, Arizona and Louisville. The reaction around the interwebs was positive, to say the least.
Maryland already boasted one of the best classes in 2014. Michal Cekovsky joins Trayvon Reed, Romelo Trimble, Dion Wiley & Jared Nickens.— Alex Kline (@TheRecruitScoop) April 7, 2014
Big pick-up for Maryland. Michal Cekovsky has a ton of upside & was best available big man not named Myles Turner IMO.— Adam Finkelstein (@AdamFinkelstein) April 7, 2014
Really like the get of Michal Cekovsky for Maryland, as reported by numerous sources. 7-footer who runs the floor well and is skilled— Brian Flinn (@BFlinnFuture150) April 7, 2014
Don't know anything about #Terps new commit Michal Cekovsky.. Except he's 7-foot & had offers from Arizona & Louisville.. Sounds good to me!— Rob Carlin (@RobCarlinCSN) April 7, 2014
(Awwww, Duke blogger is bitter)
The other general reactionary theme was along the lines of, "Great! Now who leaves?"
Maryland is slated to exceed the NCAA basketball allotment of 13 scholarships with the addition of Cekovsky. The players expected to be on scholarship next season are seniors Dez Wells, Nick Faust and Evan Smotrycz, juniors Seth Allen, Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare, sophomores Roddy Peters and Damonte Dodd and freshmen Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens, Trayvon Reed and now Michal Cekovsky. By the way, and to clear up some misinformation that's been mentioned, you'll notice neither Jonathan Graham or Varun Ram are included on that list. Neither were expected to stay on scholarship past this season anyway.
Rumors have been swirling for weeks, if not months, about the possible departures of a number of current players, with Faust and Cleare mentioned the most. Obviously something is going to have to change soon to get Maryland under the scholarship limit, but until we hear anything substantial from a reliable source, I don't want to speculate on who might be moving on. We'll probably find out in the next few weeks.
Let's move on to what Cekovsky brings to Maryland from a basketball standpoint.
First, and maybe most importantly, he adds height and length that the Terps sorely lacked last season. Mark Turgeon opined the lack of a rim protector numerous times during the course of the year, and while Cekovsky isn't the caliber of shot blocker of Alex Len or even Trayvon Reed, he shows decent anticipation and timing. At the very least, his presence is going to force drivers to alter their approach.
As someone that's been playing a European-style of basketball his entire life, it shouldn't be surprising that Cekovsky spends a lot of time outside the paint as a big man. He has a very smooth stroke and looks like he'll be able to consistently knock down jumpers from 10-20 feet.
Athletically he's exceptional for a 7-footer. It's just very rare to see a guy that tall move and drive with the ball with that much fluidity and coordination. He shows nice touch around the rim and soft hands to catch passes and lobs.
One thing I see lacking from Cekovsky's repertoire from the little video we have of him is a developed post game. Again, this shouldn't be surprising coming from his basketball background, but if Turgeon's handling of Alex Len is any indication, he'll want Cekovsky playing much more in the paint. I'd like to see it as well, simply because that's where being a 7-footer puts you at the greatest advantage.
The most obvious comparison I see as a similar-type player is star Wisconsin forward/center Frank Kaminsky. If Cekovsky is even close to Kaminsky, Maryland will be leaps and bounds better up front than they were last season. My only worry is that unless there's more post presence than I'm seeing in these clips, you can't really play him at the 5 with Smotrycz or Layman at the 4. The best pairings would be with a more traditional low-post player like Mitchell or a rim protector like Reed.
In short, Maryland really couldn't have added a better player and fit than they did with Cekovsky, especially this late in the game. He could realistically start from day one and be the best or second best of a very talented freshman class.