How Maryland's freshmen could make all the difference in 2014-15

Maryland will lean on guard Dion Wiley and the rest of the Terps' five-man recruiting class. - USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off the transfers of three rotation players, the Terrapins need athleticism and depth more than ever. Their five incoming freshmen stand to offer them just that.

Tuesday's news of the transfers of Terrapins basketball players Shaquille Cleare, Nick Faust and Roddy Peters was not especially surprising. Coach Mark Turgeon had seemingly soured on each of the three as last season went on; Peters and Cleare, highly-touted recruits from each of the last two classes, saw their minutes dissipate almost entirely for long stretches. Faust, the jewel of Turgeon's first class in College Park, slipped to a frustrating sixth-man role. Fans voiced their frustrations with all parties involved.

That does not mean the Terps won't miss any of them. Faust was endlessly frustrating, but he was almost arguably the most athletic player on the team. Peters was raw and couldn't shoot, but he offered strong upside as a collegiate point guard. Cleare looked like an utter bust, but he offered aircraft-carrier size and an elite recruiting pedigree. None of them had good seasons in 2013-14, but all of them have a place in major college basketball.

Fortunately for the Terps, a now five-man recruiting class could move to fill the transfer gaps -- or better -- quickly.

Had he stuck around, Faust would have likely come off the bench to be an athletic wing defender and slashing scorer. With the impending arrival of Melo Trimble on the roster and, likely, in the starting lineup, Turgeon will be able to use Dez Wells as his best wing defender without sacrificing much in the backcourt. Without Faust, it seems natural that Wells will spend more time chasing other teams' best backcourt scorers around the court. With Trimble and Allen anchoring what should be a high-scoring guard group, that's OK for Maryland. Dion Wiley should step in as the first true guard off the bench, and Jake Layman will contribute to the wing defensive effort, too.

Obviously, Peters' loss will be immediately offset, and then some, when Trimble joins the program. Trimble is a better player than Peters in every facet of the game, and while the Terps could have used Peters for depth, Trimble and Wiley offer enough that the Terps won't miss him. My colleague Andrew Emmer offers what I think is a deft NBA comparison for Trimble: Phoenix's Goran Dragic, a big, rangy point guard who can handle the ball and pass effectively and has an underrated ability to slash inside and score. The future at the one spot is bright, regardless of Peters' exit.

In the frontcourt, Maryland has little choice but to lean heavily on incoming freshmen Michal Cekovsky and Trayvon Reed.

Cekovsky, the Slovakian import who just committed this week, will immediately offer more polish than Cleare showed at any point during his two disappointing seasons in College Park. Cekovsky will be the same age as a normal junior, and he should be able to adjust quickly to the speed and physicality of the Big Ten. He's also 7 feet tall, and although he looks a good deal lankier than Cleare, he's more athletic. Cleare usually looked like he couldn't make a mid-range jumper if he were being guarded by junior high players. Cekovsky, who figures to take many of the minutes Cleare now vacates, thrives away from the hoop but can still score as a classic, back-to-the-basket big man.

There will be a transition period for Cekovsky, and anyone who expects him to turn into an Adreian Payne- or Kevin Pittsnogle-style inside-outside behemoth right away is likely to be disappointed. But given Cekovsky's size and athleticism -- and the frustratingly low bar he has to clear -- it would come as a shock if he weren't better than Cleare from the outset. That will help Maryland in 2014 and beyond.

Trayvon Reed, the Terps' other towering freshman-to-be, will come to College Park more raw than Cekovsky. Given his size and shot-blocking ability, however, he, too, should contribute early on in his freshman season. Reed's offensive game isn't as dynamic as Cekovsky's, but he's nonetheless a formidable interior presence. Reed isn't going to pile up points, but he'll play enough defense to be useful. If his offensive game develops and Reed becomes a double-double type, that smells like gravy for the Terps.

Last season was a miserable one for Maryland, and it usually hurts programs when three rotation players rush for the exits before the program plays another game. Turgeon's team will miss Faust, and maybe Cleare and Peters, too, if they turn their careers around. But given who Maryland has climbing onboard for next year, the program remains positioned to take a significant step forward.

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