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Previewing 2011-2012 Maryland Terrapins Basketball: The Wings

With the 2011-12 basketball season tipping off today, the Mark Turgeon era officially gets underway in College Park. Testudo Times is previewing the 2011-12 Maryland Terrapins basketball team, grouped into guards, wings, and bigs. In this segment, we look at the swingmen. You can read the preview for the guards here and bigs here.

Let's face it: Maryland doesn't have a legacy of great swingmen. There's a laundry list of great guards that've come through College Park: Greivis Vasquez, Steve Blake, Juan Dixon, Steve Francis, John Lucas, and even Gene Shue (if you want get retro). Likewise, there's been no problem producing productive big men on a regular basis: Jordan Williams, Chris Wilcox, Lonny Baxter, Keith Booth, Joe Smith, Len Elmore, and Tom McMillen, for example.

For comparison, take a look at the swingmen Maryland's relied upon over, say, the past decade. Cliff Tucker. Chris McCray. Nik Caner-Medley. Mike Jones. It's a who's-who of disappointing figures in Maryland sports history. (Things don't get that much better if you back another decade.) Walt Williams might count, from back in '92, but even he ended playing point forward as much as being a traditional wing. He's the only elite wing from the Gary Era if you count him, and even after him you have to back to 1980 to find the next: Albert King. (This may be a point of contention, but I consider Len Bias and Terrence Morris to be 4s.)

Last year's Terrapins didn't do much to change that. Maryland's wings were serviceable, have no doubt, but they didn't win the Terrapins any games and might've actually been the weakest point of the team. Interestingly enough, Maryland is sort-of starting anew here. Cliff Tucker, the enigmatic figure who oscillated between promise and disappointment? He's gone, as are his 9 ppg and 16 starts. Haukur Palsson, the 6-6 Icelander who started three games as a true freshman? He's gone too, likely to be an admittedly awesome footnote in Maryland history. (Gone with him, sadly, is perhaps the best site meme we've ever had: RIP, Hawk Balls.)

What remains? A grizzled senior and two just about entirely unknown figures, one a sophomore who clocked 80 minutes in all of last year and the other a promising freshman who'll be forced to play out of position to start the season. The interior gets all the pub for being the least-predictable area for Maryland, but I have to say that there's a fair amount of wiggle room on the wings, too. Let's get to it:

Sean Mosley, Sr., #14 (6-4, 210)

I think everyone knows what Sean Mosley is by now. He's been around Maryland seemingly forever, coming in four years ago from Baltimore as a four-time All-Met selection and the Gatorade Maryland Player of the Year. And he's been a starter basically ever since: he started 16 games in his freshman campaign before starting all 32 games his sophomore season and 28 last year. That's 76 starts. You know how many starts everyone else on Maryland's team has combined? 23.

For that experience alone, Mosley will be one of Maryland's rocks this year, as well as being looked to be a coach on the floor. Given how well he does the little things - playing defense, rebounding, and hustling - it's a role that's well-suited to him. As I said above, though, Mosley pretty much is who he is at this point in his career. He'll do the aforementioned little things. He'll play, rebound, and defend significantly larger than his 6-4 frame. And he'll average about 9 or 10 points per game at most, probably frustrating fans in the process.

That's just where he is at this point in his career. He can turn out a 15- or 16-point performance every once in awhile, but he just plain isn't a spectacular scorer - or, some would say, a scorer at all. He's a defender, a scrapper, a fighter, a glue guy, but he's not someone who can light up the scoreboard with consistency. Never really has been. And that isn't a bad thing, necessarily. Really, his career numbers compare more or less to Byron Mouton. I'm sure Mouton would probably frustrate some fans, too, when every player is looked upon to be an offensive savior of sorts.

Still, last season was a disappointing one for Mosley. He seem primed to become a high-level scorer after a few strong performances from his second campaign - remember the 22-point game against Villanova? - and was expected to take large strides. Instead, he at best treaded water. He took 15 more shots last season than he did in his sophomore year, but made 15 less. Obviously, not having Greivis Vasquez around hurt him there, but he still had trouble finding his jumper all year long.

Hopefully his stroke will be a bit more tuned this year, because he'll certainly be on the floor all the time - Maryland simply can't go without what he brings in rebounding and on defense, especially when they face a team with an elite wing. Perhaps the presence of Nick Faust on the perimeter as another scoring option will take some of the heat off Sugar Sean. We know he can be a viable offensive option in the right situation - he shot about 51% from the field his sophomore year - and he'll certainly need to be for Maryland to have a shot this season.

Worst Case: His jumper falters early and he struggles with confidence issues the rest of the season offensively, continuing his slide from the quality of play of his sophomore year. He averages only 7 ppg, many of them coming in transition or on put-backs. Continues to play good-to-great defense and rebounds at a high level.

Best Case: Mosley's jumper clicks offensively, and he's able to average about 13 points per game, many of them coming off his preferred elbow curl. He continues to be a great defender and rebounder, and draws praise for his strong play while being Maryland's most consistent player.

Mychal Parker, So., #11

Much like Mosley, I think everyone had high expectations for Parker coming out of high school. A consensus four-star who was one of ESPN's top 50 players in the class of 2010, he was considered a potential impact freshman right out of the gates.

Instead, he saw the court in only 13 games all year, averaging 6.2 minutes and 1.3 points in the rare contests he got into. And when he was on the court, he often looked a bit lost, appearing to struggle with the transition to (and perhaps the speed of) the college game at the ACC level.

Of course, the same happened for Landon Milbourne in his first year, when he logged only 77 minutes all season. His sophomore campaign, Landon saw that leap to 25 mpg and averaged 8.2 ppg. So, if you're an optimist, there's certainly a (relatively recent) precedent to expect Parker's success.

And Turgeon isn't likely to have any choice but to play him. After all, this team is starting out with only 7 scholarship players, and three of them are big men. As the only healthy perimeter player not in the starting lineup, Parker will likely be Maryland's sixth man early in the year and be forced into major minutes.

When that happens, he should at least provide the Terps with an athleticism boost. A run-and-jump athlete, he loves the dunk and will make good use of it when he gets the chance. Past that ... I'm not quite sure what to expect. He's always been a slasher offensively, but that sort of play requires aggression, and Parker wasn't exactly aggressive last year. Actually, he wasn't much of anything last year based on his minimal playing time, so it's more than a little difficult to project how he'll perform this season.

We do know, though, that he has all the physical tools to be an impressive ACC player. His athleticism, his length, and even his jumper are all somewhere between good and great. The question is still mental, how well he grasps the game and if he can play at the highest speed. That's where Turgeon's focus with him has to be.

In the exhibition game, he looked much better than he did last year, even if the element of transition was still present. Especially in rebounding, which is a big area for Turgeon, he looked significantly more dialed-in. Now, whether that was because he's progressed or because that was Northwood, we still don't know. (I have to say, though, his size and athleticism make him a great candidate to make an impact on the boards, and it might be worth watching out for him there.)

Earlier this year, I called him a "hyper-athletic work-in-progress," and I think that's a good description. Luckily, Maryland likely won't have to rely on him this year, and quite honestly I consider anything he gives over 15 minutes a game to be gravy. He's still developing, and that's the lens with which you have to view him this season - for this year, I think improvement, and not necessarily spectacular play, has to be the key.

Worst Case: He doesn't progress mentally and looks much the same Mychal Parker as last year, only playing 15 minutes instead of 5. More or less invisible.

Best Case: Parker continues his offensive progress, and by the time the ACC season rolls around he's up-to-speed and a dangerous option, able to put up 10 points or so off the bench if they need him to. His athleticism and length makes him an above average rebounder and defender. He still gets about 10 or 15 minutes per game even after Pe'Shon Howard returns.

Nick Faust, Fr., #5

Ladies and gentlemen, the Era of Faust begins now ... and at point guard, weirdly enough.

Faust was Maryland's highest-ranked commitment since Mike Jones, and signaled to many the return of Gary Williams in the recruiting world and the emergence of Bino Ranson as a high-level recruiting hit-man. Of course, Williams ended up calling it quits in the spring, which led to a scary situation when Faust decommitted. Turgeon, however, made it a point of getting Faust back in the fold, and did so relatively quickly.

And even though we're a grand total of zero games into Faust's career at Maryland, he's already emerged as a fan favorite of sorts. He impressed in Maryland's exhibition win over Northwood and might've led the Terps in scoring if not for a cramping issue late. Plus, it's always nice to root for a player who seems to genuinely love the game, which Faust seems to do: every time he's taken the floor, it's been with a smile on his face.

Of course, it's also nice to root for a player with loads of offensive talent, which Faust also happens to be. He is at his core a shooter with a great outside stroke that falls more often than it doesn't; he can hit from just about anywhere, and his high release point combined with his length makes it extremely difficult to defend his jumper. Thing is, he's been filling out his offensive game more and more in the past year, to the point where he can now take someone off the dribble and finish at the rim - as he did against Northwood - nearly as well as he can drain a three with a hand in his face.

He's also shown improving handles - good enough to secure the ball on the perimeter, if perhaps more questionable when asked to break down a defender on a drive - and some absurd passing ability - we're talking an occasional Greivis-level dime here. Likewise, his athleticism is enough that he can finish at the rim relatively easily. I'm not being over-the-top when I say that he doesn't seem to lack any offensive skill that I can see. His length is certainly a major asset defensively, but that's a part of the game that's more tough to diagnose until you see someone play at this level.

Of course, there's that interesting point guard thing. He's included here because he's as true a 2/3 as Maryland's ever had, but because he's also starting at point he's included over in the guards post, too. (Weird, I know.) It's a strange situation born out of necessity: Terrell Stoglin isn't a Turgeon-type point guard, and while Pe'Shon Howard is injured there's really no other option. And so the Terps will have a 6-6 swingman playing point guard.

Faust does have some background at the point, but he hasn't done it in years. His handles, court vision, and passing were surprisingly impressive in the exhibition against Northwood, but things may not be as easy against the Alabamas and Illinoises(?) of the world. How he'll handle the responsibilities of reliably distributing with some scoring thrown in is a huge question mark - it can be difficult for anyone, let alone a freshman who has to transition to the college game and isn't actually a point guard.

I'll be looking forward to the days when Faust gets out of the 1, and not because I don't think he can't run it. He's a scorer more than anything else, though, and asking him to run an offense is another thing to focus on. I think he has the potential to be an elite scorer, and the sooner he finds himself in that role, the happier I'll be.

Worst Case: He's hurt by his lack of strength, and he loses ground when more physical players body him up. He struggles to deal with two separate transitions - to the NCAA and to point guard - simultaneously, which hurts his confidence and in turn his shooting stroke. He goes to the bench when Pe'Shon Howard returns, and has only occasional spurts of offense. Ends up averaging about 6 points per game and questions persist about his ability to take over the scoring load next year.

Best Case: Adjusts the college game right away and plays well at point guard, where he's well-served by his underrated passing ability. His scoring really takes off when Pe'Shon Howard returns to the lineup and he's allowed to move back off the ball. He's this year's version of Jeremy Lamb, becomes an everyday starter, averages 14 points per game, and wins the ACC Rookie of the Year over Austin Rivers. This is actually possible.