When Mark Turgeon was hired to replace retiring coaching legend Gary Williams, one of his first tasks was convincing then recruit Nick Faust to stay committed to the Terps. After Sterling Gibbs and Martin Breunig asked to be released from their LOI to Maryland, Turgeon immediately had to convince Faust that he should remain a Terrapin. Shortly after being hired, Terps fans let out a collective sigh of relief when Faust, the crown jewel of Maryland's 2012 recruiting class, decided to remain committed to the Terps
I've often thought about what would have happened had Faust asked for his release from Maryland and played elsewhere in 2011-2012. Faust was arguably one of the most talented players in the state of Maryland in 2012 and had Mark Turgeon failed to convince him to stay, his credibility with the fan base would be off to a rocky start.
After Turgeon was hired, virtually everyone said that Maryland was getting a great x's and o's coach who they would thrive at a basketball school like Maryland. But the one area that was still a slight question for Turgeon was recruiting. Had he failed to keep Faust in a Maryland uniform, some might have quickly wondered whether he'd be able to recruit the top-end talent that had been bypassing College Park for the last seven to eight years.
Fortunately for Maryland, Turgeon convinced Faust to stay committed and since then Turgeon has been on a quest to restock the cupboards in College Park as he assembles his first recruiting class at Maryland. How's he doing? Pretty good so far.
One of the smartest things Turgeon did after being hired at Maryland was to retain Bino Ranson as an assistant coach and then hire away Dalonte Hill from Kansas State. Having both of those guys on staff gave him instant credibility with both recruits and coaches, especially in the DMV area. Hiring Hill was also a complete 180 from the philosophy that was used by his predecessor. Regardless of what you think about Gary Williams' recruiting, one thing seemed certain; he didn't get along well with several of the area's coaches, especially those on the AAU circuit. Hiring Hill and mending those bridges was a vital first step to ensuring that Maryland can keep the local talent that seems to grow in the Baltimore-DC area in state.
As Maryland began their first season under Turgeon, it became painfully obvious that the team lacked depth, a problem that was exacerbated by Pe'Shon Howard's injuries and Alex Len having to sit out the first ten games of the season. Jordan Williams' decision to leave early for the NBA, coupled with Gary Williams' retirement left Turgeon in the position of having to give a lot of players more minutes then they might otherwise receive. It also prevented him from being able to both rest players and take players out of the game after they made a mistake or showed poor decision making. There simply weren't players who could fill those minutes, aside from a handful of walkons. But despite these circumstances, most would probably argue that the Terps exceeded expectations in 2011-2012. Turgeon did a very good job of keeping his team competitive and even on the NIT bubble, which might not seem like an accomplishment, but given all of the parameters that went into this season, that's no small feat. In addition to all of this, Turgeon was quietly putting together his first recruiting class at Maryland, one that will hopefully shape his legacy here and mark the reemergence of Maryland as a national basketball power.
Turgeon and his staff have done a fantastic job putting together a class that will likely have a lot of early contributors, provide Maryland with much needed size and depth, and hopefully supplement the returning players to the point where Maryland can make the NCAA tournament in 2013. The six player class, which is composed of big-name talent like Shaquille Cleare and Charles MItchell, as well as some lesser known names, like Seth Allen and Damonte Dodd, is regarded by most as being in the top 15-20 range for 2012, especially after the recent addition (again) of Sam Cassell Jr.. One thing to keep in mind with those rankings is that they're not just based on the talent of the recruits coming in, but also on the size of the class, so the fact that Maryland has six commits for 2012 is likely helping to elevate their ranking. That being said, this is still a fantastic first class for Mark Turgeon and his staff. Getting six players to commit, as well as the legwork involved in evaluating those players and deciding to offer them a scholarship, takes a lot of work, especially during a season as grueling as this past one likely was for Turgeon.
After watching this season, it was painfully obvious that Maryland desperately needed front court help and guards who can both make jump shots and do some ball handling. Padgett has developed into a solid front court player, but Len and Pankey still have a lot of refinement left to do this offseason. Shaquille Cleare should be able to step in and immediately contribute, especially on the rebounding end. Charles Mitchell should also be able to make an immediate impact to the front court depth for the Terps. Damonte Dodd is another player for Maryland in 2012, but some are speculating he could redshirt. If he doesn't end up redshirting, he too could provide additional front court depth.
With the departure of Mychael Parker and Sean Mosley, Maryland really needed some guards who could step in and immediately have the ability to score off screens and create their own shot when needed. They need guards who can supplement Stoglin and stretch defenses and allow Stoglin to have more open looks. Sam Cassell and Seth Allen will hopefully help with that, while also potentially running some point as the season wears on. Jake Layman, the 6'8" combo forward, could also run some point for Maryland and can play a variety of positions. He's also supposed to have a great transition game and should complement Nick Faust as another versatile player when he's out on the court. I'd still like to see Maryland grab a more true point guard in the future (a Steve Blake / Eric Hayes-esque pass first, shoot second guard), but I think they can work with what they have right now.
In addition to the 2012 class, Turgeon has also recruited Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, who will be eligible for the 2013-2014 season. Smotrycz, a 6-9 forward who is capable of stepping back and making 3's, averaged 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season for Michigan. He should be a nice addition to the 2013 class and will provide an experienced player who can likely contribute immediately.
So in just under a year, Turgeon has successfully revamped Maryland's entire roster. Then when you start looking at who Maryland is involved with for the 2013 and 2014 classes, you begin to see the potential Turgeon has as head coach at Maryland. If he's able to successfully land a few of those big names for his next class, watch out. Great game coaches who can also recruit well aren't as prevalent as one might assume. If Turgeon is able to successfully do both on a consistent basis, Maryland will once be achieving the successes they enjoyed during their late 90s-early 2000s. I'm already excited to see what this team can do in 2012-2013. Beyond that, the sky's the limit.