Over the next several weeks, we'll be reviewing the season that was for Maryland basketball. Included in this review is, of course, player recaps, looking back at what they did and ahead at what the future holds. Today, we look at arguably Maryland's most athletic player: Mychal Parker.
|2011 - Mychal Parker
How we got here: Mychal Parker was a four-star prospect coming out of the Miller School in Virginia, but originally hails from Eastern North Carolina. There's not much in terms of competition at the high school level in that area, so despite all of his undoubted athletic skill, it was reasonable to expect a transition period before he became a successful collegiate player.
There certainly has been a transition period for Parker, both frustrating and encouraging in his two year career with the Terps. As a freshman, he barely played under Gary Williams, averaging 1.3 points and 1.3 rebounds in 6.2 minutes per game. He took 20 shots the entire year (making seven), and looked generally uncomfortable with the ball in his hands.
As a sophomore under Mark Turgeon, Parker saw an increased role in the offense and was able to thrive at times. He was able to show that athleticism, delivering some big dunks and even bigger blocks throughout the year, but still struggled in making consistent basketball plays.
Parker was one of the key contributors in the Terps' win over Colorado, which ended up being one of Maryland's signature victories of the season. He made a season-high four of his seven shots that game, scoring eight points with five rebounds. While he never had a true breakout game, he scored nine at NC State, twelve at Duke, and eight in the final game against North Carolina.
The sophomore played about triple the minutes as he did in first year in College Park, and saw improvement in nearly every category. Parker's field goal percentage jumped ten points (35% to 45%), he started actually taking threes (hitting 25% of them), and his free throw percentage went from awful to below average (30% to 61.9%). His most notable improvement came on defense, where he went from a liability to an actual playmaker, providing a combined 0.8 blocks and steals per game.
Those defensive plays were supplied by Parker's athleticism, which yes, we will continue to talk about. There's no record of this stat, but it's a safe bet that the sophomore trailed only Sean Mosley in blocks-from-behind, and he continually ran down and stuffed opponents' fast breaks. Even more encouraging were the steals, as it (hopefully) pointed to a progression in his defensive understanding of the game - he was able to put himself in a good enough defensive position to pick off a pass every two games.
Where Parker helps Maryland is with the aforementioned freakish athletic skills and his ability to drive to the hoop. If he continues to improve his free throw shooting, he can be quite an offensive asset. While he hasn't been able to draw a lot of fouls in his Maryland career yet, he's the prototypical slasher wing who should be able to get inside and get to the free throw line.
While he sort of tailed off towards the end of ACC play, there was a lot of growth for Parker throughout the year. Maryland saw much less of the deer-in-headlights forward from the season before, and much more of a very talented young man who is still learning the game.
The Road Ahead: Mychal Parker is sort of a combo guard stuck in a small forward's body. That both helps him and hurts him - he kinds of has an awkward playing style at times and can appear lost, but he's played nearly every position as a Terp and shouldn't have a hard time finding playing opportunities.
Terrell Stoglin and Nick Faust are pretty much locks at the two and three (unless Faust plays point guard, which opens a whole other world of possibilities), so the question for Parker isn't whether he's going to start. It's whether or not he'll get more playing time than some of the freshmen coming in, namely Jake Layman. Layman does a lot of the same things that Parker provides for Maryland, except with significantly better defense.
A completely separate question is whether Parker will ever start as a Terrapin, and it's looking more and more unlikely. With Faust looking like the future of the program and Layman there right behind him, there doesn't appear to be much room at small forward for him (not that there's anything wrong with having a former four-star prospect come off the bench).
Mychal Parker has a ton of potential, and Terp Nation waits with bated breath to see if Mark Turgeon and co. can unlock it. It's hard to imagine he'll be anything worse than an effective bench player this year, but the possibility is there for so much more.