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What Pe'Shon Howard's transfer means (or: Maryland really needs a guard right about now)

Breaking down what Pe'Shon Howard's transfer really means, and how Maryland might replace him. Because let's face it - they really need to.


Even before Pe`Shon Howard decided to transfer, the Maryland Terrapins probably needed to add a guard before the start of next season. Now that he's officially out the door? There's no "probably" about it - Howard may not have been the answer for the Terps at point guard, but he was at least an answer. Without him in the program, it turns the recruitment of an extra guard from a priority for Mark Turgeon to a downright necessity.

After all, without Howard, Turgeon will have all of two true guards on the roster next season. And notice I don't say "true point guards" - true guards, full stop. And those two consist of Seth Allen and Roddy Peters, the former a combo guard who has had his best moments playing off the ball and the latter a true freshman-to-be coming off a major shoulder injury that forced him to sit out his senior season. They can be counted upon to do the basics, probably - Allen in particular was Maryland's most effective ballhandler under pressure - but they're substantial risks to run an offense full-time. And past those two, the only point guard option would be Nick Faust, which is doable but inadvisable at best.

In short, while point guard was always going to be a problem area, Maryland is now lacking in both quality and depth. It's uncertain whether Allen will transition into being a full-time point; it's uncertain whether Peters, a likely-rusty freshman, will be able to be an impact player in his opening season; and it's hella uncertain what would happen should neither of those scenarios occur (and don't even mention injuries). Maybe you can take that risk at center, but it's not the type of chance you can take at point guard. Say what you will about Howard, but Pe' was at best a solid, unspectacular point guard, and at worst at least another option should the risky alternatives not pan out quite right. In that sense, his absence hurts, and will put Maryland in a serious bind unless they can replace him.

It should be noted that, generally, Howard's loss isn't something that would be keeping anyone up at night. And that's not speaking ill of the transferred as much as it's mere observational honesty: Pe' struggled this year. Mightily, most of the time. The Terps' biggest regular season win, when they beat #2 Duke in College Park, came without him on the floor - which doesn't say that they're better without him but does show that he was far from an instrumental cog. Even late in the year, when he showed encouraging signs and looked like he was clamping down the starting point guard spot for next season, his contributions were more of the "he's not hurting" instead of the "he's helping" variety. In fairness, Howard showed just how good of an on- and off-ball defender he could be, and his defensive energy and prowess proved occasionally critical. But there's just no getting away from the fact that Maryland generally had to carry him offensively, never more obvious than the few dozen times late in the year he'd pass up a wide open jumper because, for him, it simply wasn't a high-percentage shot. The Terps didn't have enough scoring prowess to pass up open jumpers when they actually did execute well, and Howard's inability to score was a weight around the offense's neck for much of the year, never mind the on-and-off issues with turnovers and running the offense. He brought a lot of good, especially late in the year, but again, success hardly relied on his presence.

But Howard is better than nothing, which is as of now a potential alternative. Peters is most certainly intriguing and promising, but he's hardly a sure bet immediately: similarly-ranked players like Shaquille Cleare (#34 on RSCI to Peters' #37 composite) and Nick Faust (#43) struggled as freshmen, and they didn't miss out on their senior years due to injury. Allen, meanwhile, has had up-and-down moments at point, where his Stoglinesque desire to score can be occasionally disruptive to the offense, and it remains to be seen whether Mark Turgeon sees him as (or whether he can be) a long-term solution there. And once again, if something should happen to either one, that means Nick Faust will be logging major minutes at the point once again, and that's far from ideal.

The good news is that the Terrapins have plenty of room to play around. Had Howard stayed in College Park, it was possible that they'd have stayed put with those three options, which would've been perhaps a bit underwhelming but, likely, good enough. Now that he's gone, it's become a virtual necessity to add a guard - even if Turgeon is entirely confident in both Allen and Peters, the sheer numbers favor having a third option, even if only for depth. With three open scholarships for next season, plus a potential fourth if Alex Len heads off to the NBA as expected, there's certainly nothing holding him back from adding bodies - bodies that are quite seriously needed.

There are a variety of pathways. The first, and one with the most smoke surrounding it, is the reclassification of Romelo Trimble to the 2013 class, a rumor that's been going around for quite some time, but was shot down by his high school coach. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't happening - after all, it wasn't long ago that Howard said he was planning to return - but if it is, it's getting to be a bit late. This will have had to been in the works for some time, if it is happening, and even then may not be the most elegant solution. Trimble's talented, but he'll be a year young, probably not quite ready to make the step up, and would be losing valuable game time coming in to be, at least at the start, a third option. There's always a puncher's chance he's unusually prepared for the jump and happens to fix everything, but that's very unlikely, and if not then he'll risk stunting his development. Ideally, Maryland would find another solution - preferably one more likely to be a real answer - and let Trimble continue his development and evolution into a point guard.

What those other solutions may be, though, aren't yet obvious. The traditional path would be adding another recruit, but that has it's own problems. For starters, there simply aren't that many on the market. Someone like Jaren Sina could prove useful, but likely only as a bit part, and even with that there's plenty of competition. That'll be the case with any guard recruit becoming available this late - and there will be plenty. As more and more jobs open up, more and more recruits will pop up, but who knows if Maryland will be competitive, or if they'll be of a high enough standard? (Keep an eye on Shane Rector, but keep your fingers crossed for Syracuse getting UConn'd and Tyler Ennis falling out of the sky.)

The other possibility is pulling Turgeon's specialty: the immediately-eligible transfer. But once again, there are few, if any, real options there at the moment - at least that we know of. Lasan Kromah, a sixth man for George Washington last year, could provide situational minutes but likely nothing more, and other immediately-eligible types will take some digging from the staff to find. (Any shot Dylon Cormier's already graduated?) Given that Turgeon also added Alex Len in his first year, too, he's clearly comfortable taking the overseas route, if need be, and that could be a possibility as well if he's had his guys scouting over that way already.

No matter how it happens, though, Maryland has to look to add a guard in the next few months, and hopefully will. Even if you consider Faust a viable option as a guard, it's unlikely that any high-major program, let alone one like Maryland, that needs to make the NCAA Tournament next year, will feel comfortable going into a season with all of three guards and with no proven or natural point guards. It's simply too much of a gamble. I don't mean to imply that Howard staying would've necessarily solved any problems, but he would've given the Terps another drawing in the lottery, as it were. They're going to need that other option, not to mention the depth and ability to rotate lineups.

Keep in mind, too, that Maryland may well be looking for a Len replacement at the same time. They need a guard, and if Len leaves they'll need a big, too. (Speaking of, Alex Kirk, whom Maryland recruited the first time around, can play immediately if he transfers.) The next few months, my friends, are going to be anything but quiet.