It's that time of year again.
The leaves are starting the change, the temperature is dropping and Maryland football just suffered a brutal loss at the hands of a team they were always going to lose to but fans got their hopes up anyway. This mix of chill and disappointment in Randy Edsall can mean only one thing.
BASKETBALL SEASON Y'ALL.
After a long, dark summer with nothing but [shivers] baseball to hold us over, I am always so excited for football season to start. Basketball season is quite different. It sneaks up on me, but then once it starts to get close, I am always reminded that basketball is, and always will be, my true love.
Maryland Madness is coming up (it's a week away), so now seems like a great time to reintroduce everyone to just who will be donning the red, gold, black and white for our fightin' Terps this coming season.
First, let's start with the vets.
2013-2014 Stats: 14.9 PPG, 48.1 FG%, 2.2 APG, 4.3 RPG
The 6-4 senior guard from Raleigh, NC has been Maryland's consistently best player since the day he stepped foot on campus. After spending his freshman year at Xavier, Wells transferred to Maryland following an expulsion over an allegation of sexual assault (which was later dropped).
Wells is an explosive athlete who's shown the ability to take over games, even against the nation's best competition (see: ACC Tournament, 2013 vs. Duke). He's great on the fast break, an elite finisher around the rim and has a serviceable, improving jump shot.
The knock against Wells over the years is his tendency to disappear for stretches and either be too selfish or not selfish enough. He has the ability to be an All Conference player, but his effectiveness largely depends upon his ability to stay in his strongest role, as a wing, not, as in the past, be forced (by need) to play in the lead guard spot. Pencil Wells in as the starting 2 or 3 on the team.
2013-2014 Stats: 11.0 PPG, 40.1 FG%, 1.7 APG, 6.0 RPG
Smotrycz is yet another senior who transferred from a midwestern school (Michigan). He's a traditional "stretch four", meaning he's a tall dude that can hit outside shots. The 6-9 New Englander is not very athletic or agile, but he's a decent rebounder and post defender. He struggles with team defense and has had a few nagging injuries over the course of his career.
The perfect role for Smotrycz would be as a big that can stay on the perimeter and take open jump shots when defense collapses on the paint. It's a shame he never got to play alongside Alex Len, as he would be benefited exceedingly from the constant double-teams on the 7-footer. Perhaps Michal Cekovsky, who we'll get to down the road, will be able to play a Len-esque role.
Smotrycz has been a polarizing player for many Terps fans. His inconsistency and struggles on defense are frustrating, but then he'll hit four threes in a row or tie the game with a late jumper. There is no doubt that he's an important leader and player on a team littered with unknowns, but he's also not someone a team should be relying on to carry them. In other words, on a good team he's an invaluable piece but on a mediocre/bad one he can end up being the scapegoat.
I'd look for him to definitely begin the year in the starting line-up but perhaps move to the bench if one (or more) of the younger players emerge.
2013-2014 Stats: 11.7 PPG, 40.1 FG%, 0.9 APG, 5.0 RPG
The junior forward has been among the hardest players to define for Maryland fans over his two years at the school. At time's he's looked like a dominant force and future 1st round pick, when he's using his athleticism to shutdown the opposition and hitting outside shots on the other end. Then he'll disappear for halves and even entire games. For Maryland to be successful, they need much more of the former.
Many see Layman and Smotrcyz as similar, repetitive players, but I don't necessarily agree. They're similar heights and can both hit outside jumpers, but Layman is a far superior athlete to Smotrycz. Layman is a much better dribbler, cutter and team defender, while Smotrycz plays better post defense and rebounds at a better rate. On an ideal team Layman is a three while Smotrycz is a four.
I have a sneaky feeling that we'll see far more of the good Layman than bad this season. After appearing on every "Breakout Player to Watch" list before the 2013 season, he disappointed overall, only slightly improving from the second half of his freshman year. He was timid at times when he shouldn't have been and overly eager at others. His inconsistent play was one of the many reasons the team didn't seem to have an offensive identity. This year, with lesser expectation and more leadership (the team goes from zero seniors to four this year), I think Layman will have a more established role and thrive.
2013-2014 Stats: 17.0 PPG, 44.1 FG%, 1.6 APG, 4.6 RPG
I wasn't sure whether to classify Pack as a "vet", seeing as it's his first year in College Park, but he definitely isn't a "young-in", so he goes here. The post-graduate transfer from North Carolina A&T (by way of FIU) brings a number of things Maryland's been lacking in the Mark Turgeon era. He's a versatile player, a hard worker and, by all accounts, a good leader.
Pack averaged 17 points/game at NC A&T last season with a ridiculous offensive rating (points produced per 100 possessions) of 126.8 (the best in the MEAC). To compare, Maryland's leader in ORtg last season was Seth Allen at 113.7. Overall, he's an incredibly efficient guard that makes smart decisions with the ball. He's said in interviews that he would be okay with playing point guard if called upon, but his best position is likely the 2-guard.
Only in the area for a few months, Pack's already made an impact on the local basketball scene.
For the uninitiated, the Kenner League is a summer basketball league that plays most of their games on Georgetown's campus. Amateurs, college players and professionals make up the teams. Georgia Tech standout and fellow Terp transfer Robert Carter Jr. also played on Pack's team, which won the championship. Obviously, you can't glean much from the results of a few glorified exhibitions, but if he's able to beat out a number of professionals and current college studs for the MVP, it can't be a bad thing.
2013-2014 Stats: 1.6 PPG, 50.0 FG%, 0.2 APG, 2.4 RPG
What if I told you that Maryland's upperclassmen have as many combined seasons played in the Big Ten as they do in the ACC? Well, it's true! Smotrycz played two seasons for Michigan (B1G) and one in the ACC. Dez Wells has played two seasons in the ACC, none in the B1G (duh). Then there's senior Jon Graham, the son of Terp legend Ernie Graham, who spent his first three years of college basketball at Penn State - redshirting his first year - before transferring to Maryland.
Graham doesn't bring much to the table in terms of skill or statistical production but his heart is undeniable. He plays hard, rebounds well, is a decent post defender, can get some garbage points in the paint and will foul the ever-loving-crap out of anyone that steps to him. On a good team, which is not something Graham has ever played on in college, he's an important cog off the bench. On a mediocre/bad team - like Maryland last year - he was actually called up to start two games, which is a bad sign.
I love Graham as a Terp and person. He has the attitude you in every player and would have fit right in on the legendarily gritty Terps of 2001-2002. That said, barring an unforeseen leap in effectiveness, if he's an important contributor for the 2014-2015 Terrapins, that's, again, probably a bad sign.
Now go prove me wrong and average 12 rebounds a game, Jon.
Look for Part Deux next week: The Young-Ins.