Last year's Maryland Madness at Cole Field House was a callback to the Terrapin basketball program's history. This year's event, held at the renamed and newly tech-equipped XFINITY Center, was a look toward the future.
The crowd at this year's Madness was not big – no more than a few thousand people. Last year's event had a pretty strong crowd that almost filled Cole, but it thinned as a marathon event wore on. This year's event was short and sweet, and it got the program's moving-forward message across just fine.
All-world center prospect Diamond Stone was in attendance. Mark Turgeon went over to Stone at his seat behind the Maryland bench at one point and had a brief chat. Dez Wells kissed the Maryland name at mid-court and made a fun reverse dunk after missing once during introductions.
Probably the most fun thing that happened? Turgeon entered the arena through a phone booth, flicked off a pair of glasses and unbuttoned his button-down to reveal a Superman-style 'S,' drawing roars from the crowd.
"You know I usually don't do something like that. I wish I would have stopped there and not danced. I just hope the dancing doesn't make YouTube," Turgeon said. "I was hoping everybody would know what I was trying to accomplish out there."
After introductions wrapped, both the men's and women's teams scrimmaged. The women's scrimmage was shorter than the men's and didn't feature a lot of scoring. Melo Trimble and Richaud Pack hit three-pointers in the longer men's scrimmage, and Damonte Dodd had a few interior buckets. Dion Wiley looked raw but aggressive.
Trimble, Wiley and Nickens set to take their friendship to the court, together
Take a walk on Maryland's campus a couple of times per week, and you're bound to see Maryland freshmen Trimble, Wiley or Jared Nickens. And if you see one of them, you'll probably see the other two. Trimble and Wiley go way back, and those two and Nickens have tended to travel as a pack during their first semester as students.
Trimble said he and Wiley have known each other since they were eight years old and playing on opposing AAU teams. Wiley and Nickens met in the spring, Trimble said, and the trio have cultivated a tight relationship since they got to campus on June 2.
"Ever since then, we just formed a bond and got our tattoos together," Trimble said.
That's right – Trimble, Wiley and Nickens all got tattoos with the initials M.B.K, meaning "my brother's keeper." Trimble's is on his leg, though it's hard to see since it's been crowded by other ink.
"Those two right there are like my closest brothers," Trimble said. "You will never see me by myself without one of them."
Pack getting repetitions at point guard
Transfer guard Richaud Pack has started practicing recently at point guard. Pack, who played last year at North Carolina A&T, is more of a shooting guard by trade than a one-guard. With Seth Allen's transfer, though, the Terps need depth at that position. In comes Pack, who could spell Trimble if Turgeon is comfortable with him there.
"I like it. I know I have to play some point guard this season," Pack said. "I'm guessing Coach Turgeon's going to mix it up with me, playing some one, some two. I can do it. I know all the plays at both positions, so I'm comfortable with it."
Trimble said Pack has adjusted well in a few practices since starting out at the position.
"It's been a transition," Trimble said. "He's more of a shooting guard. He can shoot, but playing point guard, he's getting better every day."
Pack said he loves being in the Washington area. He's also enrolled in the university's Smith School of Business, which "blew him away," he said. And he likes the look of his new team, where he's by far the most senior of six newcomers.
"We have a lot of guys who can contribute. It's not just going to be one guy every night," Pack said.
Turgeon, Frese on outlooks looking forward
Men's coach Turgeon and women's coach Brenda Frese are at once in similar and drastically different positions. Both are replacing a lot of departed talent – five transfers under Turgeon and No. 4 WNBA draft pick Alyssa Thomas from Frese's team – but they're coming from different places.
The nice thing about this time of year is that everyone – whether coming off a Final Four or missing the NIT – has at least some reason for optimism. Both Turgeon and Frese expressed a good bit of that on Friday.
During her remarks to the crowd when she was introduced, Frese said too much talk has centered on what moving to the Big Ten means for Maryland. A better focus, Frese told the crowd, would be on what coming to College Park will mean for Big Ten opponents. It was an effective applause line by the coach of a team favored by media to finish first in the league.
"I think it's nice from a respect factor," Frese said. "I think people have obviously followed our tradition and our past, but at the end of the day, it's a preseason ranking, and what's more important is being number one at the end of the conference race."
Asked what differences Turgeon saw between these Terps men and the ones who struggled through a disappointing final ACC campaign last year, the coach chose to focus on his current crop of players.
"I just like this team," Turgeon said. "I've been doing it a long time, and when you've coached a long time, you kind of a get a feel for a team that's going to be a good basketball team."