When it was announced Sunday evening that senior forward Evan Smotrycz's injury, which was suffered Friday during practice, ended up being a fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his foot, the focus immediately turned to how his 4-6 week absence would impact the start of the season for the Terps. That time frame would keep Smotrycz out through around the end of November, meaning he'd miss around nine games, including the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
Many, myself included, expected Smotrycz to start this season. With Mark Turgeon's comments last week about the improved play of sophomore center Damonte Dodd, the starting five I anticipated seeing was: Melo Trimble, Dez Wells, Jake Layman, Evan Smotrycz and Damonte Dodd.
Smotrycz's injury is a big blow to Maryland's front court depth, especially with the transfers of Shaq Cleare, Charles Mitchell and Nick Faust, along with Trayvon Reed's dismissal from the team this summer. So who steps into Smotrycz's starting spot until he returns? Let's take a look at some of the possible scenarios. For the sake of argument, I'm assuming that Damonte Dodd is going to be starting at the five.
Scenario 1: Michal Cekovsky starts
Starting 5: Melo Trimble, Dez Wells, Jake Layman, Michal Cekovsky, Damonte Dodd,
While on surface some might think Cekovsky would be competing at the five spot with Damonte Dodd because of his seven foot frame, his true skill set is that of a power forward. You will often see him hanging out beyond the three point arc and not in the paint. He has a great shooting stroke, can hit the three, and will often drive from the outside and finish successfully around the rim. He can also be a rim protector but we haven't really seen the post game you'd expect from a seven footer, since he hasn't really developed that skill while playing in Europe. If you paired him on the court with Dodd, Jake Layman, Dez Wells, and Melo Trimble, that's a pretty big and awesome line up. You'd then have Jon Graham, Jared Nickens, Richaud Pack and Dion Wiley as your primary guys off the bench.
Many feel Cekovsky was one of the best big men in the 2014 class, so he certainly has the potential to start from day one. This might just be his opportunity to quickly adjust to American basketball, especially with some of the cupcake games Maryland has early on in their schedule.
Scenarios 2: Jon Graham starts
Starting 5: Melo Trimble, Dez Wells, Jake Layman, Jon Graham, Damonte Dodd
Graham, the former Penn State player who transferred to Maryland, started two games last season for the Terps, and could step in with Smotrycz out and provide some senior leadership on the court during his absence. While Graham didn't put up huge numbers last season, when he was on the court, he was constantly fighting for rebounds and loose balls. He's shown he can score and grab rebounds when given the opportunity and might be a good person to bridge the gap while Smotrycz is out.
With Graham starting, Mark Turgeon would have Jared Nickens, Richaud Pack, Michal Cekovsky and Dion Wiley as his primary guys off the bench. He could get a lot of different looks with that bench to switch things up on the court. He could go small and have Dion Wiley or Richaud Pack on the court with Dez Wells, Melo Trimble Jared Nickens and Graham or Cekovsky as your protector in the paint. He could go big, similar to a line up you might see if Cekovsky started. There are a lot of options.
Scenarios 3: Start another guard
Starting 5: Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley/Richaud Pack/Jared Nickens, Dez Wells, Jake Layman, Damonte Dodd
Another option for Mark Turgeon is to go with three starting guards. Having Melo Trimble, Dez Wells, and either Richaud Pack or Dion Wiley starting with Jake Layman, Damonte Dodd and either Cekovsky or Graham could give Maryland a lot of quickness on the perimeter and would also give Turgeon a lot of flexibility with his bench and what style of play he'd like to run.
If Turgeon decided to go with Jared Nickens in the starting line up, Dez Wells would most likely start at the two spot and Nickens at the three. Nickens is listed as a guard/forward, but his size and skill set would be best utilized in the small forward position. If Wiley or Pack started, Wells would likely move over to the three, as both Wiley and Pack are true guards whereas Wells is capable of playing small forward.
If Turgeon decided to start Pack, that would also give him another veteran presence on the court and providing Maryland with another great scoring option. Pack has certainly demonstrated his ability to score, but whether he can consistently do so against better competition is a question that is still a little up in the air. But considering many of Maryland's first several opponents are of the cupcake variety, perhaps Pack would be a logical choice here?
Another important thing to consider is that, in many ways, it might not matter too much who starts. Mark Turgeon will probably put a lot of different guys on the court to try to find the best group that gives his team the opportunity to win. And that might change depending on the opponent.
Losing Smotrycz for four to six weeks will certainly impact Maryland, especially since, as we saw with Seth Allen last year, it will likely take several weeks after his return before he's fully himself. But Maryland has a lot of different options then can go with until he returns. Hopefully this will allow several of Maryland's younger players the opportunity to get valuable experience in the early going and prepare them for their first season in the Big Ten.