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Maryland basketball media day round-up: New-look Terps excited for season

Coach Mark Turgeon and the team addressed the media today at the Xfinity Center. We bring you the best of the best from all of the action.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Under Pressure

I asked Coach Turgeon whether or not he felt pressure to make the NCAA Tournament this season. His response? "I feel zero pressure." He then said, "I feel pressure every year to get the most out of my team and most years we do that." I think many Maryland fans might disagree with that latter part considering the team's 59-43 record and tournament-less status in Turgeon's tenure.

He also said, "We do the best we can. Unfortunately, a lot of things are based on the NCAA Tournament. That's our goal. That's our goal every year. You gotta be good, you gotta be lucky also. It's not what we think about every day."

Rotation and lineup updates

Turgeon gave an update on the Evan Smotrycz injury situation by saying that the surgery went well and the doctor told him that he'd be back in six weeks.

Turgeon said that if the season started today, Damonte Dodd (who he said was the team's most improved player) would start at the five due to his defensive capabilities. He said Melo Trimble, Dez Wells and Jake Layman were pretty much assured starting spots, with the other two still up in the air. Turgeon also said that the team will play small at times and move Jake Layman to the four, creating opportunities for Jared Nickens, Dion Wiley and Richaud Pack.

Michal Cekovsky at 7'1'' was going to be an important contributor to the team even before Smotrycz's injury but now he is even more valuable. He said that the pace was faster than what he played in Europe but Turgeon said, "He can run and jump and catch the ball and pass the ball and shoot the ball." Well gee, that sounds fantastic. It seems like Cekovsky can do a little bit of everything and that is exactly what the Terps will need him to do this year.

New Kids on the Block

Coach Turgeon would not address the transfers at all. I mean AT ALL. When a reporter asked how, with all of the transfers, it might feel like Turgeon was coaching a completely different team, Turgeon said, "I'm not talking about it. I love my team."

And Turgeon should love his team. His four freshmen (Melo Trimble, Jared Nickens, Michael Cekovsky and Dion Wiley) come in with a lot of hype and they got a lot of attention on media day. Here is some of what Turgeon said about them.

  • He said that Melo is already one of the best team defenders on the squad.
  • He says that Melo was 9/14 from three point range in a live scrimmage last week
  • He said that Dion Wiley has one of the best feels for the game of any player that he has ever coached.
  • He said that Nickens is one of the smartest, most cerebral players that he has ever coached
  • He said that Pack (a transfer who is a 5th year senior) is a great role-model and leader.
Full quotes, from a release from the team:

Head Coach Mark Turgeon

Opening statement:

"We're excited about the year, obviously. We've had a great spring, summer and fall. It's been really good for us and our guys have really improved. You're going to love covering this team because you all like to be around winners and I know you like being around good kids. This has been a low-maintenance team and a lot of fun to coach. You're going to have fun covering them just like I'm having a blast coaching them right now."

On team chemistry:

"They are getting along great. I think we have a group of guys coming back who are very determined to be successful. They've worked extremely hard and we have a group of new guys who are very good basketball players and also very humble. I think there is a respect factor among our team. They respect each other's abilities and this group seems to really get along between the lines and understand each other's games. It's been great so far. Now we haven't gotten into playing time yet, it's just practice time. Playing time changes things, but they've really been together. It's been a good mesh."

On the impact of the highly-regarded incoming freshman class:

"I don't think our young guys are feeling pressure. I think there is a reason they are ranked so high, because they are such good players. They can handle it. It's a good group of new guys."

On moving into the Big Ten:

"The league is obviously a big change, but the thing with us is we are going from a great league to another great league. It's not like we are dropping down six levels. Arguably we could be moving up. The Big Ten has been the best league in the country the last four years. They've had the most Sweet Sixteen teams, the most Elite Eights, the most Final Fours and the most first-team All Americans. It's a heck of a league. It has coaches that I really respect. I've followed their programs and they do a tremendous job."

Freshman Guard Melo Trimble

On how he's handled his high expectations:

"I'm just taking it one day at a time, getting better every day. I'm getting pushed by the veterans Jake (Layman), Dez (Wells) and all the other seniors too."

On his overall game:

"I don't really like to talk about my game because I'm a team guy. But I guess it has a lot to do with quickness, speed, shooting, and passing."

On being a part of Maryland basketball:

"This place is like home to me. I'm familiar with the faces around me. There have been a lot of people counting on me to do well and as long as I have my teammates telling me I can do it, then there's no pressure."

Junior Forward Jake Layman

On where he has improved the most this offseason:

"I think ball handling is a huge improvement. I think you're going to see me being much more comfortable handling the ball."

On how he's grown since last season:

"I mean personally I have taken great steps. This past offseason, I was working hard with John (Auslander) and current Washington Wizards coach David Adkins. I mean those two really pushed me this summer to become the best player I can be."

On the 2014-15 inaugural season in the Big Ten:

"I don't know about the unknown. I mean we're just excited to play against new teams really and me especially. I'm excited to play with these new guys along with all the other veterans. I know that they are all here to work and that they just want to win."

Senior Guard Dez Wells

On the strengths of this year's team:

"I think it's chemistry. Chemistry is one of those things that you can't really teach. We want to be around each other and work hard together and to just get to know people. I think that is our biggest asset right now."

On the team's sense of urgency:

"I think we have a sense of urgency because we want this to be a great year for everybody, not just for the seniors because there are a lot of people on this team who it means a lot to. As long as we come out and compete as hard as we can and we make sure we do what coach asks us to, I think we'll have a great opportunity to be successful."

On being a leader this year:

"I just feel that I need to go out there and lead the guys in the best way I can. Make sure they respond to each and every challenge that happens on the court. And with every adjustment we make, I need to make sure that everybody is paying attention and focused on what we need to do next."