Rasheed Sulaimon had a lot to prove entering this season. After a stellar freshman campaign at Duke, both his numbers and minutes subsequently dropped during his sophomore and junior seasons before becoming the first player in coach Mike Krzyzewski's 35 year tenor to be dismissed from the team last January. Months later, he watched his former teammates cut down the nets in Indianapolis as they were crowned National Champions.
Maryland made a splash when they landed Sulaimon as a transfer but doubt still circulated. He was coming off of his worst season yet, posting career lows in points and minutes per game. He was also reportedly kicked out of practice several times before his dismissal.
Sulaimon certainly had an uphill battle ahead of him when he joined this already talented Terrapins squad. Though the season is still young, he has solidified his role on this team and verified the risk that coach Mark Turgeon took when bringing him aboard.
Following Maryland's 76-66 win over UConn Tuesday night, the Terrapins are now 8-1 through their first 9 games. Sulaimon is a huge reason that this is the case. So far, he is having his best season yet. He has averaged 11.2 points per contest, which is just a hair below his career best 11.6 points per game, per basketball-reference. He is also averaging 3.7 assists per game and shooting a scorching fifty percent from deep, both career bests.
He has been proclaimed by Turgeon as the "best perimeter defender we have," helping to set the tone defensively for Maryland. He also adds a much needed ball handler to the rotation. His presence in the backcourt provides relief for Melo Trimble when the pressure is turned up. Last season when Maryland fell at the hands of Bob Huggins and West Virginia's up-tempo pressure system, Trimble left the game with a head injury and Maryland simply had nobody that could handle the ball in the face of this defensive harassment. Sulaimon is a nice solution to this problem.
Furthermore, when the ball is in his hands he has proven to have a keen sense for when to push the ball and attack the basket for fast break opportunities, or when to slow down the pace and set up their offense. When Georgetown raced out to a 9-0 lead at the Xfinity Center, Sulaimon stepped up to hit a much needed shot that put Maryland on the board. And when the stakes were higher than they had been all game, he didn't shy away from the big shot.
On a team with so many new faces attempting to incorporate their talents into the system, his ability to provide added backcourt stability and tranquility can not be understated.
What Sulaimon does for Maryland transcends simply filling the stat sheet. When he signed on at Maryland, he brought experience that was foreign to the roster and program as a whole. His 2013 Duke team made the elite eight, which is further than any other member of Maryland's team has ventured in the Big Dance.
Sulaimon entered College Park as a question mark. He has emerged as a bright spot for Maryland thus far, molding into the perfect backcourt partner to complement Trimble.