Now that the Maryland men's basketball team and its fans have had a few days to chew on the Terps' season-ending loss to West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, it's fair to pivot from the past toward the program's future. Because of Maryland's freshman core from the past season, that future looks relatively bright, if a little unclear.
Head coach Mark Turgeon used four freshmen regularly last (indeed, last, which feels weird to type) season: guards Melo Trimble and Dion Wiley, guard/wing hybrid Jared Nickens and center Michal Cekovsky. Trimble was a revelation and played a singular role in reviving what was a seriously downtrodden Maryland program. Nickens was highly useful as a three-point gunner, while Wiley and Cekovsky had their moments but were both, all in all, a little rough around the edges.
Attrition is always possible with young players, as Maryland well knows by now. Trimble could still leave for the NBA, and any of the others could leave the program for any number of reasons over the next few years. But assuming Maryland keeps the services of all four for at least some time into the future, where is each player likeliest to go from here?
To answer that, let's look to the past. Here's how Maryland's youngsters fared, with an analytical hat tip to Ken Pomeroy.
Melo Trimble, 6'3 guard
2014-15 stats (averages): 33.5 minutes, 16.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3 assists, 53.4 effective field goal percentage, 62.8 true shooting percentage, 116.5 offensive rating
Pomeroy's most similar seasons: Olivier Hanlan, Kendall Williams, Kevin Pangos, Jarvis Threatt
Trimble is going to be an elite college player for as long as he wants to stay in school, and he'll be an attractive NBA prospect whenever he goes that route. We don't need Pomeroy's similarity profiles to tell us Trimble would be monstrous as an upperclassman at Maryland, but they tell us that anyway. (All of those seasons were the players' freshman years, as is the case for the others here.) Hanlan is a legitimate star in a Boston College program that doesn't deserve him. Pangos has become a world-beater for an elite team in Gonzaga, while the others are fine players in lesser programs.
Trimble was one of the country's great point guards as a freshman. If he chose to stay in college for four years, he'd very likely pass Juan Dixon to become the program's all-time leading scorer and make runs at various free-throw and assist marks, too. For every year he stays in college, he'll garner consideration as an All-American and national player of the year candidate. Put simply, he's good.
Of course, Trimble might never play for Maryland again. He still hasn't made an announcement about his future, and it isn't nearly out of the question that he'd like to cash in and play professionally. But if he's still in College Park, he's going to be a force until he decides to go elsewhere.
Jared Nickens, 6'7 guard/wing
2014-15 stats (averages): 19.3 minutes, 6.1 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 52.9 eFG%, 54 TS%, 113.4 ORtg
Pomeroy's most similar seasons: Troy Daniels, Steven Pledger, Akeem Richmond, Josh Oglesby
Nickens was one-dimensional as a freshman, although his scouting profile from high school suggests he'll round out into something more than a pure three-point sniper as time goes by. A whole 146 of his 188 shots came from deep, and he made a lot of them -- a fine 39 percent, to be exact. He made 74 percent of his limited foul shots, too, and only really struggled when he tried to score from inside the arc. Given his length, it's fair to expect him to get a lot better there.
For Nickens, there's hope in players who have come before him. Daniels has become an NBA player, while the others have gone on to nice collegiate careers. Daniels, in particular, became better at scoring inside as time went on, and he did it with only a mild uptick in turnover rate. Nickens had the fourth-lowest turnover rate in the country last season, mostly because he never dribbled. He's helpful to have around now, but he could be a star if his game evolves to include more means of putting the ball in the basket.
Dion Wiley, 6'4 guard
2014-15 stats (averages): 13.5 minutes, 4.1 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 47.6 eFG%, 50 TS%, 92.2 ORtg
Pomeroy's most similar seasons: Ramon Galloway, Noel Johnson, Cameron Tatum, Mikey Thompson
Galloway transferred from South Carolina to La Salle after two years and played better there. Johnson never developed much and had an underwhelming career at Auburn. Tatum was only decent over four years at Tennessee, while Thompson has been the same over the last few years at Boise State. Wiley has a lot of physical gifts and upside, but the statistical profiles of others like him as freshmen don't suggest greatness is on the horizon.
Still, there's reason for some optimism on Wiley. He showed himself in spots to be a capable defender and one of Maryland's better transition threats, and his four-star recruiting pedigree didn't come from nothing. He had probably his best brief stretch while Dez Wells was out of the lineup earlier in the season, including a 12-point night in 28 minutes against Virginia's lockdown defense in a Maryland loss. The total product wasn't there, but flashes were.
Michal Cekovsky, 7'1 center
2014-15 stats (averages): 12.6 minutes, 2.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.1 assists, 52.2 eFG%, 49.4 TS%, 94.8 ORtg
Pomeroy's most similar seasons: Justin Goldsborough, Angelo Chol, Justin Greene, Nick Jacobs
Goldsborough has gradually gotten better in a plucky Lehigh program that's known a little bit of postseason success. Chol hasn't become a major fixture at San Diego State, and Greene was never great at Kent State. Jacobs has had an up-and-down run over a three-year career at Alabama. None of these freshman seasons led to really stunning growth on the player's part, but none of these players were European imports with as little experience as Cekovsky in playing his current brand of basketball.
Cekovsky showed he can be a great defender when he's able to lock in against one player in the post. He neutralized Frank Kaminsky as well as anyone could hope against Wisconsin, and he had nice games against excellent Virginia and Iowa State front-courts early on. Turgeon also kept him on the bench in a handful of games, and he had a hard time with switches and rotations near his own hoop. Overall, though, he got better toward the end of the year and cobbled together an acceptable freshman season while learning a new language and adjusting to a wholly new style of play.
Cekovsky will get better as a defender for as long as he's a Terrapin. Whether he can become an offensive threat on anything other than open dunks will determine how high his ceiling ultimately settles.