This upcoming season is clearly Maryland basketball's "up" year. The Terrapins' reported pursuit of Virginia Commonwealth transfer forward Terry Larrier would go a long way toward preventing a brutal down year after that.
It's hard to keep a perpetually stocked cupboard of talent in college basketball. When a team loses four or five starters to the NBA, as Maryland will likely do next year, that attrition takes a necessary toll. For every Kentucky or Kansas, which can cycle through blue-chip talent every year or two and stay at the apex of the sport, there are 10 programs that get just the right mix of talented underclassmen and good-but-not-NBA-good veterans to be terrific for a season or two. Think 2011-12 Missouri, with Kim English and Phil Pressey, or 2012-13 Miami with Shane Larkin and Durand Scott.
There are countless examples of teams that win big for a moment and then fall off hard. That's college sports. Missouri and Miami were both deep, talented groups that went from high NCAA Tournament seeds to mediocrity within two years. It's all very cyclical, and it's hard to stay good for long.
That's why Larrier's commitment to Maryland would be so important for head coach Mark Turgeon. The Terps have the right cocktail of youngish and oldish talent next year to be among the best teams in the country, but what's next after that? Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon are seniors. Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone are much likelier than not to play professionally starting in 2016. Robert Carter, with the right kind of season coming up, could join them. That's either 80 or 100 percent of Turgeon's presumable starting lineup for next season – an epic outflow of high-end talent.
After he sits out a season, Larrier would bring back at least a bit of what Maryland will lose. The 247Sports Composite rated him a four-star recruit and the 34th-best player in the country in the class of 2014, just two spots behind Trimble. Larrier was one of then-Rams coach Shaka Smart's most touted recruiting finds of an impressive run in Richmond. He has a big-time pedigree.
Still, the 6'8 wing forward didn't have a superb freshman season. He averaged 6.6 points and 3 rebounds in 18.5 minutes – perfectly fine figures – but only shot 34.3 percent from the field and 26.2 percent on three-pointers. His offensive rating was a paltry 94.8, lowest in the Rams' usual lineup rotation. After Smart left the university for Texas this spring, Larrier decided to get going, too, and new VCU coach Will Wade's loss has become Turgeon's possible gain.
Larrier's first collegiate season was uneven, but there's plenty of reason to think he'll be a very good player. His length and athleticism figure to make him a sturdy defender either under the basket or on the wing, and it's unlikely that he doesn't have any scoring chops at all. He isn't the first Maryland prospect not to fill the hoop as a freshman:
Looks awfully similar, no? Larrier and Layman are the same listed height and play a similar inside-and-outside style. The most substantive difference between the two players as freshmen is that Larrier took about one more shot per game than Layman and scored exactly one fewer basket for the entire season. While Larrier was rated the 34th-best player in his class, Layman was 71st. If you like what Layman has become, you should like what Larrier could ultimately turn into.
Ken Pomeroy (subscription required) pegs one of the most similar seasons to Larrier's freshman year as that of Ohio State's Marc Loving – another four-star small forward who struggled as a rookie – who more than doubled his scoring total last year and shot 46 percent on threes. Another four-star small forward, North Carolina State's Caleb Martin, and Florida five-star Devin Robinson, round out the top of Pomeroy's most-similar comparisons for Larrier, the freshman. These are all hugely talented players, and their likeness to Larrier further illustrates the kind of player he could become.
Next season will be a blast, but when it's done, Maryland will take a body blow. The Terps still figure to have Jared Nickens, Dion Wiley, Anthony Cowan, Damonte Dodd, Jaylen Brantley and Michal Cekovsky in the fold afterward, giving them reasonable talent and depth even after they lose what they will lose. Larrier would help Turgeon prevent Maryland from falling into the trappings of one-season wonders past.