Following his second season in the Big Ten conference, Maryland men’s basketball head coach Mark Turgeon is excited to get his third year underway. Speaking at Big Ten media day on Thursday, he shed some light on the season ahead for Maryland basketball. Here are some highlights:
Turgeon is known as a strong recruiter, but this year he’ll need to be a different kind of coach.
Excited about my team. Have a lot of new players, new pieces, a lot of good pieces. Last year I had a veteran team and it wasn’t as much teaching, but when you get into coaching you like being around guys and teaching and getting them better. It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of teaching, a lot of time on the floor, very receptive group. Group I like being around and we get better every day.
Between Rasheed Sulaimon, Robert Carter Jr., Jake Layman and Diamond Stone, Maryland lost four talented starters. In a means to replace the four double-digit scorers, the Terps are adding five freshman—Anthony Cowan, Micah Thomas, Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson, and Joshua Tomaic—as well as graduate transfer L.G. Gill. Part of Turgeon’s excitement is working with his new freshmen.
“I’m real excited about our freshman class,” Turgeon said. “We have a lot of young guys and their listening skills are very good.”
Cowan, a four-star point guard from Bowie, Md., reminds me of Melo Trimble: An underrated, local point guard that decided to stay at home. Turgeon expects the 6-foot guard to play significant minutes in what could turn out to be a two point guard lineup to allow Trimble to play off the ball.
I thought he was one of the top two or three point guards coming out of high school. He’s different than Melo. He picks up full court, he really gets into it, he can guard you, pressure you, he’s fast, great on the break, has really improved his shot.
“This kid has got a chip on his shoulder,” Turgeon said. “I love it. He’s going to play a lot right away.”
In addition to Cowan, Turgeon landed another highly touted guard. Now 6’7, Kevin Huerter was 6’4 when Turgeon first started recruiting him. The shooting guard from New York received high praise from his coach on Thursday.
Kevin Hurter is one of the best shooters I have ever been around consistently. He’s really improved since USA basketball. He thinks like a point guard. You really can’t rattle him, he’s got a little Melo in him.
Turgeon’s last four-star recruit expected to see playing time is Justin Jackson, a 6’7 forward from Toronto. He is envisioned to play a similar type of game as former Maryland standout Jake Layman as a stretch-four havoc creator.
“Jackson is a 6’7 4-man with a 7’3 wingspan that thinks like a point guard,” Turgeon said. “He can really pass it, has improved his shot.”
All of these freshmen have something in common. “We’ve really added guys that can pass the ball,” Turgeon said. “Those three players, new guys are going to play a lot.”
Turgeon added that fifth-year big Gill “is going to play a lot for us” because he has been “tremendous in practice.” Micah Thomas and Joshua Tomaic are expected to contribute “down the road,” according to Turgeon.
Maryland may not be the greatest team to start the season, but the upside is there and should shine through as the year goes on.
“We are a work in progress, but I imagine us as a very good team come Big Ten season,” Turgeon said. “We think we are going to be pretty good, so that’s what matters.”
The Terrapins have solid incoming recruits this season, but let us not forget whose team it is: Melo Trimble’s. Turgeon came to his defense and then alluded to an even higher level of play from the Upper Marlboro native.
Melo has had an unbelievable first two years for us. I thought his sophomore year was exceptional too. He doubled his assists and still scored at a high level. He is a great piece. I think all along Melo wanted to stay, he knew it was the best thing for him. He’s been very happy since he made that decision.
Trimble’s happiness may just help him elevate his game to the next level.
He’s improved again in a lot of areas. Probably the area he has improved in the most is he is just very comfortable with being a leader. He’s always been a great player but sometimes when you are a freshman, it is hard to lead seniors sometimes. He knows it’s his team. He’s very comfortable in his own skin right now. And he is playing at a high level, he is at a high, high level right now. Better than I’ve ever seen him, which is great for our team. He’s not worried about stepping on anyone’s toes like maybe he has past couple years. Should be a great year for Melo.
Another local recruit from two years ago is shooting guard Dion Wiley. Turgeon provided an update on Wiley’s recovery from meniscus surgery almost a year ago.
Dion was a really good freshman for us. It was a big blow last year when he went down and no one wanted to believe me when I said that. It’s been a long road, long recovery. I’d say Dion is 85 to 90 percent right now. He’s got his weight at a good spot. He’s lighter than he’s ever been, which is great for the knee.
Despite the loss of experience and time to craft his game, Wiley has still improved himself on and off the court.
He’s evolved, he’s become a better defender. He’s got good point guard skills with the ball in his head, he is one of our better passers. One of our better players in ball screens. That says a lot when you have a guy like Melo on your team. He’s really happy. It’s an amazing story, what he’s done in the classroom, off the court. He’s going to be a big part of our team this year.
Between Cowan, Trimble, Wiley, Huerter, and Jackson, Turgeon has a possible death lineup that mimics the Golden State Warriors. There is not a lot of hype surrounding the Terps this season, similar to 2014 and unlike 2015, and that might be a good thing.