Maryland's 79-63 loss to Kansas in the Sweet 16 ended a disappointingly confusing season for a team once ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP Top 25. While reaching a few benchmark achievements, the team still fell short of expectations on many levels during the regular and postseason. But the beauty of sports is that there is always another season ahead for a fresh. The only question is just how fresh Maryland's start will be.
The Terps will lose Jake Layman, Rasheed Sulaimon and Varun Ram for sure, but there's uncertainty that lies in three other key pieces: Melo Trimble, Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr.
If Maryland can retain its stars, there may be enough talent for another run next season. But why should they stay?
The Terrapins are bringing in what is currently No. 17 recruiting class in the nation to fill some of the gaps it had this season with three new names.
Anthony Cowan is ranked No. 59 in the country and the tenth best point guard in his class by 247Sports. A ball-handler, scorer and distributor, there are high hopes for Cowan to step in and play a serious role in his freshman season.
Kevin Huerter is a noted 6'6 shooter ranked No. 66 in his class and eleventh among shooting guards. He'll plug in as a well-needed wing alongside Maryland's most recent commit Micah Thomas.
Thomas is seen more for what he could be in time, but as a lengthy 6'7 small forward, Turgeon may find use for him defensively to fill in Layman's spot.
Able bodies are coming to College Park, and the class may not be done with five-star forward Terrance Ferguson's commitment still looming -- though he is unlikely to come to Maryland -- and Turgeon actively involved in the transfer market as always, most recently showing interest in Delaware guard Kory Holden.
Dion Wiley will also be fully recovered from his meniscus tear, and Maryland should also retain Jared Nickens, Jaylen Brantley, Damonte Dodd, Michal Cekovsky and Ivan Bender. That roster along with the recruits and a potential transfer could be a top-25 team all over again if even two of the three players in question chose to return.
There are countless other factors that go in to making a decision as serious as this though, and chances are winning more college games isn't priority No. 1. College is just a pit stop for their real careers, just like any other college student.
It makes lot of sense for Trimble, Carter and Stone to declare for the draft
Players need to figure out how to make money and ensure themselves a career for when they choose to leave college. As seen with past athletes, some leave the college scene too early and don't make it professionally, and some go too late and miss out on guaranteed money if they instead choose to earn a degree.
It's a flawed system that's showing some improvement because of a new rule.
Declaring for the NBA Draft no longer means what it sounds like, as "declaring" should probably be replaced with the words "trying out". Players can now enter their names for the draft without losing years of eligibility, a new rule meant to benefit players like the handful of uncertain underclassmen Terps.
Trimble, Stone and Carter are all expected to join Layman and Sulaimon in entering their names and seeing how the fare at the NBA Draft Combine. The May 15 tryout in front of a plethora of NBA scouts will serve as a gauge as to where their draft stock may sit, and if they decide they don't like what they're hearing, players have 10 days to decide if they wish to return to school.
It used to be that they'd have to decide by mid-April, really rushing a decision without having a lot of information. Only about 60 players get combine invitations, but to get one, you need to first declare for the draft. It's very likely that each of Stone, Trimble and Carter would get an invitation if he decided to declare for the combine. Even if not, each player would get plenty of time to assess his options.
Passing on becoming a first round pick is hard for a 20-something, or in Stone's case a 19-year-old. The very bottom pick of the first round, No. 30, can be expected to make as much as $1,171,560 in his first year, and $1,224,240 in year two of the guaranteed portion of his contract. Years three and four are team options. This is all mostly non-negotiable as the NBA has a rookie scale. Second round picks are much more open in terms of finances and other nuances. Some players would rather go undrafted and choose their own teams at that point.
It's still very early for players to make this decision though. DraftExpress currently has Stone ranked No. 23 in its mock (which doesn't factor NBA teams needs, and the draft lottery for NBA teams is months away). Trimble is slotted as the No. 5 pick in the second round, Layman the No. 15 pick and Carter No. 21. These positions should be expected to change drastically as the season ends, other players decide to or not to declare, the combine begins and NBA teams begin conducting private workouts.
With the expected surplus of talent entering the draft this will be a very unique next few months. Teams may throw out first-round draft promises to pull students away from returning to school, but it's unclear. Fortunately student-athletes have time to assess the options in front of them.
Careers are more important than spending unnecessary time in college risking injury or worse, but any or no combination of Carter, Stone and Trimble may decide another year could be useful to improve their draft stocks. They may choose to leave now. Either way, fans, Turgeon and the athletes themselves won't know until the end of the 10-day assessment period following the combine. The next few months will be exciting, but stressful for all parties.