The Big Ten announced its conference awards on Monday, and Maryland didn’t land a player on the the all-freshman team. The conference had plenty of standout freshmen this season, but the lack of Terps receiving honors after their team went 24-7 starting three first-year players was a bit shocking.
Mark Turgeon vented his frustration with the snub Tuesday on Twitter, and expanded on those remarks to reporters on Wednesday.
“If you have family, you have kids, you like to stick up for them,” Turgeon said. “Basically, I was sticking up for my guys. I thought we had a perfect year. I was just stating facts.”
After losing four of its five starters to the NBA Draft or graduation, Maryland needed a new crop of players to step up this season. Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, and Justin Jackson stepped into the starting lineup when called and thrived as the Terps excelled in their new normal. Turgeon called upon each of them to deliver for at least 27 minutes a night, and they were ready to go.
“We’ve always had confidence in our abilities,” Huerter said. “The year started off rough, with a lot of guys being hurt, but I think that has kind of allowed us to step up.”
Cowan took hold at point guard, allowing Melo Trimble to lead from an off-ball role he wasn’t afforded his first two seasons. Trimble was honored Monday with his second first-team all-conference selection. Cowan finished the regular season averaging 10.4 points a game to go with almost four rebounds and assists. His style of play is already giving coaches deja vu.
"He's going to be a good player," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the game. "He's a mini Melo. But he ain't Melo, though."
Cowan and Trimble had similarities, but stepped up to the challenge defensively. Usually found hounding a ball-handler, he led the Terps with 1.2 steals a game. He’s a sight to see darting to the rim, too.
Huerter stepped into the starting small forward slot left empty by Jake Layman, the four-year Terrapin now playing for the Portland Trail Blazers. Huerter quickly made Maryland memories of his own, sealing the Terps’ 76-75 comeback win over Georgetown with a block.
“It is what it is,” Huerter said. “We just felt we had a really good year. ... If anyone of us had gotten on it, we would have been happy. Just because of the type of year we had, we thought there should have maybe been some recognition.”
Huerter consistently guarded the best opposing wing player and brought the intensity on the defensive end of the floor. He’s also been a deadly spot-up sniper from deep. He was an all-around small forward for the Terps and gave fans reason to be optimistic for his development. He averaged almost nine points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, while shooting 37 percent from three. He also contributed about a steal and a block a game, as a result of his defensive efforts.
That Georgetown game also served as Justin Jackson’s coming-out party. In just his second collegiate game, Jackson poured in 17 points, going 3-for-5 from behind the arc.
“Justin showed multiple times in practice before [the Georgetown game] that he can do it all,” Huerter said. “I think that was the question for people, kind of, going into the year: ‘can he play like a guard, can he shoot, can he do guard things?’ And in that game ... he got hot for us and was a really big part of that win. He’s carried it on throughout the season.”
Jackson ended the regular season ranked second on the Terps in scoring, first in rebounding and first in three point percentage, posting nightly averages of 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting at a 44 percent clip from behind the arc. He’s been a reliable starting power forward for a Terps team that lost Robert Carter Jr. to the NBA Draft. Jackson had some dominant games this season, including a double-double against Ohio State with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
There were a number of freshmen in the Big Ten who excelled this season. However, Maryland doesn’t go 24-7 and earn a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament without its trio of dynamic freshmen. They deserved to be recognized.