Every offseason brings departures. For Maryland basketball, this offseason’s meant losing its best scoring option and a good portion of its frontcourt depth. Now comes the hard part: replacing them.
The Terps already knew they’d lose Damonte Dodd and L.G. Gill to graduation, and Melo Trimble declaring for the draft wasn’t a shock. Micah Thomas and Jaylen Brantley announced they would transfer, so Maryland now has three open scholarships to work with.
Michal Cekovsky is the top center on the roster, and the Terps have four-star center Bruno Fernando coming in. Even if Cekovsky stays healthy desipte his injury history, Maryland needs as much help for next year and after that.
Brantley’s departure, along with Jared Nickens’ and Dion Wiley’s ineffectiveness last season, means Maryland needs a wing that can score and handle the ball. Incoming guard Darryl Morsell looks ready to contribute immediately, but that shouldn’t stop Maryland from pursuing another guard with their open scholarships.
1. An insurance policy for Cekovsky, Fernando
Cekovsky only played 17 games this year, but he’s still Maryland’s best known quantity at the position. Ivan Bender played well enough in relief, but would be better served playing his natural position at power forward. Fernando is finishing up rehab for a knee injury. It held him out of a recent all-star game, but he said he’ll be ready by the time he gets to Maryland. However, he’s a still the No. 78 recruit in the class who’s never played a college game, so the Terps should look for another big just to be safe.
2. A wing that can score and handle the ball
At the beginning of the offseason, I wrote that the Terps had a solid stable of guards, no matter who stayed. Since then, Trimble signed with an agent and declared for the draft, and Brantley announced that he’ll pursue a larger role elsewhere as a grad transfer. That means the herd is thinning, and Mark Turgeon will need some replacements.
Maryland still has Morsell coming in, and he who looks like he’ll be an early contributor. Kevin Huerter could potentially slide to guard, as he ran the point in high school. However, Turgeon should still look to add another wing that can put up points and take some of the playmaking pressure off Anthony Cowan. If Wiley can regain his form, this could become his primary role, but Turgeon and Co. shouldn’t wait around to find out.
So how should Maryland spend its open scholarships?
Maryland could look to add a guard from the Class of 2017 and grab a big from the grad transfer market. Maryland was recruiting five-star shooting guard M.J. Walker as of a few weeks ago, but there hasn’t been any update on that front. Turgeon also hosted Texas point guard prospect Jalon Pipkins recently, but The Baltimore Sun reported he left without an offer.
Look for the Terps to use one of the scholarships on a 2017 wing that can immediately contribute. Turgeon’s strength is the versatility of the current roster. Huerter and Jackson will likely start at at the forward spots, unless Huerter moves to shooting guard while Jackson starts at small forward with Bender or Fernando at power forward.
Another scholarship can go toward a big from the grad transfer market. Maryland hosted grad transfer Sean Obi Monday, so depending on how that went, he could slot here. Obi averaged near a double-double as a freshman at Rice before transferring to Duke and losing time because of injuries and the Blue Devils’ depth. He would be a solid insurance policy, even if he never regains that freshman form.
Turgeon could use the final scholarship to add a wing, ideally one who can play immediately. Maryland is in the mix for grad transfer Mark Alstork, who the Terps recruited but didn’t offer a scholarship out of high school. The third scholarship could also be left for a mid-season signee (like Bender was) or a regular transfer that would have to sit out a season. There’s also the possibility that the staff waits to use the open spot for a 2018 recruit, but they’ll likely try to fill it now.
Turgeon’s making his moves behind the scenes now. Obi’s visit is the only movement we’ve seen so far, but more will surely come out in the next few weeks.