Just under 12 hours after head coach Mark Turgeon and the rest of the team kicked off the 100th season of Maryland basketball with the Midnight Mile, Turgeon was at the podium to address reporters on media day.
The Terps will go into the 2018-19 season with just one senior and one junior on scholarship, forcing Turgeon to rely heavily on his six-man freshman class. Junior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. will be relied upon as the leader and steadying force behind the team, while sophomore Bruno Fernando should reprise his role as the defensive anchor and show an expanded skill set.
Going into his eighth season as coach, Turgeon’s seat is getting a little warm, but he’s confident in his young squad and a revamped culture around the program. Here’s his full press conference:
The 100th season of Maryland basketball kicks off with Mark Turgeon at Media Day. https://t.co/FrNUl1ZJGV— Testudo Times (@testudotimes) October 16, 2018
With few upperclassmen, it’s not unreasonable to believe this team will only go as far as Cowan takes them. It will be his third season starting, and he’s coming off a season where he played a conference-high 36.7 minutes in Big Ten play. Turgeon said Cowan has become an even better all-around player since the summer and should take another step forward this season.
“I’m really proud of Anthony because Anthony by nature is a quiet kid,” Turgeon said. “What he’s done since the last couple weeks preparing for Italy and the start of the season, I think you guys will appreciate just how far he’s come as a leader and passer and facilitator, but also as a dynamic scorer for us.”
Turgeon will also rely on Fernando, who returned to Maryland after testing the draft process last offseason. At Big Ten media day, the 6’10 center said teams just wanted him to just keep being him and giving his all every night. Fernando is always on and always hype, something that the coaches worked on with him too.
“I don’t know if anybody’s worked harder than Bruno,” Turgeon said. “The most important thing is my relationship with Bruno is great and much better than it was during the season. What I mean by that is he trusted me through the process he went through after the season, and he let me work with him and during that time he was really getting better. So our relationship is terrific; there’s a lot of trust there between us.
“He’s worked really hard. I think you’ll see a player that plays smarter defensively, hopefully he won’t forget who he is as a defender and rebounder. He’s become much more skilled, he’s become a much better low-block scorer. He’s learned how to get out of fifth-gear. ... Bruno’s always excited, so we’re trying to get him to where he knows he has to dial it down sometimes.”
Maryland also enters the season with six freshmen, who comprise the best class in the Big Ten and No. 7 class in the nation. The group is headlined by five-star forward Jalen “Sticks” Smith, a shot-blocking stretch big man who will team with Fernando in the frontcourt. Beyond that, there’s four-stars Eric Ayala, who should play some point guard this year, and Aaron Wiggins, three-stars Serrel Smith and Trace Ramsey and summer signee Ricky Lindo.
“Just because we’re young doesn’t mean we’re not talented,” Turgeon said. “What’s going to be the challenge is when it does get tough for us, how are we going to handle it? ... That’s really going to be the key. But these young guys are very confident and we believe in them and they believe in us. There’s a lot of talent there and they’re very confident, so I think it will translate for them.”