There are only 26 days until the start of the 2019-20 season for Maryland men’s basketball. As the Terps get ready for a highly anticipated year where they’re ranked in the top-10 of every major preseason poll, we’ll be breaking down head coach Mark Turgeon’s roster, which promises to be the deepest he’s had in his time in College Park.
Junior guard Darryl Morsell is arguably Maryland’s most multi-faceted player.
Although he started 21-of-32 games as a freshman, Morsell fully transitioned into Maryland’s starting lineup as a sophomore and will remain there this season as he continues to bring a well-rounded game to the floor for the Terps.
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
High School: Mount Saint Joseph
2018-19 stats: 8.5 ppg, 1.9 apg, 3.1 rpg
The first area of Morsell’s game that comes to mind is his ability to defend the basketball with his physical presence.
Last season, Morsell averaged 8.6 points and 1.8 assists as a starting guard for the Terps. Despite not being the main scoring threat or playmaker, Morsell demonstrates his value in other assets of the game, including small contributions that may be overlooked.
“He’s super important, and I try to tell him that as much as possible,” starting point guard Anthony Cowan told The Baltimore Sun. “He really is like a backbone for our team. I sent him a screenshot of [Houston Rockets forward] P.J. Tucker. I told him, ‘If you’re like a P.J. Tucker for us, we can win a lot of games.’
“He’s not necessarily worried about a lot of scoring. He’s worried about all the other little things. That’s the kind of player you need on your team to win. He makes sure he’s that kind of player for us.”
The now junior ended the 2018-19 season strong, scoring in double digits in six of the final seven games of the season. Against Belmont in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Morsell managed to score a career high 18 points, which led the Terps’ push past the Bruins.
Let’s take a look at Morsell’s strengths and weaknesses.
As alluded to above, Morsell is a factor for the Terps on the defensive side of the ball. The Baltimore native is known as Maryland’s premier lockdown defender, which was in full display when Purdue came to College Park and Morsell guarded the Boilermakers’ leading scorer Carsen Edwards.
Edwards had 17 points in the first half on 6-of-14 shooting but was limited in the second half by Morsell, hitting just 2-of-13 attempts and finishing with a total of 24 points in the game.
Morsell finished the 2018-19 season tied with now Atlanta Hawk Bruno Fernando for third place in steals on the team with 22 apiece. But behind Fernando and forward Jalen Smith, Morsell led all Terp guards with 16 blocks.
When he or other Terps are able to cause turnovers, Maryland forced its opponents to turn the ball over an average of 9.4 times per game last year. Morsell is often leading the charge from defense to offense, utilizing his athletic ability to get to the basket when the opponent is vulnerable and out of position.
Off of two dribbles from half court, Morsell is able to get to the hoop, draw the contact and finish, shielding the ball with his body.
So THIS is what they meant when they said Darryl Morsell was a freak of an athlete pic.twitter.com/CwdbyPj4aQ— Jared Goldstein (@_jgoldy17) November 2, 2017
Once again, Morsell finds himself in the open floor off of a blocked shot, taking advantage of Michigan’s poor transition defense. With neither Wolverine defenders willing to stop the ball, Morsell takes one dribble and finishes through the contact for the and-one.
Off the block, Darryl Morsell streaks down court and gets the tough finish for the and-one. pic.twitter.com/s0VGFu67Tw— Justin Fitzgerald (@jfitzgerald52) March 3, 2019
This time, the Maryland guard is in a one-on-one situation with a Minnesota defender. Morsell starts on the left side of the floor but transitions to the right side of the basket, cradling the ball like a running back to ensure that the defender doesn’t strip it from him.
Block on the defensive ends leads to a Darryl Morsell transition layup. Ivan Bender has an assist on senior night. pic.twitter.com/7tmW599XYA— Justin Fitzgerald (@jfitzgerald52) March 9, 2019
But Morsell is not just a transition scorer. The junior has the ability to slash through the lane, move without the ball and finish around the rim.
Morsell completed his sophomore campaign shooting just under 46 percent from the floor, which was third amongst players that attempted more then three shots.
Noticing here that Fernando was drawing a double team, Morsell ran to the wide open lane — instead of sitting on the three-point line where he is not as efficient — and received a pass for the flush.
Bruno Fernando finally capitalizes on drawing the double, finding Darryl Morsell for the dunk. pic.twitter.com/L6nEbk5Prw— Justin Fitzgerald (@jfitzgerald52) February 13, 2019
When Morsell moves without the ball, he can also create opportunities for his teammates with his passing ability in traffic.
Darryl Morsell out here making jumping, no-look passes pic.twitter.com/yuAJaH9cOR— Jared Goldstein (@_jgoldy17) November 28, 2017
But Morsell also possesses the ability to put the ball on the deck when necessary and score at the rim.
Listen. We're all gonna get along fine if Darryl Morsell continues to do these things pic.twitter.com/hAkhxQo3gy— Jared Goldstein (@_jgoldy17) November 2, 2017
Darryl Morsell with the tough finish through traffic. pic.twitter.com/35ZREoC419— Justin Fitzgerald (@jfitzgerald52) March 23, 2019
Morsell clearly has the ability to get into the paint and either score or dish to a teammate for a better look. But the next step in the junior’s development is gaining a three-point shot.
Although his three point percentage increased from 12 percent during his freshman year to 29 percent during his sophomore campaign, Morsell could still use some improvement behind the arc. If he isn’t able to do so, the junior’s game becomes predictable, allowing the defense to slouch off of him.
Last year, Morsell went 18-62 from three. But if he is able to improve his outside stroke, than the Terps offense will be able to spread the floor and give more lanes for Smith and Cowan to score.
Darryl Morsell is hitting threes... WOW pic.twitter.com/2v4ra0zM9y— Jared Goldstein (@_jgoldy17) January 19, 2018
Darryl Morsell has wildly improved his 3-point shooting this season pic.twitter.com/xtgUkC2Fvv— Jared Goldstein (@_jgoldy17) January 30, 2019
Morsell could also improve his free throw percentage. After shooting just over 72 percent from the line during his freshman year, Morsell regressed last year and shot about 67 percent from the stripe. As aggressive as Morsell is, one would like to see the guard maintain a higher free throw percentage this season.
Outlook for the 2019-20 season
Morsell returned for his sophomore campaign as a more well-rounded player, demonstrating improvements in scoring efficiency, three-point shooting and ball protection. This season appears no different as Morsell will be asked to carry more of a leadership role — especially with five freshman entering the Maryland basketball program.
“[Leadership] is not just speaking it, trying to talk about it. It’s more so leading by example. So, trying them how to be coachable — just how we do stuff at the university of Maryland,” Morsell said at Big Ten Media Day on Sept. 30. “And they’ve all bought in. They’ve all been acceptable to listening to all the older guys like me and [Cowan].”
Morsell will definitely have an impact on the defensive side of the floor, continuing the trend of guarding the opposing team’s best player, but it is still to be determined what kind of offensive impact he will have.
But if continues to play like he did at the end of last season, averaging 11.2 points per game from late February to the end of the season and averaging 14 points in the NCAA Tournament, he could provide another lethal offensive weapon to Turgeon and the Terps.
“Darryl Morsell, leadership, maturity, calmness. It’s really great to see. He’s really at peace with himself,” Turgeon said at Big Ten Media Day. “He really made a huge change the last five or six games for us, and it’s carried over.”