There are only 32 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.
Let’s kick things off with the veteran of the starting lineup, point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. He was named an unanimous selection to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team and will be a key leader for Maryland this season.
Anthony Cowan Jr, PG, No. 1
Hometown: Bowie, MD
High school: St. John’s Catholic High School
2018 stats: 15.6 ppg, 4.4 apg, 3.7 rpg
Many college basketball analysts consider Cowan one of the top players in the country, with Andy Katz naming him the No. 9 player in the NCAA for the 2019-20 season.
He’s been the Terps’ starting point guard for the last two seasons, often shouldering the load of the shot-taking in Turgeon’s point guard-heavy system. Last year, Cowan led Maryland in scoring with 15.6 points per game, as well as 4.4 assists per game and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of his game.
One of the point guard’s biggest assets is his speed, which, along with some mean handles, has often allowed him to storm into the paint and dodge defenders in traffic to score layups. Cowan is known to maneuver around two to three bodies down low for the basket, making the kind of plays that leave a jaw drop of excitement and shock.
ANTHONY COWAN. AND ONE. pic.twitter.com/0XZ6p5MJM3— Justin Fitzgerald (@jfitzgerald52) January 15, 2019
Cowan can also use his speed to move quickly off the ball to open himself up for a chance to score. He’s then able to take advantage of a quick release to get shots up before defenders can get a hand up to try to make the stop.
But perhaps Cowan’s biggest strength on the offensive side of the ball is hitting threes in close games, coming up clutch at moments when it’s needed most. You can usually count on the point guard to tie a close game or give Maryland a lead late with an electrifying shot from behind the arc, even if it doesn’t always result in a win.
Remember this gem for the win against Wisconsin?
I was wondering when Anthony Cowan would hit his usual ridiculous close game 3. Well here it is. pic.twitter.com/zhyaBnPNBL— Justin Fitzgerald (@jfitzgerald52) January 15, 2019
The Terps may have fell to Seton Hall, but this put them one possession away from winning.
Anthony Cowan with the classic no-no-no-YES shot. pic.twitter.com/x8tCu2nCzB— Justin Fitzgerald (@jfitzgerald52) December 23, 2018
And this three-point bomb created some much needed padding for Maryland late against Minnesota.
I swear Anthony Cowan hits a 3 like this in every close game. pic.twitter.com/pgCHFgTdwN— Justin Fitzgerald (@jfitzgerald52) January 9, 2019
On the other end of the court, Cowan hounds defenders to force them into a pass or bad shot. He was named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team last season after producing 31 steals and seven blocks.
Though he’s clearly a unique talent, the pressure of leading Maryland’s offense with inexperienced squads has forced Cowan to often take too many shots instead of finding the open man. Last season, Cowan took 133 more field-goal attempts than anyone on the team and 78 more three-pointers than anyone as well, as he led the way for the fifth-youngest team in the country.
But knowing how much the offense relies on him has sometimes been a burden. He can be hot some games (like really hot) but off his shot the next, and when things start to go awry early in games, he tries to shoot his way out of it, putting himself deeper in a hole and taking away from other guys’ chances to score. While he took the most shots on the team, he had the worst field-goal percentage (.393) of the usual starting five in 2018-19.
And while much of that can be changed with the trust of increased talent around him, the big concern with Cowan is how much he turns over the ball. Last season, he averaged 2.76 turnovers per game. The year before, it was 2.78. And that can derail momentum for the Terps quickly. But Turgeon is convinced that could change this season.
“The thing with Anthony is we’re just trying to get him to quit turning the ball over so much, especially live ball turnovers,” Turgeon said at Big Ten media day. “It’s something we’ve really worked on. He’s gotten better at it.”
Outlook for the 2019-20 season
After testing the NBA draft waters and gaining feedback from scouts last spring, Cowan decided to return to College Park for his senior season. For the third consecutive year he’ll be the director of Maryland’s offense, only this time around he’ll be shouldering the expectations of one of the top teams in the nation.
“Obviously one of the biggest reasons I came back was just the team that I’m coming back to,” Cowan said at Big Ten media day. “I think the sky is the limit for this team, and I’m excited to get things going.”
With the development of last year’s freshman class, specifically Jalen Smith, Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala, mixed in with some freshman that can contribute right away and Darryl Morsell as another go-to option, Cowan has a lot more pieces at his disposal this season. This means he won’t feel the weight of the offense on his back and will have avenues to facilitate the ball. He’ll still be a big scorer for Maryland, but if he’s having an off night, he doesn’t have to try to shoot his way out of it.
Turgeon said at Big Ten media day that Cowan had the best summer of his four years at Maryland. He spent the offseason honing his game, adding muscle to his frame and staying in game-form by playing in the Kenner Summer League with Wiggins at Georgetown University.
Now the senior has his eyes set on taking the Terps deep into the postseason and making his mark on program history.
“He made the decision he wanted to come back to Maryland and make an impact and have a legacy, so he has a chance to do a lot of things,” Turgeon said. “He’s scored a lot of points, he has a lot of assists, he has a lot of steals, but he wants to win at a high level.”