The first weekend of April is annually a weekend filled with excitement in college basketball, as the Final Four is played and a champion is crowned.
This year’s Final Four was supposed to be held in Atlanta, where the Maryland men’s basketball team claimed victory in 2002. The 2019-2020 team led by Mark Turgeon had aspirations to get back to Atlanta, before the tournament was canceled due to ongoing concerns nationally with COVID-19.
Turgeon now has more time on his hands as the Terps won’t play an official game for another seven months. Meanwhile, next season's roster is starting to take shape. Anthony Cowan Jr. is the only scholarship player graduating, but sophomore Jalen Smith is widely expected to declare for the NBA Draft.
This past week, forward Ricky Lindo Jr. transferred out of the program, while forward Jairus Hamilton transferred in. Currently, there are 12 scholarship players on the roster for next year. The Terps are still looking to make splashes in the transfer market. They made the top-three for Yale forward Jordan Bruner, top-four for Harvard guard Bryce Aiken and final eight for Radford guard Carlik Jones.
Let’s take a look at each of the 12 players currently on scholarship.
2019-2020 sophomore: 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game
After a freshman campaign marred by inconsistency, Smith more than lived up to his five-star billing in his second season. The Baltimore native showed the ability to score inside and out, making 32 three pointers. That versatility is what has Smith as a projected late first round, early to mid second round draft pick.
Although it seems highly unlikely Smith will return, he has yet to make an official announcement. If he does return, he’ll undoubtedly be one of the best players in the Big Ten. He would elevate the Terps from a fringe NCAA Tournament team to a surefire one.
For the purpose of this exercise, let’s say Smith returns. He will have to show improvement as a playmaker. He averaged less than an assist per game as a sophomore. In the absence of Cowan, the Terps will need someone to make the surrounding pieces better, and that burden would fall on Smith. Showing growth as a passer, as well as improved body control, are what separate Smith from a good to great prospect.
2019-2020 sophomore: 10.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game
While Wiggins did not have quite the second year leap that many expected, he was still a critical part of the team’s success.
By adding weight to his 6’6 frame, the sophomore became a terrific, multifaceted defender. His ability to guard multiple positions unlocked some of the Terps’ best lineups.
But on the offensive end, Wiggins took a step back as a jump shooter. Despite playing more minutes and taking more attempts, Wiggins’ percentage from deep dropped from 41.3 percent to 31.7 percent. A more alarming statistic; he was 13-for-39 on unguarded three-pointers and 9-for-46 on jumpers off the dribble, per Synergy Sports Tech.
With Cowan and likely Smith gone, Wiggins will become the primary weapon in Turgeon’s offense. The Greensboro, North Carolina, native has the physical skills to handle those responsibilities, but will have to improve his shooting as well as his ability to beat guys off the dribble.
Maryland’s ceiling in 2020-2021 will be largely dependent on what kind of jump Wiggins makes.
2019-2020 sophomore: 8.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game
After playing his first two seasons as a secondary ball handler next to Cowan, it seems possible Ayala will assume the duties of point guard next season.
Ayala’s sophomore season was one filled with inconsistency. He got off to a hot start offensively, scoring in double figures in seven of the first 11 games. But he seemed to lose his shooting stroke, scoring in double figures just four times in the final 20 contests.
Ayala’s 40.6 percent mark from deep his first year was unsustainable, but to see over a 14 percent decrease to 27.4 percent was certainly a disappointment. His assist-to-turnover ratio was identical from year one to year two, which will need improvement if Ayala is the full-time point guard.
Ayala doesn’t have the downhill quickness of Cowan, but he has strengths the team can build around. He is an excellent pick-and-roll ball handler — both as an attacker and passer. He is also proficient at shooting off the dribble, converting 18 of his 32 attempts in that regard, which was in the 92nd percentile nationally per Synergy.
In the offseason, Ayala will need to find his shooting stroke back, but Terp fans should feel comfortable with the veteran guard running the offense. Though a graduate transfer such as Aiken or Jones could help a lot, allowing Ayala to play in a similar style as he did with Cowan.
2019-2020 junior: 8.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game
Morsell’s third season in College Park mirrored his other two; consistent effort and defense with flashes on the offensive end. Morsell has excelled at his role as a supporting player in each of the past three years.
But with Cowan and likely Smith no longer on the team, the Baltimore native may have to take on an increased role. His usage rate has stayed between 18 to 20 percent throughout his career.
Morsell has improved as a three-point shooter in each season, but will need to improve near the basket. He was 47-for-103 at shots around the rim, which ranked in the bottom 20 percent nationally. Morsell has also shown an ability as a playmaker but will need to cut down on the 2.1 turnovers per game.
2019-2020 freshman: 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game
Scott quickly emerged as Turgeon’s trusted option at the power forward spot, starting the last 20 contests. He appeared comfortable as the fourth or even fifth option on offense at times, and excelled at crashing the glass and running the floor in transition.
Scott’s 225-pound frame and presence will provide Turgeon with consistency in what appears to be a thin front court. Scott shot 31.6 percent from deep, which is an encouraging sign moving into year two.
2019-2020 sophomore (at Boston College): 9.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game
Albeit not one of the highest ranked transfers on the market, Hamilton was a solid pickup for the Terps, as he can fill a void at the power forward spot left by Lindo.
Hamilton didn’t have the gaudiest stats, but he produced in a Power 5 conference. At 6’8, he has the positional versatility to play either forward spot and gives Turgeon another rangy option on defense. Assuming he gets a waiver, the former top-100 recruit should be able to contribute right away.
Serrel Smith Jr.
2019-2020 sophomore: 1.5 points in 7.6 minutes per game
Smith Jr. showed some promise his freshman season as a potential “three-and-D” type of wing. But this past season, the return of every crucial guard and wing, as well as the addition of Hakim Hart, made it hard for Smith Jr. to find a consistent role.
He struggled in nonconference play and never seemed to find a rhythm, shooting just 25 percent from the floor.
With Ayala, Wiggins and Morsell back, minutes will not be easy to come by, but there is a role for Smith Jr. if he can recapture that “three-and-D” type of mold. Turgeon praised his defense throughout the year, so if he can just hit shots, he can certainly find time.
2019-2020 junior: 1.1 points in 4.4 minutes per game
Although he only appeared in 16 games — his lowest in his three years at Maryland —Tomaic provided steady minutes in the frontcourt for the Terps last season. Turgeon likes his high basketball IQ and ability to not mess up.
With Lindo transferring out, it seems like Tomaic is in line to be the backup center next season. At 6’10, he can handle opposing centers for at least a stint each half. Chol Marial may have more upside, but Tomaic is the more veteran and sturdy option.
2019-2020 freshman: 1.6 points in 6.2 minutes per game
Hart entered the season with very few expectations, but showed enough promise that Turgeon decided to give him a shot as the eighth man. Hart didn’t shoot the ball well (just 4-for-27 from three) but made some nice passes and showed a solid understanding of the game.
The former three-star recruit will likely see a similar role this season, competing with Smith Jr. for minutes as an eighth man of sorts. But if Hart can find his stroke as a shooter, there is certainly room for him on the floor.
2019-2020 freshman: 0.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in 5.4 minutes per game
Marial’s six point, five rebound outing in his debut against Bryant was more of a mirage than a sign of things to come. The 7’2 center struggled down the stretch, finishing the season with nearly as many fouls (18) as he had rebounds (19).
How much better Marial will be next year is a question worth wondering. There’s certainly room for minutes at the center position, but Marial is probably the Terp most affected by the lack of access to Maryland’s training facilities. An offseason with strength trainer Kyle Tarp could have helped Marial gain the body weight needed to acclimate to the Big Ten.
When Marial and Tarp will be able to reconnect is the biggest question surrounding the South Sudan native’s development.
2019-2020: Senior, Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, NH
Dockery, a D.C. native, was Maryland’s first pledge in the 2020 class, committing in October 2018. He finished his high school career at powerhouse Brewster Academy averaging only nine points per game, but shooting 41 percent from three.
Dockery is listed at 6’0, but is more of a combo guard than a true point. The three-star recruit has seen his stock slip a bit and he may not be ready to fill the void at backup point guard. But if he can continue to make threes, there could be a role for him as a shooter off the bench.
2019-2020: Senior, Niles North High School in Niles, IL
Smart is a bit of a late-bloomer but he used an excellent senior campaign to boost his stock, eventually landing an offer from Maryland. Smart led his high school team to a 27-6 record while scoring 24 points per game.
Standing at 6’3, Smart is more of a true point guard. He’s got good vision and instincts to match, along with a tight handle. The biggest challenge for Smart will be adjusting to the high intensity play of college basketball. Smart was a dominant player in high school, but his Chicago suburban league left him largely unchallenged.
If the Terps don’t sign a point guard in the transfer market, Smart will have an opportunity for minutes there. But if they do, then Smart’s freshman campaign could be filled with behind the scenes development.