Maryland basketball secured a commitment and signature from 7’2 center Chol Marial on Monday. The three-star recruit fills the scholarship spot vacated by NBA-bound Bruno Fernando, and he becomes the fifth member of the Terps’ 2019 class.
With this addition, Maryland’s roster for the 2019-20 season is just about set. Sure, Anthony Cowan Jr. could hypothetically remain in the NBA Draft, and there could be a hypothetical defection between now and the fall semester. But it looks like Mark Turgeon can be done making moves for the immediate future.
Here’s a look at Maryland’s scholarship chart.
|1||Senior Anthony Cowan Jr. (PG)||Senior Darryl Morsell (SG)||Senior Jalen Smith (PF)||Senior Makhi Mitchell (C)|
|2||Junior Darryl Morsell (SG)||Senior Joshua Tomaic (PF)||Senior Eric Ayala (CG)||Senior Makhel Mitchell (PF)|
|3||Junior Joshua Tomaic (PF)||Junior Jalen Smith (PF)||Senior Aaron Wiggins (SG/SF)||Senior Donta Scott (SF/PF)|
|4||Soph Jalen Smith (PF)||Junior Eric Ayala (CG)||Senior Serrel Smith Jr. (SG)||Senior Hakim Hart (SG/SF)|
|5||Soph Eric Ayala (CG)||Junior Aaron Wiggins (SG/SF)||Senior Ricky Lindo (PF)||Senior Chol Marial (C)|
|6||Soph Aaron Wiggins (SG/SF)||Junior Serrel Smith Jr. (SG)||Junior Makhi Mitchell (C)||Junior Marcus Dockery (PG)|
|7||Soph Serrel Smith Jr. (SG)||Junior Ricky Lindo (PF)||Junior Makhel Mitchell (PF)|
|8||Soph Ricky Lindo (PF)||Soph Makhi Mitchell (C)||Junior Donta Scott (SF/PF)|
|9||Frosh Makhi Mitchell (C)||Soph Makhel Mitchell (PF)||Junior Hakim Hart (SG/SF)|
|10||Frosh Makhel Mitchell (PF)||Soph Donta Scott (SF/PF)||Junior Chol Marial (C)|
|11||Frosh Donta Scott (SF/PF)||Soph Hakim Hart (SG/SF)||Soph Marcus Dockery (PG)|
|12||Frosh Hakim Hart (SG/SF)||Soph Chol Marial (C)|
|13||Frosh Chol Marial (C)||Frosh Marcus Dockery (PG)|
(Disclaimer: Jalen Smith still seems poised to leave in 2020, and Maryland is still recruiting that class. Several others on this list, including Marial, could realistically leave with eligibility remaining.)
This group will be young, but it’ll be loaded.
Maryland is slated to have one senior, two juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen in 2019-20. Unlike last year, though, the rookies won’t be counted on to play premier roles right away. Assuming Cowan returns, the Terps will bring back seven of their top eight players, 83.3 percent of their minutes and 80.6 percent of their scoring.
This is a squad that was already earning top-10 projections in way-too-early polls; with Michigan losing at least two and potentially three of its top four players, Maryland became the most obvious potential challenger to Michigan State at the top of the Big Ten. A healthy, productive Marial has the potential to lift the Terps up yet another level.
Maryland will have 11 of 13 scholarship players standing between 6’4 and 6’10, with Cowan and Marial as the lone outliers. This combination of size, depth and massive centers from northeast Africa is strikingly similar to Leonard Hamilton’s recent Florida State teams. Considering the Seminoles have reached the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend in back-to-back years, knocking on the door of a Final Four in 2018, that’s a lofty comparison. But if Smith breaks out and/or someone else makes a leap, the Terps’ ceiling is even higher.
Depth like this will allow for all kinds of lineups. Here are a few fun ones:
- The starters: Cowan, Ayala/Morsell/Wiggins (2 spots), Smith, Marial/Makhi
- Large humans (6’5+) with range and athleticism: Ayala, Wiggins, Scott, Smith, Marial
- The murderous press: Cowan, Smith Jr., Morsell, Scott, Marial
- DMV reppin’: Cowan, Morsell, Lindo, Makhel, Makhi
- Bombs away: Cowan/Ayala (whichever one is hot), Smith Jr., Wiggins, Hart, Smith/Marial
(Feel free to add your own favorite lineup in the comments.)
Maryland’s 2015-16 team, which reached No. 2 in the country, had a condensed rotation of seven players. The 2018-19 squad had a clear top six. It’s easy to see next year’s Terps going 10 deep or more, which would open up a treasure trove of options if Turgeon is willing to get creative.
With this roster, Marial is a low-risk, high-reward addition.
There’s a reason Marial, once regarded as one of the prizes of the 2019 class, didn’t draw interest from many big names. Foot and shin injuries have sidelined him for years, and he’s bounced from one school to another in the process. People who evaluate prospects for a living haven’t seen enough of him to do that.
The obvious worst-case scenario is that Marial struggles with injury—or eligibility, or longevity, or something else—throughout his Maryland career and never makes a serious impact on the court. That’s where it helps to have the Mitchell twins (Makhi is still the highest-rated player in this signing class, after all). It also helps to have Smith and Lindo coming back a year older and plenty of lifts stronger. And if all else fails, Scott and Tomaic can fit their way into smaller lineups. Those six players gave Maryland a formidable frontcourt even before Marial’s addition.
With that in mind, it’s a no-brainer to take a flyer on this kind of upside. A healthy Marial can be anything from a shot-blocking, floor-stretching rotational center to an absolute game-changer. It’s one thing to be 7’2 with a 7’11 wingspan (longer than anyone currently in the NBA, I mention as Jay Bilas swoons in the distance). It’s another to have the skill of a stretch big and game-altering size like that.
Some things are too good to be true. Marial is a question mark for so many reasons. Signing the center with chronic foot and shin problems who hasn’t stayed at a U.S. school longer than two years is a bold roll of the dice. But it’s a roll the Terps are in fantastic position to make.