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Maryland basketball film review: Terps and the art of screening

How the Maryland basketball team uses the screen to create offense.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland freshman center Diamond Stone impresses with his offensive skill, displaying a deft scoring touch around the rim. A McDonald's All-American, Stone entered college with high expectations. While Maryland fans can see Stone's potential, the jump in competition has also shown that the freshman needs more polish.

Let's examine the subtle art of screening, an incredibly important part of every possession. A staple of Maryland's offense is the high pick-and-roll, primarily run by Melo Trimble. It's a simple play, and one that accentuates Trimble's strengths as a creator and finisher.

Here's the high PnR, run with Stone accompanying Trimble. The freshman whiffs on the St. Francis defender, allowing the guard to scurry back in front of Trimble. Without any separation, Melo jacks a contested three-pointer, a poor shot from a situation that usually favors the Terps' star.

Here's that same high PnR, run with Damonte Dodd as the big man. In my opinion, the junior center is Maryland's best screener. Dodd knows this is his strength, and you can often see him searching out Trimble in semi-transition, lining up a drag screen on an unsuspecting defender.

And here is where experience plays a huge factor. The key to setting great screens is walking a tightrope with the legal limits. The best screens are usually moving screens that go uncalled. Here, Dodd is stationary, but he gets very wide to force the defender to loop around him. If the defender crashed into his legs, Dodd could easily be whistled for tripping.

Dodd also has a decent sense of how to position his roll off the high screen. You can see in the clip above that he does not sprint down the side of the line. Instead, he floats along to mirror Trimble's movement, opening up the passing lane.

Here's an off-ball screen to set up Rasheed Sulaimon, curling into the lane. The play starts in Horns with Layman initiating to Carter up top. Sulaimon cuts to the ball with the aid of Dodd's screen. You can see Dodd lean into the defender to create extra separation, more than enough for Sulaimon to drive and dish.

Again, moving screens are a part of basketball. Dodd isn't set here, and even takes a step towards the arc as contact is made. However, it's not egregious, and these will slip through uncalled. Dodd knows how to get right to the edge of that cliff without falling off more times than not.

Now, take a look at Stone freeing up Jared Nickens on a designed back-screen. Stone does not commit to his screen in the same way as Dodd. Stone bumps the defender slightly, and then turns his attention to his next responsibility. Nickens should still finish this play regardless (use a pump fake!), but some extra oomph on Stone's screen could have erased the defender entirely.

Stone seems less sure of himself in walking the tightrope. Perhaps, he's concerned with early foul trouble, but there's no reason that he cannot improve his screening. I would imagine that these minor details get hammered out as players progress to each level of competition. Stone didn't need to be an incredible screener to become a McDonald's All-American. He will needs these skills to help Maryland fulfill its potential as a title contender.