Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
How would you assess freshman quarterback Perry Hills’ performance in the opener?
Jeff Barker: What did the late coach-broadcaster Al McGuire say? "The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores."
I like Perry Hills. He seems like a good (and tough) kid, and he’ll improve.
He had some rough moments in the opener. He threw three interceptions and overthrew tight end Devonte Campbell in the end zone. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said that -- late in the first half -- Hills threw short to Marcus Leak and missed a deep opportunity with Kevin Dorsey. "Kevin was wide open in the end zone on the slant," Locksley said.
But Hills seemed to get better -- and calmer -- as the game progressed.
Patience will be required of Maryland and its fans as Hills matures. If you're a Terps fan, you just hope that Hills gets some help. That assistance could come from the running game to help neutralize the pass rush. Or it could come from Maryland's defense or special teams setting up Hills with prime field position.
If you're a freshman quarterback, you take help where you can get it and are appropriately grateful.
What can Maryland fans expect from Dezmine Wells?
Matt Bracken: With senior point guard Tu Holloway (17.5 points per game), redshirt junior guard Mark Lyons (15.1 ppg) and senior center Kenny Frease (10.2 ppg) on Xavier's 2011-12 roster, freshman wing Dezmine Wells was never going to be a primary scoring option for the Musketeers most nights. But Wells, who announced his intention to transfer to Maryland on Monday, carved out a niche last winter as a reliable fourth option for XU that was more than capable of handling the brunt of the scoring load as needed.
Wells' numbers -- 9.8 points per game and 4.9 rebounds -- were good for fourth and third, respectively, on the team. Some of his best performances came against Xavier's toughest competition. In a 76-53 win over Cincinnati -- a game in which the Queen City rivals brawled and Wells, three of his teammates and four Bearcats were suspended -- the future Terp contributed 14 points and six rebounds. In a 72-68 loss at Memphis in February, Wells scored 19 points while adding five points and four assists. And in the Musketeers' 67-63 win over Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Wells poured in 14 points and added 11 rebounds.
There were plenty of noteworthy performances from Wells against Atlantic 10 teams as well. With 22 NCAA tournament appearances in the past 29 years, Xavier long ago shed its mid-major label. And while some might dismiss the Musketeers' in-conference competition, the RPI suggests that would be a mistake. Last season, the A-10 was ranked the seventh-best conference -- one spot behind the ACC.
"Xavier goes toe to toe with any program as far as talent and pedigree with what they’ve done," said Steve Wolf, a former Musketeers co-captain and the team's color analyst on TV broadcasts. "[Look at the] pro players [from Xavier]. I remember David West. Look at him. James Posey. There’s a lot of players
that have come through here. One after the other. Once in awhile you can say it’s a fluke, but not anymore. [Wells will] do really well in the ACC."
Maryland's banking on Wells to live up to that potential as soon as he's eligible. Wolf said Wells can play shooting guard or small forward, though the 3 is a more natural spot for him. Assuming Wells redshirts this season, Maryland would have a ton of versatility -- Seth Allen (1/2), Sam Cassell Jr. (1/2), Nick Faust (1/2/3), Wells (2/3), Jake Layman (3/4), Evan Smotrycz (3/4) -- at its disposal heading into the 2013-14 season.
It's hard to project exactly how the Terps' roster will look one year from now. This offseason alone Mark Turgeon has added five freshmen and three transfers to the program. There's still plenty of recruiting left to be done for 2013. But one certainty going forward is that whenever Wells is able to take the Comcast Center floor, he'll make a major impact for the Terps.
With reports out there that the Harrison twins will attend Maryland Madness at Comcast Center, should Terps fans take that as a sign of the Texas guards are coming to College Park to play next season?
Don Markus: When I saw that ESPN's Andy Katz was reporting that Andrew and Aaron Harrison are likely attending Maryland Madness, I thought this was perhaps the clearest signal to date where Mark Turgeon stood in terms of getting the most highly touted prospects to come to College Park since Lefty Driesell signed Moses Malone back in the mid-70s. Of course, Malone wound up being a none-and-done and signed with the old ABA. (Lefty claimed him anyway, putting Malone's mug in the press guide among high school stars he had successfully recruited.)
Based on some of the comments Aaron Harrison Sr. made over the summer about his relationship with Turgeon, as well as with Terps assistant Bino Ranson, I thought the Terps were certainly co-favorites with national champion Kentucky -- if not at the top of a list that also includes Baylor, SMU and Villanova. Harrison Sr., who played high school basketball in Baltimore and whose parents still live here, also said it was up to his sons where they went. I figured that if it came to a tiebreaker -- Harrison Sr. -- the Terps were in good shape.
Any time high-profile recruits come to a big event such as Midnight Madness, it certainly gives the school an edge by having thousands of fans show the prospects the kind of atmosphere they will be playing in or showering them with the kind of love Maryland fans gave five-star football recruit Stefon Diggs when he showed up for the North Carolina game last winter. Now it's up to folks at Maryland to get close to a sellout for its first practice, as Kentucky usually has at Rupp Arena, and put on the kind of show that's worthy of landing two players ranked the best at their positions (point guard and shooting guard) in the country.
The speculation that the Harrisons are headed to Comcast Center after spending last year's Midnight Madness at Rupp has certainly caused a little concern among Big Blue fans in the Commonwealth. Based on a reaction to a story in the Lexington Herald-Leader where Scout.com recruiting analyst Evan Daniels said it wasn't that big a deal, many of the fans who responded to the story think it is. I also think what's working in Maryland's favor -- maybe the biggest factor -- is that the Terps wear Under Armour. Guess what Baltimore-based sports apparel manufacturer outfits the Harrisons' AAU team -- coached by their father and for whom Terps freshman Shaquille Cleared played in high school? It's not Nike, which happens to clothe Kentucky's teams.
I actually think the annoucement this week that Dez Wells is transferring to Maryland -- picking the Terps over Kentucky and Memphis, among others -- helps Turgeon with the Harrisons. The second-year coach is putting together the kind of roster that Maryland fans have seen before at places like Duke and North Carolina, but not in College Park. Since the Harrisons have made it known that they plan to play only one season on the college level, it seems that the point guards and shooting guards who are already on the roster or have committed know their playing time might be affected for that season, but not before or after.
The Harrisons have said that they will announce their decision on their birthday in late October, but also gave indications this summer that they might make it earlier.
Oct. 12 seems like as good a day as any.
By the look of where this seems to be headed, College Park appears to be as good a place as any.