Will the Maryland basketball team show improvement from last season during its upcoming trip to the Bahamas?
That's what third-year coach Mark Turgeon is hoping for during a three-game, four-day exhibition tour against local competition that begins Tuesday night in Nassau.
"To me, it's more about the practices and the preparation, which the guys have done a great job with," Turgeon said. "You're allowed 10 days of practice. We're only going to get nine days in, which is plenty. We don't have any seniors except for [John] Auslander, but we feel like we're a veteran team. It's the first time I've felt that way since I've been here.
"Their ability to learn and work hard and compete is at a different level than it's been since I've been here. It's one of those things now where I've had to dial back. I might have 15 minutes on the clock for something and I might only need 10 because the guys are working so hard. Our leadership is better. Across the board, whether it's walk-ons or scholarship players, they've all gotten better."
While Turgeon and his staff have planned this trip like a big, family vacation that will include plenty of beach time — the team is staying at the posh Atlantic Resort and coaches are taking their families — it will also give Turgeon a better feel for the rotation he is going to use when the season begins Nov. 8 against Connecticut at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"I think it's too soon [to decide a starting lineup], but with that said, we only have nine on scholarship, and I think I have good idea what my rotation is going to be. That could change on foul trouble and healthy bodies. There are seven guys right away that I feel very confident with, and both [freshmen] Roddy [Peters] and Damonte [Dodd] have been pleasant surprises. We won't play down here like we're playing North Carolina State."
The only change to Turgeon's plans came when it was decided that sophomore center Shaquille Cleare, who has been battling injuries to his back and his hamstring this summer, won't play on the tour in his native country. That will give an opportunity to Dodd, who played last season at Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia, to get some time inside alongside sophomore Charles Mitchell.
One of the obvious goals for the trip is for sophomore Seth Allen to establish himself as the team's starting point guard, with Peters as his backup. The lack of a steady point guard last season was a constant source of turmoil for the Terps and was likely the difference between going to the NCAA tournament and the National Invitation Tournament. Maryland finished 25-13 and lost in the semifinals of the NIT.
"I feel really good about it," Turgeon said of a point guard situation. "They both really want to be point guards. Seth's more of a scoring point. Roddy scored in high school, and I'm sure he'll score here, but not like Seth scores. Seth's really improved, and Roddy's better than I thought."