Terrell Stoglin picked up a red pen when he was in first grade, and out poured his vision of future basketball glory on page after page that he stapled together and proudly presented to his parents.
"No one can stop him," Terrell wrote about Terrell on lined construction paper, the sort children use to practice the alphabet. "Watch out Michael [Jordan] because this boy is taking over your sport!"
Fifteen years later, Maryland's 6-foot guard covets the NBA and plays with audacity — as if he were still running in pickup games through southern Arizona's desert heat, needing feverishly to prove he can outplay the bigger boys. He seems constantly in attack mode. His scoring acumen and brashness — few college guards are tougher or more self-assured with the ball — pushed the depth-challenged Terps (16-14, 6-10 Atlantic Coast Conference) to multiple early-season wins and often kept them competitive in other contests. While his shooting percentage dipped late in the season and his shot selection was questioned by coaches, Stoglin (21.2 points per game) enters Thursday's ACC tournament opener against Wake Forest (4-12, 13-17) in Atlanta primed to become Maryland's first conference scoring champion since Joe Smith in 1995.
Stoglin, who was voted second team All-ACC by media members, said his play has been misunderstood. "People think they know my game. They don't," he said in an interview following a recent practice. "I'm a great passer. I want people to say 'He's a great player,' not just 'He's a great scorer.' I hate that."
Stoglin's combination of brazenness, ambition and talent raise intriguing questions about how long the sophomore — who for years wore a headband honoring his idol, former NBA star Allen Iverson — will remain at Maryland and how effectively his prodigious scoring talents can be integrated into a team concept. Over the past 60 years, only one Maryland player — Bob Kessler in 1954-55 — has taken a higher percentage of the team's total shots than Stoglin, who attempted 30.5 percent in the regular season. Stoglin made and took more than twice as many shots as any of his teammates.
While balanced team scoring is popularly regarded as a basketball ideal, Stoglin and his father, Joe, say Terrell hoisted up an outsized number of field-goal attempts — he took 20 3-pointers in a double-overtime loss to Miami — because that is what the team required. He is averaging just under two assists, and had no assists in six games.
"Right now they need his scoring so bad," said Joe Stoglin, the athletic director at a large Tucson charter school who has coached boys basketball and other sports and helps guide his son's career. "I know my son. He has not shown his full game yet. They don't have a clue. They don't understand what kind of player Terrell really is."
Apprised of his father's comments, the younger Stoglin nodded his head vigorously. "That's an honest statement right there," he said. "I'm a point guard. I just want to be in position where I can show it."
Learning to trust
Stoglin was interviewed in the Comcast Center stands overlooking the court. He seems understated for such an aggressive player. Close up, he appears slightly smaller than his listed height of 6 feet 1. "I'll take 6-1," he said, smiling. Unlike many of his teammates, he has no tattoos. His father advised Terrell that tattoos could create an unfavorable impression on future employers, and Terrell listened. But he does sometimes wear glittery studs — he says they are fake diamonds — on both ears.
He spoke softly — often saying "Yes, sir" — and seemed to choose his words carefully when talking about sharing the ball. "I mean, it's a team effort in basketball. Just that I had no assists, I was passing the ball. A couple of passes it couldn't have been my" — he paused — "some of it couldn't have been my fault. At the same time, some of it probably was. You know what I mean?"
Maryland insiders agree that Stoglin is a better passer than he shows in games. Coach Mark Turgeon has often said Stoglin needs to learn to better "trust" his teammates in pressure situations.
"I think he's really tried to adapt," Turgeon said. "He's gotten better. I don't think there's any question about that. People see me yelling at him. I think we have an open, honest relationship."
Stoglin's season has been marked by attention-grabbing scoring bursts — he had 25 points in the second half of a victory over Colorado — and occasional brooding. Benched in the second half of a loss at Duke, he slouched, sulked and later tweeted his discontent.
"At the point I was tweeting, I wasn't thinking at all," Stoglin said, shaking his head. "It was just a tweet and then it blew out, and I was like, 'Oh man, I got to start thinking before I do things like this.' "
There have been other moments he would like back. In a two-point loss at Georgia Tech, Stoglin had his defender, Mfon Udofia, in foul trouble in the second half but didn't work to get him out of the game. "That was dumb on my behalf. He had four fouls, and instead of me going at him to try to foul him out by penetrating, I was shooting [from outside]," Stoglin said.
But Stoglin has impressed enough basketball observers that he has begun to be noted by some pundits as a possible early entry in the 2012 NBA draft. In a quick scan of mock drafts, Stoglin was not projected to be picked by any of the 30 teams.
His father said the plan is for Terrell to return for his junior season to try to play in an NCAA tournament, but that no final decision has been made. "Right now, his goal is to come back," Joe Stoglin said.
Be like Allen (but pass more)
The younger Stoglin grew up in Tucson and was passionate about playing the drums and learning basketball. There was always a hoop in the backyard, where Stoglin practiced his left-handed jumpers even in the 100-degree, Sonoran Desert heat.
Among his frequent pickup-game challengers were his father, who played at Pima Community College and says he can still match his son's impressive outside shooting range; his uncle, James, who played at Grand Canyon University; his younger brother, T.J., who plays in high school and wears Terrell's jersey number (12); and a slew of older cousins.
When he was 16, his father enrolled Terrell in a men's YMCA league, where he competed against slower, beefier opponents who tried to outmuscle him.
In his mind's eye, Stoglin was always Iverson, fearlessly slicing through the lane. Stoglin and the former NBA Most Valuable Player are about the same height. "I loved how small he was and how he didn't care," Stoglin said. "I loved his heart. I had every arm sleeve he had, the wrist bands. I wore head bands all the way until I was like a junior in high school."
He still has a poster of Iverson hanging in his room.
Stoglin was recruited by former Maryland assistants Rob Ehsan and Chuck Driesell. It is a coincidence — but perhaps a useful one for Maryland — that Turgeon coached Iverson as an assistant under Larry Brown with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1997-98. "I'm not comparing Terrell to Iverson," Turgeon told reporters before the season. "[Brown] took Allen off the ball to get pressure off of him, but Allen was still a part of every possession. Hopefully I can take some pressure off Terrell but still have him be a part of every possession."
To aid in Terrell's development and discipline while he was at Santa Rita High School, Joe Stoglin hired a personal trainer for his son. Stoglin shed body fat and improved his endurance. No one except Mike Bibby — who now plays for the New York Knicks — scored more points than Stoglin in Arizona high school play.
The questions about Stoglin coming out of high school "were how his body would translate to the next level, and shot selection," said Josh Gershon, West Coast recruiting analyst for Scout.com. "It's not that he has poor [court] vision. It's just a mindset. At his high school, he was more of a passer, getting his teammates involved."
Stoglin used to love to lob the ball to Santa Rita teammate Darnell Shumpert, a 6-foot-7 forward now playing for Cal State San Bernardino. "I would get the ball — this is honest — on the fast break and he would run with me and I would just lob it up and he would go get it. Boom! Oh, I miss that," Stoglin said.
The implication is that Stoglin wants a Shumpert — a big man — to run with.
Playing with Shumpert "was pretty much like last year playing with Jordan [Williams]," Stoglin said. "Me and Jordan played well together."
Stoglin had significantly more assists in 2010-11 (3.3 per game) than this season (1.9). Williams, a 6-foot-10 center, left Maryland for the NBA after his sophomore year and is now with the New Jersey Nets. Maryland's recruiting class for 2012-13 is highlighted by promising 6-foot-9 center Shaquille Cleare from Houston.
In the meantime, Stoglin faces the same choice that Williams did about whether to return for a third season.
Stoglin said he is not looking to leave Maryland. As much as he misses Arizona's spicy Mexican food, the state's mountains and its grand sunsets, he says: "This is my home now."
But his NBA aspirations — whenever he chooses to pursue them — have been with him ever since he scribbled his life goals on construction paper. "He is going to be a professional basketball player," he wrote then.
At 20 years old, his NBA hopes remain as glittery as the fake-diamond earrings he hopes to one day trade in for real ones if his career progresses the way he imagines.
"Wish they were real," he said. "Soon."
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