COLLEGE PARK — With Tuesday marking this season's unofficial start of Maryland men's basketball coverage, coach Mark Turgeon and the Terps spoke to the media at the team's media day inside Comcast Center. Below are the highlights from Turgeon's half-hour press conference:
-- On finding a reliable lineup: "The way I look at our team right now, I think we have seven-and-a-half starters, if that makes sense. Pretty soon, it’ll be eight, when the young guys are ready, so we can go a lot of different ways. As long as we’re doing well and it’s working for us, I can see us locking into one lineup, or at least four of the five guys being pretty consistent throughout the year."
-- On replacing Alex Len: "We’re going to miss Alex. If you followed us closely down the stretch last year, Alex was pretty special, and special on the defensive end, so we’re going to miss that. We don’t have that this year, so we’re going to have to be different defensively, No. 1. ... He covered up a lot of our mistakes. With that said, I do think, indiivudally, we’ve gotten better defensively … which is going to help."
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-- On Shaquille Cleare's health and ability: "His back’s pretty healthy. Once he gets loose, he’s been great in practice. If we threw it up today and had a game, Shaq would be our starting center. … But I think traditionally, Charles or Shaq will be our starting center throughout the year. We’ll try to have a big guy on the floor as much as we can. If not, depending on certain situations, Charles and Shaq may start together. We don’t know yet."
-- On the team's rebounding ability: "I think we can be a great rebounding team. Not a good one, but a great one."
-- On Seth Allen's development: "Seth’s come a long way. He had a good trip to the Bahamas, played well at times, had 10 assists in one game. That really wasn’t the kind of competition or preparation or coaching that we’re going to see when we get into our schedule. But Seth’s doing really well. Seth’s just such a dynamic scorer. I think Seth can get his shot whenever he wanted to get his shot. ... He’s doing a better job of getting into our offense."
-- On his first impressions of Roddy Peters: "Roddy has been a real pleasant surprise. Roddy is almost 6-5, about 202, I believe, maybe 198. He’s put on a lot of weight, muscle, since he’s been here. Roddy’s really good on the break. … He’s a good player. Now Roddy doesn’t get us into our offense right now as well as Seth does, but on the break, Roddy’s good at finding teammates and making guys around him better. ... We will play them together quite a bit, too, as the season goes on.
"When you recruit kids, you hope they’re good, and then some of them turn out to be better than you thought, and Roddy’s one of those kids. He’s on track to be a really good player for us."
-- On Dez Wells' leadership qualities: "As a leader, it’s night and day. He really is trying and he’s doing it in the right tone. Guys respect him. He’s done a nice job. We’re practicing in the morning, and that’s not easy for college kids sometimes. ... But getting guys going in the morning as a leader is something that’s very important, and Dez has done a really good job with that."
-- On the program's progress: "I feel really good about where we ware. This is a huge year for us, to improve on what we did last year. We should. And I think we’re ready to make that step. We’re excited about that."
-- On ACC coaches' "animosity" toward Maryland for its imminent departure: "Animosity? If there’s any, I think it’s because the coaches hate to see Maryland go. They know we’re a good basketball program, we’re a good team. It was a good game for a lot of people in the league. I think it’s just their kind of way of being upset with us leaving. I don’t think it’s toward me, personally, or our team, but more so that they’re just upset that we’re leaving the league. That’s the least of our concerns. I don’t really care about that stuff."
-- On Jonathan Graham's (Calvert Hall) appeal for a hardship waiver after transfering from Penn State: "He’s practicing with us. We’re in the waiver process for him. ... Hopefully, we’re going to know in the next couple of weeks on him."
-- On Wells' lawsuit against Xavier and its in-season impact: "When I decided to recruit Dez, I was 100 percent behind Dez. I did a lot of homework, so I’m 100 percent behind him and what he’s doing. With that said, talking to his lawyers, it’s not supposed to interfere with us at all. I don’t plan on it interfering with us at all, all season. I know it’s going to come up a lot — every TV game, it’s going to come up. But it’s not going to interfere with us. I think Dez is a strong-minded enough person not to let it affect him. If he didn’t believe in what he was doing, he wouldn’t have done it."
-- On Evan Smotrycz's improvements since transferring: "He’s developed a lot. I think he’s become a better athlete. "He’s changed his body. I joke with him all the time that Evan’s never going to be a great athlete, but he’s become a good athlete. He’s worked hard. I think he has confidence. Right now, I think he feels very comfortable with his teammates. That’s important when you’re dealing with young kids. I think Evan feels very comfortable. He’s gotten better defensively. He’s a major weapon. He can really shoot it from deep, he’s got mid-range game and he’s got post-ups. He can also really pass it, and he can also figure out how to get guys open in our offense by screening and helping them.
"He can also, on the other end, defend a big guy, but he can also get out and defend a little guy. He’s a pretty valuable piece in our puzzle."
-- On Damonte Dodd's role on the team: "Damonte’s come a long way since the first time I saw him and decided that we were going to offer him a scholarship. He’s probably about 6-10, maybe a little taller. He’s about 240, maybe a little more. … He can run, and he can run all day. Never gets tired. He really doesn’t get it yet, but he still covers a tremendous amount of space on defense. I think eventually he’s going to be a great rim protector for us. But because he’s a good athlete, he can get out and chase guys around on the perimeter. He just doesn’t know how to do that yet, so it’s going to take some time.
"He’ll run right past our guards on the break, which is going to open things up for us."
-- On coming up short last season: "It’d have been nice to sneak in there last year. Even if you snuck in, it would’ve been nice. We didn’t deserve it. We didn’t win enough games, enough games that we were supposed to win. So that is the next progression."
-- On Jake Layman's breakout offseason: "He’s worked hard on his ball handling, his passing, his decision making, like all our players have. He’s gotten a lot better defensively. He’s gotten more physical, but in the end, he’s gotten more confident. He’s a very confident kid. It’s great to see. ... Jake’s dynamic. He’s dynamic on the break. He’s dynamic in the half-court offense, he’s great in our presses. He’s got a chance to be special. He really does."
-- On one of his biggest worries: "It’s our decision making. If you know anything about basketball and you watched us last year — shot selection, turnovers, forcing passes and shots, that’s the biggest thing for us. We’ve really worked hard at that. If we’re better decision makers, we have the talent. We have the sense of urgency. We want to be good. That’s why we all came to Maryland. We want to be great."
Check back later for much more from media day.