Welcome to a second season of Morning Shootaround. We will follow the Terps throughout the 2013-14 season, but this year in this space we will provide a look ahead rather than looking back. We will try to analyze Maryland's strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of its upcoming opponent. We also hope to provide quotes and anecdotes from practices to give some idea of what Mark Turgeon and his team are doing.
Here are a few things to look for as the Terps get ready to play Wake Forest Tuesday night.
There have been a number of games this season when it seemed freshman center Damonte Dodd has taken a step toward becoming part of Mark Turgeon's rotation.
It happened at Ohio State in December, when Dodd grabbed a career-high five rebounds (including three on the offensive boards) in eight minutes in a 16-point loss to the No. 5 Buckeyes in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
It happened again last month at North Carolina State, when Dodd made all three of his shots and pulled down four rebounds in the first half of what turned out to be a 14-minute stint. But it was lost in a disappointing nine-point defeat after the Terps blew an 11-point second half lead.
When it happened Saturday at Duke, even Turgeon said he was “pleasantly surprised.” After not playing the previous three games, Dodd’s defensive presence helped the Terps erase a nine-point deficit to the No. 8 Blue Devils.
Though Dodd’s numbers in what eventually became an excruciating 69-67 loss weren’t that impressive – he was credited with just one rebound in seven minutes– he gave the Terps a 6-10, 240-pound center who altered shots and gave his teammates confidence to take chances.
“Knowing that we have a shot blocker back there takes a little pressure off us outside, if we do get beat, he’ll be there to block a shot,” sophomore forward Jake Layman said after practice Monday in College Park.
In that way, Dodd’s presence was as close to simulating what the Terps had last season with 7-1 Alex Len as the last line of defense and what they could have in future years with Dodd’s development and the arrival next season of 7-1 ½ Trayvon Reed.
“Damonte has a very similar frame to Alex, he’s a great shot blocker and a very similar presence to Alex,” Layman said.
Unlike recent games, when Turgeon either hedged on whether Dodd would play or at least once said there were no plans to use him, the third-year coach was quick to respond to the question Monday about Dodd’s role going forward.
“Damonte gave us a lot of confidence, especially on the defensive end, he wasn’t caught up in the moment all,” Turgeon said on the ACC coaches’ teleconference.
“He was in the right place almost every defensively. I was proud of him. We need his presence in there. He’s going get his chance Tuesday night, hopefully he’ll play well with it and it will continue.”
Dodd said that his own confidence grew as a result of how he played at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“After the game, I was like, ‘Man if I can do that in a big game like that going on, I can be calm and do what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “It was a big confidence booster.”
In Dodd’s case, his lack of nerves might have ignorance being bliss.
“I don’t know if he really realized what the moment was,” Turgeon said.
Asked what it was like to play at Duke, Dodd said after practice Monday, “It was a fun experience. I was a little nervous when I got in, but other than that, it was fun just being around the crowd and the atmosphere and playing with my teammates in a big game.”
Told that he didn’t seem nervous, Dodd said, “He [Turgeon] called my name, just got in and they did what they taught me, which is to produce and help.”
Among the things that the Maryland coaches have worked on with Dodd is not to try to block every shot. It appeared that Dodd blocked a shot by Duke guard Andre Dawkins on the baseline, but he was called for bumping Dawkins with his body.
“When I can block it, I try to block it because that’s what I like doing, it’s fun to do,” Dodd said. “If I can just alter a shot where I can get the rebound or my teammates can get the rebound, that’s good enough for me.”
Dodd said it wasn’t hard not to try to do too much in his first game since he played four minutes against Virginia Tech two weeks before. Dodd said seldom-used senior John Auslander, who is a de facto student coach for the Terps on the bench, had given him some advice.
“John Auslander always tells me to prepare as if you’re a starter,” Dodd said. “Once he [Turgeon] called my name, I knew what I had to do.”
Junior guard Nick Faust said Monday that he heard “from a lot of people” about his one-handed follow slam dunk at Duke. It came off a missed shot from the right wing by Layman. Coming from the left baseline, Faust slammed it back in with his right hand.
“Some people said they’d never seen something like that,” Faust said Monday. “I thought it was pretty normal.”
Faust said that he watched the dunk, which went viral almost instantaneously, “about four times.” Asked if it gets better each time he has seen, Faust smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, it does,” he said.
That it came against the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium certainly made it something Faust – or those who witnessed it – won’t forget for awhile.
“It just adds a special moment, because that’s a special building,” said Faust, who admitted last week that he grew up a Duke fan. “To do a play like that is really big.”
As the Terps move on from Saturday’s loss, so must sophomore forward Charles Mitchell, who had two shots to win in the final seconds.
His first – after having what appeared to be a wide-open layup or dunk – was blocked out of bounds and his second, a 5-foot baby hook, hit the back rim and hung on the front rim before rolling off.
If there was a negative about Mitchell’s performance, it was the fact that he only hit four of 15 shots, and took a couple of ill-advised shots down the stretch.
At times this season, Mitchell has been a little too focused on getting his own shots in the low post than passing out of double-teams. It’s not something that Turgeon takes too lightly.
“You think about the Georgia Tech game, he was four of 13 I was begging our guys to quit throwing him the ball and they kept throwing it to him when we were up 18 or 20 most of the game,” Turgeon said.
“Charles has got to more efficient. Charles is actually a good passer, but there was lot of one-on-one the other night. I thought he made pretty good decisions, he missed a couple he normally makes.”