Maryland basketball media day is scheduled for Wednesday and "Maryland Madness" is Friday night. Terps beat writer Jeff Barker and Sun reporter Don Markus took some time to chat about the upcoming season.
Jeff: Don, you know that Maryland is small in the frontcourt. Even the roster is tiny. I tweeted recently that you could write the roster of actual scholarship players on a cocktail napkin. Maryland has almost as many walk-ons (six) as scholarship guys (eight).
Maryland may be helped by signing Olexiy ("Alex") Len from the Ukraine. He's listed at 7-1, but I don't know yet what sort of inside presence he has. The school is waiting to see if he'll be approved by an NCAA clearinghouse. The question remains, what can new Terps coach Mark Turgeon do with this group? You ever cover "small ball" before?
Don: I think the Terps will often have to go small, especially if Len can't play and some of the other frontcourt players can't play prominent roles. I can see Turgeon using Sean Mosley at the 4, Nick Faust at the 3, along with Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard in the backcourt. I remember the Illinois teams from the late 80s going with a lot of guards, but that team had much physically stronger guards than Maryland does. The Terps might be able to get away with it against some of its lesser non-conference opponents, but I think Turgeon needs to identify some usable "bigs" as early as possible. Are you hearing me, James Padgett? Ashton Pankey, I'm talking to you, too.
Jeff: It's a rough way for Turg to start. He finally gets to play regularly against one of his mentors, North Carolina coach Roy Williams. And what happens? He's shorthanded ("short," get it?). Maryland has two games scheduled against the Tar Heels this season. Turgeon is a realist -- he knows what he's up against. But he'll stay positive because that's what good coaches do.
What had you heard about Turgeon before he was hired? I did a radio interview with a Wichita station, and the hosts seemed to believe it was inevitable that Turgeon -- like a favored son -- would one day return home to claim the mantle of Kansas basketball.
Don: I knew the name from his association with Kansas basketball -- I am old enough to have covered the 1986 team that lost to Duke in the Final Four -- but had sort of lost touch of what he had done as a coach. When Gary Williams retired, I kept hearing that Sean Miller of Arizona was going to be the next coach. After that fell apart, the only name I heard was Shaka Smart. Then all of a sudden, Turgeon's name surfaced and a couple of days later he was being introduced in College Park. I do believe that Maryland fans have to pray that Bill Self stays at Kansas because I think Turgeon makes a lot of sense there. I look at Turgeon coaching the Jayhawks the way I used to look at Gary Williams coaching Maryland -- it's probably inevitable.
Jeff: Let's get back to the present day. You think there's a buzz about Maryland hoops with the new coach, or is it muted because of low expectations?Don: I think there will be a buzz in a few weeks, at least locally, especially if the football team continues to struggle. I do agree that things are quiet because the expectations for this season are pretty low, and could go lower if Len is not allowed to play by the NCAA. But I think what should keep Maryland fans interested is the possibility of the best recruiting class in a long time and the prospect of a big-time turnaround next season.