WASHINGTON -- The Big Ten men’s basketball tournament trophy was displayed to the right of where Kevin Anderson was sitting on an occasion that ordinarily would have offered Maryland’s athletic director a chance to imagine the Terps seriously competing for that sparkly prize.
Anderson can only hope that his next visit to Verizon Center — site of Tuesday’s news conference to announce that the 2017 Big Ten tournament will be held at the venue — occurs during a brighter period for the team and its coach.
After the formal news conference was completed and the trophy was set aside, Anderson and Maryland coach Mark Turgeon were besieged by reporters asking about the state of the basketball program in the aftermath of four recent transfers.
Anderson, who hired Turgeon in 2011 and gave the former Texas A&M coach an eight-year contract, unequivocally backed the man who will lead the Terps into the Big Ten, effective July 1.
“I totally support Mark,” Anderson said. “Our thing is, going into the Big Ten we’re going to be competitive. We have a great team coming back, and we have great recruits coming in.”
Anderson said the transfers of guards Seth Allen, Nick Faust, Roddy Peters and forward Shaquille Cleare — all starters at various times — followed “a trend we’re seeing in college basketball.”
But Anderson also said he was surprised by Allen’s departure in particular, and he had spoken with the player’s family.
Of the four players, Allen, a talented rising junior, had figured most prominently in Turgeon’s plans, and his departure has concerned fans the most. Peters and Cleare had seemed to struggle with their adjustments to the college game. Once a regular starter, Faust only started 13 of 32 games last season.
Allen, who arrived as a shooting guard and ended up playing point guard, told The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday that he is not rethinking his decision.
“I just have to do what’s best for me and my family,” Allen said.
In talking to Allen’s parents, Anderson said: “I wasn’t trying to get him to come back. It was just a matter of making sure that he was making the right decision. I believe he was just looking at change. I don’t think he’s worked out everything. I told him he needs to do what’s right in his heart.”
Allen’s family did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
“It was unfortunate,” Turgeon said of Allen’s decision to seek his release. “Tried to save it. Parents, you know, tried to save it. They love Maryland. In the end, it was a family decision.”
The transfers seemed alarming because they came quickly in succession.
Turgeon said the departures aren’t linked by a common thread.
“All four of them are individual,” he said. “They all leave for different reasons. It is what it is in the program right now.”
Turgeon has a highly rated class entering in the fall, led by guard Melo Trimble, a McDonald’s All-American.
“The guys coming back are committed,” Turgeon said. “We’ve got a great recruiting class. It could be the best thing to ever happen to us, we’ll see. I hate to see guys leave, but it’s what’s happening. We’ll move forward.”
Maryland has been assuring boosters that the program, which went 17-15 in 2013-14 and missed the NCAA tournament for the third straight season, remains on solid footing.
“Some people who are pretty close to the program, they understand the nature of what we’re dealing with,” Anderson said. “There are some people we are going out and having discussions with and telling them they have nothing to worry about.”
With the defections, Maryland has 11 players on scholarship for the upcoming season.
“Is our roster complete? No,” Turgeon said. “I said during the season I wanted to be at 13 scholarships. So I'm not going to sign players just to sign them, but if I can add a couple pieces here late, I will do that and try to get to 13 scholarships.”
There has been speculation that sophomore forward Charles Mitchell could also depart, but he has not missed workouts or meetings, or informed coaches about any such plans.
Earlier, Turgeon sat at a table with Anderson and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and welcomed the announcement that the conference tournament was coming to the East Coast for the first time. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo sat nearby. Next year’s tournament is in Chicago, and the 2016 event will be in Indianapolis.
The Verizon Center video board showed highlights of Big Ten games. The logos of the conference’s schools, including those of Maryland and Rutgers, which also joins on July 1, were displayed around the arena.
Turgeon said he had hoped Delany would one day bring the tournament close to Maryland’s campus.
“He came through as quickly as he could come through,” Turgeon said.
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