The Maryland basketball team held an open scrimmage Saturday without head coach Mark Turgeon, who was home with strep throat. Assistant coach Scott Spinelli ran the practice portion that wasn't open to the public, then let fellow assistants Bino Ranson and Dalonte Hill coach after they split up the teams.
For those planning their ACC fantasy league teams, Jake Layman continues to show signs that he could take a major step from his freshman year. The 6-foot-8 forward led the Red Team to a 38-36 win in the 20-minute scrimmage with 20 points. Dez Wells and transfer Evan Smotrycz led the Black team with 12 points apiece.
Here are a couple of of Spinelli's general observations from the scrimmage:
"We still have a lot of room to get better. We love our interchangeable parts, our versatility and the team itself has been better from when where we first started even this fall with our practices in the fall to where we are now. Again, a lot of things we have to work on, turnovers is something we've talked about as a coaching staff, making simple plays. We had some turnovers today that were kind of foolish, and hopefully we can correct those. We talked a lot this week about executing your part of the play on offense and talking and communicating on defense. I think we got better in those two areas today.
"The one thing about Coach Turgeon's teams being with him so long, he really emphasizes team play and getting the best shot for the team. As you can see, we're the type of team, if there's an open guy, we're going to get him the guy, it's his turn to shoot. There isn't a guy out there that's really looking for individual statistics."
Here are a couple of my own observations:
After a freshman year in which he showed flashes of becoming a very productive scorer, Layman was the breakout star of Maryland's summer trip to the Bahamas and continues to show both an outside shot and ability to create off the dribble, either getting fouled and pulling up for mid-range jumpers.
That is one of the reasons I think Turgeon, despite his inisistence last week that Shaquille Cleare would be in the starting lineup if the Terps were playing games this week, will eventually have to try his smaller lineup featuring Layman and Smotrycz as the shooters.
"Everybody talks about the freshman to sophomore jump," Spinelli said of Layman. 'I think it goes back to the strength he's got, he's able to do more physically whether he gets a rebound or comes off a screen, his legs are under him. He's got a little bit of a swagger to him. He's playing with a lot more confidence."
Regardless of what Charles Mitchell said at media day about he and Cleare showing great improvement in their post games offensively, neither demonstrated that Saturday. Both play hard, both are physical and both can score a little, but someone has got to teach these guys a simple drop step. I know it's old school, but their footwork is not very good. It leads Mitchell into taking off-balance shots and Cleare into getting his shot blocked when he shouldn't.
I asked Spinelli about Cleare's progress.
"I think again he again he had the injury with his back and I don't think he's yet where he's going to be in the next month or so. What we're trying to work on with him is catching and finishing quicker. The jump from high school to Division I basketball, everything happens so much faster In Shaq's case, we obviously want him to finish quicker to the rim but he still has a little ways to go in that regard too."