By Don Markus
The Baltimore Sun
11:19 AM EDT, November 3, 2012
Welcome to the first installment of Morning Shootaround, which will be a regular feature this season the day after Maryland basketball games. While we can’t bring you into the Terps’ locker room after games – reporters haven’t been allowed in there since the last couple of years under Gary Williams – we will recap what was said in the press conference afterward by Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and his players. We will give some of our own insight into what transpired on the court during the previous night’s game and what the Terps will be working on at practice looking ahead to their next game.
* The most positive thing I can say about Friday night’s 73-61 exhibition win over Division II Indiana (Pa.) was that the Terps avoided having the score mentioned on ESPN. Meaning, had Maryland not come out of its funk during the second half with the help of freshmen Seth Allen (16 points, 5 assists, 5 steals, 0 turnovers) and Charles Mitchell (15 rebounds, several primal screams), the score and maybe some of the highlights would have made SportsCenter no matter what Scott Van Pelt had to say about it.
Actually, I saw some things that were noticeably absent last season.
I saw a team that shared the ball and didn’t rely on one player to score, and even when Nick Faust started channeling his inner Terrell Stoglin –- or the old Nick Faust from his days at City -- the sophomore guard showed good sense by getting the ball to his teammates for better shots. I also saw Faust’s shot has a better rotation, though he did throw at least one of his old “smokebombs,” as his high school coach called them, up there.
I saw a team that worked harder defensively as a group than they did a year ago. Last year, it was mostly James Padgett inside and Faust on the perimeter, with an occasional cameo from Alex Len or Pe’Shon Howard. The Terps had 8 steals, a pretty good stat (though against lesser competition) for a team that finished near the bottom (336th out of 338) in the nation a year ago.
I also saw, after a slow start, a team that could bury some outside shots. Transfer Logan Aronhalt looks like one of those Indiana kids -– and coming from Zanesville, Ohio, he’s not too far away from Hoosier country –- who seemed to be able to bury 3’s right out of the crib. Allen doesn’t have a textbook jumper, but he will hit his share of 3’s too.
* With Howard not giving much offensively, Allen is going to be in Maryland’s starting lineup sooner rather than later. It might be as the point guard, and it could be as the shooting guard, with Nick Faust moving up to small forward. Allen was by far the most impressive of Turgeon’s first-year players and the coach offered up a rare told-you-so to those who overlooked Allen coming out of high school.
“I thought Seth was great, first time playing at Comcast,” Turgeon said. “He makes plays for himself and everyone else…Seth’s a good player, I’ve been trying to tell a lot of people that for a year, just because he wasn’t ranked, nobody would believe me.”
Allen was asked about whether his performance might have earned him a starting spot.
“I’m not too worried about that, whatever coach wants to do, I just really try to do whatever I can do in the minutes I get,” Allen said.
Translation: Once we get into watching the tape, it’s going to be tough to keep me out of the starting lineup.
* Mitchell is also going to make a push for minutes, and possibly a starting job. Turgeon started James Padgett at power forward Friday night, and might again come next Friday night against Kentucky since the game is being played in his hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y. But Mitchell’s voracious rebounding and his unbridled enthusiasm -- something the laid-back Terps are lacking at times -- will go pretty far as long as he can give the Terps some offense too. If top recruit Shaqille Cleare took a couple of steps back after going scoreless and often being lost defensively, Mitchell took two giant steps forward. He looked like a poor man’s Elton Brand out there. (I apologize for any reference to Duke players, I will keep those at a minimum.)
I asked Mitchell during the post-game interviews if he thinks he might have set the bar a little too high, with Maryland fans expecting him to snatch double-digit rebounds every night.
“I don’t look at it as setting the bar, I look at it as rebounding being my best attribute,” Mitchell said. “Rebounding’s my game, and I feel like if I rebound for my team on the offensive end, I’ll get second-chance opportunities to score. On defensive, if I don’t let them get second-chance opportunities, it gives us a chance to runin the open floor. I rebound with passion.”
After a bit of a shaky start offensively, Mitchell also showed some versatility, at one point, setting a screen for Allen and then found an open spot on the baseline for a nice 15-foot jump shot.
“I just let the game come to me, I never try to force anything,” Mitchell said.
Well, almost never. On Maryland’s first possession, Mitchell took a straightaway 15-footer than clanged off the back rim.
“I went up and he hit my arm,” Mitchell said. “I knew coach was going to yell at me and I was ready for the yelling when I went back to the huddle.”
In the bonus
One of the positive things for Maryland fans is that Len is not close to being a sure-fire NBA lottery pick. All the preseason talk about how much stronger Len was after a full year of weight training and how his offensive game had opened up certainly wasn’t on display Friday night. He showed some pretty good range on a baseline jumper, but it seemed to be pretty similar to what he did last season.
I am sure Len is going to get better, but I think it’s to his benefit -- and Maryland’s -- if the NBA draft prognosticators stop mentioning him as a lottery pick in 2013. I would also like to see Len be used in a high post set in order to show off his passing and shooting skills, as well as to open the floor for slashers like Faust, Allen and Jake Layman.
On the horizon
I thought the Terps might have a chance next Friday night against defending national champion Kentucky at the Barclays Center, given that the Wildcats have a younger and newer cast than Maryland. Based on what I’ve seen on the all-access show John Calipari’s team is doing on ESPN, and what I witnessed at Comcast Center, I don’t think that anymore.
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