COLLEGE PARK – Midnight Madness – or Maryland Madness as it’s now called since the event is over long before the old starting time of 12:01 a.m. – is traditionally much bigger on style than on substance, with dunks (many) more de rigeur than defense (none).
Not to say that Friday night’s introduction of the 2012-13 Terps was much different than others I have witnessed over the years, but through the laser beam introductions and all the dances, there were some impressions made that had a little to do with basketball.
Here are some of my first impressions of Mark Turgeon’s team going forward:
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** Kyle Tarp, a member of the strength and conditioning staff who came over from the women’s team this season as Director of Basketball Performance, is the preseason MVP. What he has done to transform a number of Turgeon’s players in terms of their body types is nothing short of amazing.
Not only has Tarp helped freshmen Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell shed more than 20 pounds each of fat – though Cleare looks like he’s bought into the program more than Mitchell so far – the most remarkable transformation might be with another freshman, Jake Layman.
I was shown the before and after (or in progress) photos of Layman from when he first arrived on campus in early July and from a couple of weeks ago. It looks like the second one had been Photoshopped, like you imagine they do for those ads for training aids on television.
I talked with Layman after Maryland Madness about what Tarp has done. Normally pretty low-key in the little I’ve been around him, Layman’s face lit up when talking about how he’s gone from about a stringbeany 190 pounds to a ripped 210.
“When I first came in, I didn’t expect to get that much bigger in only that short of time, it’s awesome to see that,” Layman said. “I’m happy with my body right now.”
It might explain why Turgeon said earlier this week that he could use Layman with certain lineups at power forward rather than just small forward.
“It’s a huge difference with everything, taking the ball inside, being able to box out and rebound with bigger guys, even shooting long-range shots it’s helpful,” Layman said.
Layman, whose late-blooming reputation in high school was built on shooting from the outside, probably had more dunks than any of the Terps Friday night.
It’s my favorite thing to do,” Layman said.
Asked if he has sent those before-and-after pictures to anyone, Layman laughed.
“My entire family,” he said.
** Nick Faust (City) has a good reason to be looking over his shoulder more than he did a year ago. Faust had a terrific second half of his freshman year by doing everything Turgeon asked of him – play defense, take better care of the ball and not fire it up at will like his former teammate Terrell Stoglin – with the emphasis on former – seemed to do.
Turgeon is playing Faust at both shooting guard and point guard in the preseason, and what role he starts the season in depends a lot on Pe’Shon Howard, Seth Allen and Dez Wells. Howard is likely the starter at point come opening night against Kentucky if his surgically repaired knee doesn’t act up. (Turgeon kept the junior out of the scrimmage Friday night because the team had practiced a few hours earlier.)
Allen looks like he could put pressure on Howard – and thus on Faust – if he continues to show that athletically he’s better than Howard and makes better decisions with the ball than both Howard and Faust. Wells might be the most talented player the Terps have right now, so keeping him out of the starting lineup once he gains his eligibility will be difficult.
Faust looks better than he did as a freshman, stronger and with much more sound mechanics shooting the ball. But he needs to keep the same mentality he did a year ago and not expect anything in terms of playing time based on what he did coming out of high school. This is a much better team than the one he played on as a freshman.
** Turgeon wouldn’t talk about recruiting in his session with the media afterwards, but I know he was happy with the turnout of both recruits and, maybe more importantly, students and fans. I talked with Turgeon earlier in the day, and he was concerned that with the Orioles and Washington Nationals playing in Game 5 of their respective Division Series, the atmosphere would be a little muted.
While the students made up a good portion of the crowd, they weren’t the only ones there. Having Juan Dixon and Torrey Smith among the judges in the student dunk contest didn’t hurt either. Though Turgeon couldn’t say which recruits showed up, I did see Suitland point guard Roddy Peters come in early with director of basketball operations Dustin Clark.
The feeling I got talking with a lot of Maryland fans and some former players is that if Peters comes, the Terps might be better off not getting the Harrison twins. Many believe the Harrisons would have disrupted the chemistry that Turgeon is building this year after what he went through with Stoglin and others, including Mychal Parker and Ashton Pankey.
I tend to agree, but only if Turgeon can land a top 20 (or even top 10) player within the next two years.