Among the frontcourt returnees, Jake Layman seemed to take a step up during the season. A key will be how quickly the other two big frontcourt returnees – Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare – can elevate their games. They are both big, bruising players who will be working on post moves and finishing around the basket.
Bottom line: Assuming he leaves, Len will be replaced “by committee.”
Speaking of this big man “by committee” approach, what can reasonably be expected of incoming freshman Damonte Dodd?
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Matt Bracken: There was plenty of room for improvement in Dodd’s game as he transitioned from Eastern Shore high school basketball to one of the top post-grad programs in the country. It was the job of Massanutten Military Academy’s Chad Myers to facilitate that improvement. Naturally, the prep-school coach spoke glowingly of Dodd when I talked to him this week about the future Terp. Here’s what I gleaned from the interview that didn’t make this blog post.
Perhaps the most obvious difference for Dodd was fitting in on a team with four other high-major players, as opposed to the 6-foot-9 post player dominating guys a fraction of his size in high school. The other starters in Massanutten’s lineup will play next year at Kansas, Miami, Boston College and Utah. So Dodd, who didn’t play high-level AAU ball until last summer with D.C. Assault, learned how to blend in with other talented players.
“I think it’s helpful for him with all those guys. I started five high-major players,” Myers said. “[They were] learning to play without the ball in their hands, learn where to be and find open guys. [Dodd] had some games where he really scored the ball for us. Maryland is going to have a lot more talented players. I think he’ll be able to find his role much more easily.”
From a developmental perspective, Dodd got stronger this year and worked on his post moves. Myers said Dodd is “much more polished” down low than he was a year ago. He’s comfortable getting the ball on the block and shooting a right-handed jump hook. Athleticism was always what separated him from other big men, and playing with an up-tempo team like Massanutten, which scored “about 101 points per game,” only enhanced that part of Dodd’s game.
What were the other major improvements Myers saw in Dodd?
“I think the biggest thing is that he always showed flashes of doing things that were really, really impressive,” Myers said. “Ball screens, jumping on everyone and dunking. He gets across the lane, help side, and blocks shots. He gets rebounds. The biggest thing we saw with him is he continued to get more consistent throughout the year. He would give us like eight or nine minutes there being really productive. He’s got potential.”
As Barker alluded to above, Dodd will certainly have a chance to flash some of that potential next season. Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz will play big minutes no matter what, and he’s an entirely different player than Dodd, Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare. Dodd obviously wasn’t as college ready as Mitchell and Cleare, which necessitated his post-grad year. But according to his coach, he can run, he can block shots, he has good size, and he can play with his back to the basket. If he can adequately do those things come fall, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to contribute at least 10 minutes or so per night as a freshman.