Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
What are your thoughts on Maryland’s just-released basketball schedule?
Jeff Barker: A few thoughts:
** True to his word, Mark Turgeon is slowly starting to elevate the nonconference schedule.
There’s a balance to be struck. You want to play some (but not too many) early home games that boost your victory total and your bottom line, and get you accustomed to playing together under game conditions. But you don’t want to over-schedule cupcakes that damage your at-large NCAA prospects down the road.
The home schedule includes Oregon State and Tulsa. The Terps play Connecticut in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Ohio State on the road in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. They travel to the Virgin Islands for a preseason tournament and play George Washington at Verizon Center in Washington.
That’s an upgrade in my book from previous November-December matchups.
The same thing is going to happen with football, by the way. Those Terps-FCS games are going to go away.
** We’ve noted that there sure are some quick turnarounds -- a few periods in which the Terps play two games in three days (one at home and one on the road). Those can be draining, particularly at the end of a long season. Those periods cause some players to recall their AAU days when multiple games were played in a single day.
** No Duke, North Carolina or N.C. State at home? We knew about that already. No one was expecting the ACC to do the Terps any favors. I can't help but wonder what the atmosphere will be like -- nostalgic? -- at Maryland's last-ever ACC game at home against Virginia on a Sunday afternoon.
Will Dez Wells’ decision to sue Xavier for expelling him last summer impact the rest of his career at Maryland?
Don Markus: While most college students are not involved in lawsuits, Wells has already been through a great deal of turmoil throughout his first two seasons.
There was the suspension for his involvement in the brawl with crosstown rival Cincinnati his freshman year. There was the hearing with the Xavier student conduct board after he was accused of raping a female student. There was the subsequent expulsion despite the case being dropped by local prosecutors. There was the transfer to Maryland and waiting out the appeal to have the NCAA waive the one-year rule of sitting out in College Park.
Wells did a great job last season blocking out the taunts on the road, particularly at Northwestern and Duke where large sections of fans chanted “No means no…” He also seemed to move on from the whole affair and never brought it up to the media. Though his attorney said that Wells was deeply affected by the false accusations, you got a sense that Wells was able to put it behind him. Apparently he had not, according to the lawsuit.
When I talked with attorney Peter Ginsberg on Wednesday, I specifically asked him about how the ongoing lawsuit could impact Wells in terms of his performance and his relationship with his coaches and athletic director Kevin Anderson. From what I’ve been told, Maryland coaches and officials -- including university president Wallace Loh -- are not happy that Wells never told them that he was suing Xavier. Considering the chance Anderson took in taking Wells in last summer, I believe Wells owed him that.
With Wells unquestionably the team’s best player and one of its leaders this season, his relationship with Mark Turgeon is going to be important. You would have to think there’s some type of breach of trust now between the two, and the fact that neither Wells nor his mother informed the coach of the impending suit when the team was in the Bahamas a couple of weeks ago might indicate that the relationship is not as close as it was when Wells first arrived last summer.
Wells has proven to be both emotional and sensitive. He cried after making his Maryland debut against Kentucky last season. He was one of the team’s most effervescent players, but he could also mope when things weren’t going his way. That’s without the burden of a lawsuit being played out.
What happens if his threatened lawsuit results in a seven-figure settlement in midseason? It happened when Ginsberg represented former Dallas Cowboys star Michael Irvin and teammate Erik Williams in the late 1990s when a local television station reported rape allegations that turned out to be false.
It’s one thing for a high-paid professional athlete to find out he is about to get a check for $1 million. Until he turns pro, I would think it would be hard to keep your focus -- either on basketball or academics -- if the same thing happens Wells.
Or what happens if the suit is eventually thrown out? It happened with another Ginsberg client, Jonathan Vilma, who had filed a defamation suit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after initially being suspended for the 2012 season for his role in Bountygate. Though Goodell’s ruling was overturned by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue in mediation, Vilma was still upset enough to file a defamation suit.
No matter how much Ginsberg says that the timing of the suit should not impact Wells in terms of his performance on and off the court, and his relationship with Maryland coaches and officials, I believe it could. How much might determine the kind of junior season Wells has, and given his importance to the team, the kind of year the Terps have as well.
What can Maryland fans expect from new commitment Trayvon Reed?
Matt Bracken: Like his 2014 Maryland classmates, Trayvon Reed is a consensus four-star prospect. According to most recruiting services, the 7-foot-1 center is ranked below combo guard Melo Trimble and shooting guard Dion Wiley, and above small forward Jared Nickens. The Snellville, Ga., native joins a Terps class currently ranked third nationally by 247Sports.
But unlike Trimble and probably Wiley, Reed – despite his rankings – is considered more of a developmental prospect. I caught up with Justin Young, a longtime Georgia-based scout, for his impressions of Reed’s game.
“He’s unique,” said Young, a former Rivals.com analyst who launched HoopSeen.com in April. “If you look around the country, there are just not a lot guys with that kind of length. Basketball is a very long game. When you get a guy like that that comes around, you get excited about what kind of impact he can make on the game. That’s the thing with Trayvon that’s kind of interesting. We watched him a lot in the high school season. Probably one out of five games, he’d leave you with something [really impressive]. The other four, you leave going, ‘I don’t know.’ You kind of wait to see for yourself.”
During the AAU season, however, Reed started living up to the hype. Playing with the Orlando-based Each 1 Teach 1 program, Reed was surrounded by talented prospects and was able to focus more on his strengths.
Young said what Reed did best was, “stand really tall, use that length and protect the rim. He had good moments with them. When you’re playing with guys like that, you see what he could be. It gives you a better vision for what Maryland sees in him. He’s a pretty good rim protector. We saw that finally in July. It was a long time coming.”
Reed will “never … be a guy that goes out there and scores 30 points a night,” but Young thinks it’s reasonable to expect the future Terp to occasionally put up “15 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks in high school.” His offensive game is currently restricted to five feet from the basket, but his defense and rebounding are coming along at a potentially elite level.
Young thinks Maryland is an excellent fit for Reed because of Mark Turgeon’s ability to instill “better mental toughness” in players. If the Terps “bring him along slowly,” Reed could develop into an excellent post presence in College Park.
“The goal for him is to be the leading shotblocker in their conference and he can certainly do that,” Young said. “That comes with understanding the timing that comes with better footwork, better toughness. If you’ve got the leading shotblocker in the conference, that’s worth eight-to-10 points. That’s going to be the goal of the coaching staff, how to develop him into that. He’s got all the tools to be that guy. Getting a guy like Reed is a big deal.”