Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus and producer-editor Jonas Shaffer weigh in on three topics from the past week in Maryland sports.
Who is going to replace Scott Spinelli on Mark Turgeon’s staff?
Don Markus: The only name that has surfaced so far is Indiana assistant Kenny Johnson. It makes sense, given that Johnson has ties to the area as a 1999 Maryland graduate, a former AAU coach with Team Takeover, a high school coach at Paul VI in Northern Virginia and an assistant for one year at Towson.
It certainly doesn’t hurt Johnson’s candidacy that he helped the Hoosiers beat out Maryland for Noah Vonleh, who turned out to be the Big Ten freshman of the year and Indiana's leading rebounder last season. Given Johnson’s reputation as a top-notch recruiter, other schools are reportedly interested as well.
But Mark Turgeon is realistic enough to know that it could likely come down to money, and given Maryland’s current financial state, it seems doubtful that the Terps can outbid Louisville.
Despite a report in an Indianapolis paper that said the Hoosiers were ready to increase Johnson's $200,000 salary, I think it will come down to Maryland and Louisville.
When Johnson’s name first surfaced a couple of weeks ago, amid rumors of Spinelli’s impending departure, my first reaction was that Turgeon needed an assistant who’s going to be able to recruit and develop talent. Everything I have been told about Johnson is that he’s a recruiter – period.
Coaches often feel about hiring recruiters as they do about the recruits themselves: even if you're a top 25 program, you can never have enough. You might say that recruiting is to college basketball what pitching is to be baseball, but I don’t think recruiting is an issue in College Park.
The Terps are about to welcome in a class ranked eighth in the country by ESPN. Though former assistant Delonte Hill, who resigned after his second DUI last October, had a hand in getting local guards Melo Trimble and Dion Wiley, ultimately they are coming to play for Turgeon.
Dustin Clark, who was promoted from director of basketball operations to assistant coach when Hill left, proved his recruiting chops with the addition of 7-foot Slovakian Michal Cekovsky. (ESPN's recruiting experts must think highly of Cekovsky. The Terps went up six spots in their rankings.)
Bino Ranson, the only member of Gary Williams’ staff retained after Turgeon took over, helped bring in both rising junior Charles Mitchell as well as incoming freshman Trayvon Reed, the 7-1 center who finished his high school career playing under former Louisville star Pervis Ellison at the Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J.
What I believe is missing is a big man coach.
Along with the instability at point guard, what contributed the most to Maryland’s 17-15 season was a lack of production by its big men. Whoever comes in need to help Mitchell and rising senior Evan Smotrycz improve their post games and, even more importantly, help develop Cekovsky, Reed and rising sophomore center Damonte Dodd.
This is not to say that Johnson can’t do that at Maryland if he is hired. But I think that given the importance of this hire in terms of Turgeon’s future at Maryland, I think he needs a more experienced coach on the floor in practice and in games to help the Terps turn things around next season.
After leaving Maryland, where is Nick Faust going to wind up playing?
Don Markus: There has been plenty of speculation since Faust (City) received his release in order to transfer for his senior year.
There apparently have not been many offers.
Connor Letourneau, who covered Faust and the Terps for The Diamondback and is now the Oregon State beat writer for The Oregonian, tweeted this week that Anthony Faust said his son could not be promised enough playing time at Iowa State, one of the schools reportedly on his initial list.
There should be plenty of playing time at Oregon State, which recruited Faust out of high school and, according to Letourneau, is losing most of its offense from a team that finished 16-16 overall and 8-10 in the Pac-12.
Anthony Faust told The Oregonian that the other school that has expressed interest in his son is Richmond, which has ties to Baltimore through associate head coach Jamal Brunt (St. Frances). Like Oregon State, Richmond’s offensive principles are built around the Princeton offense.
I never have thought of Faust as a Princeton offense kind of guy.
Transferring as a senior is often troublesome. If Faust had left College Park before his junior year, he would have been a more attractive commodity with two years of eligibility remaining.
The reason he is left now is abundantly clear.
According to what his father told The Washington Post, Faust left College Park – a semester shy of graduating – because he felt “held back” by Turgeon’s system. In reality, he didn’t want to be thought of as a defensive stopper who would be the third, fourth or even fifth option on offense. He didn't want to lose minutes to Wiley and knew he was going to play behind Seth Allen and Dez Wells.
Anthony Faust told me a couple of years ago that his son wanted to be a scorer in college. Perhaps transferring to Loyola or Towson or another mid-major would allow Nick Faust to be the go-to guy.
I doubt that Faust winds up transferring to a mid-major, particularly in the Baltimore area. While he never struck me as having a big ego, it would be difficult for a player who still has aspirations, however unrealistic they might seem now, of someday playing in the NBA.
Regardless of what you think of him as a player, many schools can use 6-6 athletic wings. One of Faust’s biggest drawbacks is that the fact that he has yet graduate Maryland, and thus would need to sit out a full season. That means a two-year scholarship commitment (though technically all scholarships are one-year deals).
Anthony Faust wrote in a text message to The Baltimore Sun on Thursday that what was reported in the Oregonian and on Twitter, “were all rumors.” Faust declined to comment any further about where his son might wind up. But as players continue to grab up available scholarship spots, you have to at least wonder if Faust's departure is ultimately going to put him in a better position than where he was at Maryland.
Could this be the year for Maryland baseball?
Jonas Shaffer: Yes, this could be the year. This could be the year Maryland makes the NCAA tournament.
Oh, you were expecting talk of a title? Easy there, bud. One step at a time.
Maryland hasn't made the NCAA tournament in baseball since 1971. The Terps haven't appeared in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament since 2005. They that lost play-in game by the totally real score of 20-13.
But if the tournament were to begin this week, the Terps would comfortably be in, according to one field-of-64 projection. "The Terrapins have struggled to win marquee series in the ACC thus far, but played a good non-conference schedule, have an RPI of 21 and are 10-6 vs. RPI Top 50 and have accumulated 13 wins vs. RPI Top 100 clubs," Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers writes.
This weekend series, against visiting Georgia Tech, is an important one. With last weekend's series loss to last-place Virginia Tech, the Terps have dropped three straight league series.
An ACC tournament berth is often as good as a golden ticket to the NCAA tournament, but only the league's top 10 teams, as determined by winning percentage, qualify. Maryland, entering this weekend, is No. 10.