My quick-fire comparison, after watching some extended highlights of him in action?
A taller, more athletic Tyler Cavanaugh of Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons sophomore averaged almost nine points and four rebounds for the Demon Deacons last season, attempting nearly a third of his field goal attempts per game (6.2) from beyond the arc (2.0). At 7 feet, Cekovsky has a couple of inches on the 6-9 Cavanaugh but is still only 220 pounds, 10 pounds lighter than the Wake Forest forward.
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Like Alex Len before him, the Slovakian needs time in the weight room and lessons in the nuances of defense. In the above highlights, Cekovsky was sometimes too passive in the demanding the ball in the post, even against smaller opponents. But he looked to have a good stroke from the free-throw line and could handle the ball in the paint, both important qualities in a big man.
On defense, he boxed out well and proved disruptive in drives to the paint. But he also showed a habit of chasing the ball handler on fast-break defensive situations, rather than sprinting downcourt to protect the goal, and had unsatisfactory hedges on pick-and-roll plays.
Will he be more advanced than incoming center Trayvon Reed? Cekovsk's older, which will help. And if he turns out to be more Cavanaugh than Kaminsky, no matter. Mark Turgeon and the Terps just need him to be better than Shaquille Cleare was last season.
With so much turnover, what must change for the Maryland men next year?
Jeff Barker: Let’s talk defense.
Before Mark Turgeon arrived at Maryland in 2011, his Texas A&M teams were known for it. In his last season there, the Aggies ranked 19th in the nation in fewest points allowed and went 24-9.
I’ve long thought that Turgeon’s Maryland teams would similarly be known for defense. I imagined that getting stops would be the Terps’ hallmark. I think Turgeon did, too.
When you think “defense” in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers come to mind first. They surrendered 55.7 points per game, best in the conference. Virginia’s defense has become central to its identity.
Maryland surrendered 67.7 points per game, 10th in the ACC. The Terps were ninth in field-goal percentage defense at 41.7 percent.
With those same numbers, Maryland would have tied for ninth in the Big Ten in scoring defense and would have ranked seventh in opponents’ shooting percentage.
You just know that Maryland’s defensive statistics aren’t satisfactory to the coach.
Maryland lacked a rim protector last season. The departure of 7-footer Alex Len to the NBA after 2012-13 didn’t help.
But that wasn’t the whole problem.
Defense is about technique and athleticism, but it’s also about will. It’s about the players buying into a coach’s philosophy.
You just know that Turgeon will be emphasizing defense to all of the new Terps. He’ll want them to understand its importance right from the start.