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Terps Trio: Slow development of freshmen, outside shooting woes, Melo Trimble

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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.

Mark Turgeon has seemed down lately on his freshman class. Should Terps fans be concerned?

Jeff Barker: Well, we know how transparent Turgeon is, right? So it wasn’t a  surprise to hear him say of the four freshmen after Wednesday night’s game:

“I think the problem is everybody is telling these guys how good they are. And they're listening, instead of listening to me.”

None of the newbies -- Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman, Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell -- distinguished themselves in the Monmouth game. Layman was benched in the first half for not keeping up with his studies. Allen had seven turnovers.

This has always been a confident class. I have an enduring image of a video of these guys at the Capital Classic long before this season. Wearing big smiles, the Maryland commitments draped their arms around one another when they saw a camera and yelled, "Go Terps!"

“Years from now, I think they'll say this is the best class to come through Maryland" in a long time, Mitchell said then.

Overconfident perhaps? I don’t think so. You need a certain athletic arrogance.

But let’s be realistic. Unless you’re a prodigy -- think Joe Smith in ’93-’94 -- you don’t become an overnight sensation.

Turgeon has often said he expects his freshmen to be “up and down.” 

So, yes, Allen isn’t yet running the offense the way Turgeon would like, Layman is shooting 32 percent, and Turgeon said Cleare “was lost, spinning in circles” against  Monmouth.

But this is pretty standard stuff for freshmen, even talented ones. They’re still adjusting to the “speed of the game,” as coaches are so fond of saying.

But it’s more than that. Above all, freshmen must learn what it takes to play college ball – the training, the hard practices. There aren’t a lot of seniors on this team to help teach them. Sean Mosley was good at that last year.

Consider what Dez Wells said the other night: “From high school they're probably used to just dominating, doing what they want.”

Wells is just a sophomore, but he’s practically a wizened veteran on this callow team.

What is Maryland's biggest Achilles heel as the Terps head toward their ACC opener next month?

Don Markus: Everyone seems to be focused on Maryland's high turnover rate after the Terps had a season-high 23 in Wednesday's 71-38 win over Monmouth. Considering that Maryland's season average of 15 giveaways a game is all but negating a vast improvement in assists (18.8, third in the country and second in the ACC), that is a legitimate concern for second-year coach Mark Turgeon.

I believe that problem is fixable, and the Terps have proved that they can keep the turnovers down for long stretches, as they did in the second half of their best game this season, a 20-point win at Northwestern last month in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Considering that junior point guard Pe'Shon Howard has the best assist-to-turnover ratio (6.0-1.9) in the ACC and one of the best in the country, Turgeon can get a handle on that by just telling freshman Seth Allen that his minutes will decrease as his turnovers increase. Allen had seven against Monmouth in 15 minutes.

I think Maryland's biggest issue heading into the ACC early next month is its outside shooting in general and its 3-point shooting in general.

The Terps rank second in the ACC in overall shooting percentage (49 percent) after hitting 25 of 43 against Monmouth, but Maryland goes long stretches without making anything more than dunks, layups, tip-ins and other second-chance baskets.

Heck, the Terps beat George Mason a couple of weeks ago at the Verizon Center in Washington without hitting a perimeter shot in the second half. But that's not going to happen in the ACC unless Maryland improves on its outside shooting, which now includes only five made 3s a game (tied for 8th in the ACC) and a 32.1 percentage on 3s (11 out of 12 teams).     

As much as Maryland's offense is going to go through sophomore center Alex Len, as great a low-post player sophomore swingman Dez Wells has proven to be, and as athletic as perimeter players such as Wells, Allen and sophomore guard Nick Faust can be taking the ball to the basket, the Terps are still going to need a consistent outside threat.

Senior guard Logan Aronhalt has had some incredibly hot stretches already -- he went 12 of 16 on 3s in three games during a recent four-game stretch (he didn't take a 3 and played only three minutes against George Mason), but for the most part the Terps are streaky at best and shaky at worst shooting the ball from the perimeter.

It is certainly the weakest part of Wells' game -- along with occasionally turning the ball over because he's going too fast -- and could keep the 6-5 transfer in College Park another year in order to strengthen his position in the NBA draft. (I think he's a low first-round pick now, but has the chance to be a lottery pick, maybe a high one, in another year.)

It is a part of the game that Faust worked hard on improving last summer, but has only shown a little better in terms of his mechanics and consistency to date. Allen started the season shooting extremely well from the outside, but has cooled off considerably the past few games.

Jake Layman came to Maryland with a reputation for being a great wing shooter, a skill that helped him make the U-19 national team this summer. But Layman's game is a mess right now -- not totally surprising for a freshman -- and he will need the next two weeks in practice to get his confidence back and Turgeon's confidence back in him.

Then there's Howard. Everyone said that Howard was a better shooter in high school and as a freshman at Maryland than he is now, and more of a shooting guard than a point guard. But it's hard to hit outside shots when you only take a couple a game, so it's unlikely that he will show much improvement in that area.

An intriguing possibility in opening things up could come from Maryland's best inside player. I heard Len talking  the other night about Turgeon wanting him to expand his offensive game, and we've seen flashes of it this season. If he starts hitting some outside shots, it could make the 7-1 center even harder to guard and give his team room to shoot.

Turgeon insists his team can shoot it from the outside, but aside from Aronhalt's hot stretch and some moments from Allen, I haven't seen it. That is not to say Maryland can't be a decent team without having a lot of success shooting from the perimeter, but for the Terps to reach their potential this season, they can't be a bunch of bricklayers.

What can Maryland fans expect from Melo Trimble?

Matt Bracken: When Bishop O'Connell coach Joe Wootten saw Trimble as a middle-schooler, the future Terp was playing "the 2 exclusively." When Trimble led Wootten's Knights squad in scoring as a freshman, he did it from the shooting guard position. For high school competition, playing that spot was obviously fine. But for a 6-foot-2, 180-pound player with high-major hopes, playing only off the ball just wasn't going to cut it.

Wootten helped Trimble transition from the 2 to the 1 throughout his sophomore year, and it was that change that finally convinced Maryland coach Mark Turgeon to offer the four-star prospect a scholarship in August.

"I think a couple things [Turgeon] really likes [about Trimble] are how well he shoots it, and he mentioned to me that he likes how well he’s coachable," Wootten said Thursday. "When you watch our practices, Melo is trying to get better, really listen. That’s really important to him. ... He wants to continue to get better."

Still, despite his efforts to play the point, the consensus on Trimble from scouts is that his best attribute is his ability to score.

"He does it in a variety of ways," said Scout.com recruiting analyst Brian Snow. "He can shoot from deep and ... mid-range and [he] gets to the rim. He’s smooth and he’s efficient on the court. He handles it pretty well. He’s an OK passer. Melo himself is trying to become a point guard. His scoring is kind of mitigated. He’ll be able to be a secondary ball-handler in college."

Trimble told me Thursday that he's looking forward to teaming up with Roddy Peters and Seth Allen, calling all three of them "interchangeable." Maryland could decide to go small at times with all three players on the floor at once, or play just two at a time. Either way, the Terps will have several players on their 2014-15 roster capable of handling the ball. None of those three are true point guards, but all can play the 1, in addition to serving as scoring threats.

The biggest question for Maryland now is which guard the coaches would most like to pair with Trimble in the 2014 class. Phil Booth (Mount St. Joseph) is another combo guard type, while Dion Wiley (Potomac) and Rashad Vaughn from Minneapolis are pure 2s. Any of those three players would fit in well with Trimble -- the first piece of what will likely be another highly touted recruiting class.

"[The Terps are] accomplishing their goals of trying to keep so much of the top talent at home," Snow said. "In Washington D.C. and Baltimore, that corridor, you can’t land all the top talent because you don’t have enough scholarships. A lot of kids are going to get away – 60-to-70 percent are going to get away just because the numbers aren’t there. But they’ve done a good job getting the right kids. ... It’s a great mix of local talent and national talent to keep them as one of the top programs in the country for a while."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

don.markus@baltsun.com

mbracken@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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