Maryland coach Mark Turgeon spoke Tuesday with ESPN college basketball analysts Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg in their "ESPNU College Basketball" podcast. Their 12-minute conversation ran the gamut, covering everything from the follies of NCAA rules to the fixing up Cole Field House needs to the importance of Dez Wells. Below are the highlights of the interview.
On setting his preseason schedule after myriad NCAA rule changes: "We’re going to start Friday. It’s been tough. I tell you what, I’ve been out recruiting a lot, obviously, the last few weeks, and every coach I bump into, I ask how you’re going to do it, whether it’s a head coach, an assistant coach, and I’ve gotten a lot of different answers."
On limiting turnovers this season: "We’ve worked really hard on a lot of things since the season ended. We weren’t great with the ball in the Bahamas, either. Some games, we were pretty good. One of the games, we were pretty bad, so it looked like last year. So it’s something we haven’t corrected but continue to think about. But [we'll] just give them a little more structure, maybe, especially early in the season. But ... I have some pretty good players that need some freedom to be able to make plays. Really, it’s just decision-making and trying to help them."
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On Dez Wells: "He’s definitely our leader. He’s getting some help from Nick Faust (City) and Evan Smotrycz, the transfer from Michigan. Those are our three juniors, so they would be our leaders. Dez is a player that I like to have the ball in his hands. He was one of the biggest culprits of turning the ball over -- over 100 turnovers last year -- so we’ve talked about that, but he does have a lot of assists, too. So I expect Dez to have a great year. He’s worked really hard all summer and here in the fall, and he’s a guy that we’re going to rely on tremendously, but we have some good players, guys that have grown up. And Dez doesn’t have to do it all. He just needs to be a leader and take better care of the basketball for us."
On Smotrycz: "He’s a very intelligent player. He plays from the neck up. He’s made everyone around him better because he plays that way. Tremendous shooter, can really stretch the defense at 6-8, 6-9. Can do a lot of things, but can also post up, which is exciting for me. He opens things up. We’re able to spread the floor, which is something we weren’t able to do very well last year, to open things up for Alex [Len]. We’ll be able to spread the floor for Shaq [Cleare] and Charles Mitchell, some guys that can score in the low block. Evan’s a great weapon. Played pretty well in the Bahamas, but he really practiced well for us leading in to the Bahamas. Had a great year last year, and we’re really expecting Evan to have a tremendous year for us."
On Cleare and Mitchell: "Shaq’s been hurt, unfortunately. He’s had some back problems that just keep lingering. You know, a back’s something you really don’t mess with. But [through] all the tests that we’ve done, structurally, he’s fine, so we’re just hoping his back loosens up and he’s ready to play. But Shaq’s a heck of a player that sat behind a lottery pick [Len] last year. Really worked hard during the season last year, worked hard into the early spring and early summer, and then he’s been hurt quite a bit, but we expect him to play well. Charles has lost a ton of weight, has a nose for the basketball, looks better now than at any time that he did last season. So [I'm] high on those two guys. Those two guys are real important to us and our success. You know, a lot of times last year, I played them when they weren’t quite ready to play, to be honest with you. But I knew how important they were going to be for us this year."
On playing in Cole Field House: "There’s a lot of history in that building, and we want to get back to it. We’ve tried off and on -- hasn’t worked. We’re going to have to put some money into the building to host something there. My goal is to play a game in Cole every year. Obviously, we have to find the opponent to agree to it. But we’re going to have to put some money -- scoreboard, court, fix up the seating -- for us to do that. But I want to do it over Christmas break. Instead of playing a team on Dec. 21 in Comcast, playing a game on Dec. 21 in Cole Field House -- I think we’ll fill it up, and fans will be real excited to do that. So I’m pumped up for it."
On how the impending move to the Big Ten has affected recruiting: "I don’t think it’s affected it one bit. To be honest with you, we never talk about it in recruiting, because we’ve gone from one great league to another. ... They polled like 19 of the top 25 players or 30 of the top 50 players ... and all but one kid said he didn’t care what league he played in. Because, really, to be honest with you, the kids can’t keep up with it. ... It comes down to relationships. Whether it’s staying close to home or wanting to get away from home or whatever it is, that’s what it comes down to. So it really hasn’t affected us one way."