COLLEGE PARK — If the first three games of his college career have been akin to an early semester quiz in his all-day English class, then the next two will be the first big test for Maryland freshman Michal Cekovsky.
It will be the same for some of Cekovsky's teammates, particularly his three fellow freshmen, as the 3-0 Terps head to Kansas City to play Arizona State (3-0) on Monday and either No. 14 Iowa State or Alabama on Tuesday in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
What should be something of a homecoming for Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who grew up 60 miles away in Topeka, Kan., also could turn out to be a coming out for the 7-footer from Slovakia whom everyone calls "Checko."
"I think Checko's just going to get better every game, every day he gets a little more comfortable and more confident," Turgeon said after Cekovsky had six points, all in the second half, and five rebounds in Thursday's 66-50 win over Fordham.
The Terps are hoping for continued improvement from Cekovsky, who is beginning to demonstrate in games some of what he has shown in practices and pickup games at Xfininty Center since arriving in mid-June.
"It was so great to see him play that well, and for me, to show that emotion out there," junior forward Jake Layman said after the win over Fordham. "He was getting putbacks, letting yells out, it was great to see."
Said Turgeon: "It's the first time I thought he looked comfortable out there."
Cekovsky also has been more of a factor defensively, using his 7-foot-1, 230-pound body to bother shooters both around the basket and on the perimeter. While he didn't block any shots against Fordham after having five total in his first two games, Cekovsky altered several by simply extending his arms in the air.
"He was very intelligent with his defense, I thought he affected a lot of shots that he didn't block," Turgeon said.
Turgeon believes that Cekovsky will show more offensively as teams with size equal to the Terps play the 20-year-old center straight up man-to-man, rather than sagging back in a zone as Maryland's first three opponents have done.
"He was more active on the offensive boards [against Fordham]," Turgeon said. "It's hard to be a big part of the zone offense when you're a 5-man [center]."
While sophomore center Damonte Dodd is still limited offensively to mostly dunks and an occasional jump hook, Turgeon said Cekovsky has knocked down jumpers in pratice — even a recent 3-pointer, according to assistant coach Dustin Clark — and put the ball on the floor for driving layups.
But Turgeon is using Cekovsky much like he did with Alex Len, as a back-to-the-basket center.
"We definitely need a low-post presence," Turgeon said Thursday. "I think he's the most logical guy for us. Checko's coming. Checko didn't play a lot of post-up offense in his career, so this is all new to him. We need to add the face-up game for him, too."
Rob Orellana, a former Division I assistant at three different schools who coached Cekovsky last year at the Canarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands, watched his former star in Thursday night's gameas well as at practice Saturday at Xfiniity Center.
"His development is off the charts, his mentality and the way coach is handling him is right where he needs to be right now," Orellana said by telephone Sunday. "He's been taught how how to compete at the highest level of college basketball.
"He's got to rebound better, he's got to defend better, I think it's just a matter of time. I couldn't be more content with his development up until now. It's still early."
Orellana praised Turgeon for the way he is pushing Cekovsky to improve.
"He's not backing down, but he's been fair," said Orellana, who also has sent Boris Bojanovsky to Florida State and Joey van Zegeren to Virginia Tech in recent years. "He's handling him just right."
Though Cekovsky is two years older than Len was when he first came to Maryland, Orellana said "he hasn't played a lot of basketball" and the competition he has faced hasn't been as physical.
"We know he can shoot. We know he can put the ball on the floor. He needs to get his nose in there and get dirty and compete," Orellana said. "He's going to have to do that if he wants to play extensive minutes in the Big Ten. "
After not taking a shot and committing two turnovers while playing only five minutes in the first half against Fordham because of two quick fouls, Cekovsky hit three of the four shots he tried in the second half.
One came on a dunk after a slick pass from senior guard Dez Wells, the other two when Cekovsky grabbed an offensive rebound and quickly followed with a layup.
Turgeon was even happy to see Cekovsky drive — and miss a left-handed layup.
"That'll be a dunk in about two months," Turgeon said.
NOTES: After being enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. in August, former Terps coach Gary Williams was scheduled to be inducted in the College Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday night along with former Louisiana State coach Dale Brown and former Stetson coach Glenn Wilkes Sr., former Louisville star Darrell Griffith (known as "Dr. Dunkenstein"), as well as college stars turned NBA All-Stars Shaquille O'Neal, Grant Hill and Zelmo Beaty. Five-Star Basketball founder Howard Garfinkel also was among the honorees. Williams said last week that being inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame was "as big a thrill" as the honor he received over the summer. "I came into coaching in the early '70s with a lot of great coaches, and to be recognized for what I did at Maryland means a lot." Williams is the first coach to be enshired in both halls in the same year.