Five questions heading into the Terps' first basketball practice
By By Don Markus
The Baltimore Sun|
Oct 03, 2014 at 8:30 AM
COLLEGE PARK — On one of the more memorable sports weekends in recent Maryland history – with the induction of the late Len Bias into the school's athletic Hall of Fame Friday and the football team's first home Big Ten game against Ohio State on Saturday, the men's basketball team begins preseason practice.
Here are five questions to ponder as the Terps get ready for their Nov. 14 season opener against Wagner:
Has Mark Turgeon finally found a pass-first point guard to run his offense?
Freshman Melo Trimble will be the eighth player Turgeon has started at his former position since he took over in College Park four years ago.
Like all of his predecessors, Trimble is trying to convert from shooting guard, the spot he played for most of his high school career at Bishop O'Connell in Northern Virginia
The difference between Trimble and all but three who have played the spot under Turgeon at Maryland – Pe'Shon Howard, Roddy Peters and former walk-on Varun Ram - is that the McDonald's All-American seemingly wants to have the kind of mentality that the Terps have lacked with Terrell Stoglin and most recently with Seth Allen.
Trimble was annointed Maryland's starting point guard when Allen transferred to Virginia Tech last spring and Peters left for South Florida, but he will certainly have some help running the team from two seniors, leading scorer Dez Wells and transfer Richaud Pack.
Will there by a defensive stopper on the perimeter or will Maryland guard the Big Ten's big scorers by committee?
A significant problem for the Terps last season was a lack of a rim-protector after the departure of Alex Len following his sophomore year. But another issue was Maryland's inability to shut down opposing guards and small forwards from scoring, sometimes at will, or at least penetrating toward the rim.
Nick Faust never really embraced that role despite showing signs of being a good on-the-ball defender, and his departure for Long Beach State means that Turgeon will have to find someone else to take on the likes of Michigan's Caris LeVert, Nebraska's Terran Petteway or Indiana's Yogi Ferrell.
The job could fall to Wells, whose physicality can be a plus against smaller guards or skinnier small forwards. It could also be given to Pack, who at 6-3, 185 pounds might not have Faust's size, but said recently he is focused on playing better defense than he did at North Carolina A&T.
In the case of a player such as Wisconsin's Sam Dekker, it might be Jake Layman, who is big enough and athletic enough but has to play as well with his feet moving on the ground as he does with them in the air.
Does going to a motion offense mean less standing around and settling for 3-point shots?
Turgeon spent much of the time allowed over the summer working on implementing a new offense that is geared toward reading and reacting rather than calling plays.
Just the notion of motion means there should be less stagnation. Turgeon has said that he wants the Terps "to play like the Spurs", and he's not referring to the Premier League's Tottenham team.
Last Turgeon looked, nobody on his roster resembles Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili, but 7-foot freshman Michal Cekovsky has the kind of skilled European game that is an instant upgrade over anyone Turgeon has coached at Maryand (even Len) and both Trimble and Wells do a good job using their upper-body strength to drive.
Where the Terps have improved greatly is in the number of good shooters and -- Turgeon hopes -- in the number of good shots they will take. Freshmen Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens can probably balance the loss of Allen in terms of 3-point shooting, while Layman and Evan Smotrycz have shown the ability to go on shooting runs themselves. The difference between good 3s and bad 3s might be noticeable.
How much does losing incoming freshman Trayvon Reed over the summer hurt Maryland's inside game?
This is certainly one of the bigger question marks going into preseason practice. It looked as if Turgeon would have a center-by-committee this season, but the committee got noticeably smaller when the 7-1 ½ Reed was arrested in late July for shoplifting and second-degree assault after a convenience store incident right off campus. He was sent home the next day.
Though the Terps will miss the Reed's athletic ability and ridiculous wingspan as a shotblocker, the combination of sophomore Damonte Dodd and Cekovsky, a better defender than Turgeon first thought, should be more than adequate. The Terps need the 6-11, 240-pound Dodd to stay out of foul trouble and the 230-pound Slovakian can put on a few more pounds between now and the season opener.
Considering that Wells and Layman led the Terps in blocks last season – with a total of 19 each – Maryland will need Dodd and Cekovsky, as well as senior forward Jon Graham, a decent shotblocker at 6-8, to make up for Reed. Rebounding is another issue, and the Terps will have to make up for the absence of Charles Mitchell, another of the transfers, in that area.
Can Dez Wells become a dominant offensive player in the Big Ten after showing flashes of being one in the ACC the past two years?
The more physical nature of the way the game is played and officiated in the Big Ten could play into Wells' strength, which is his strength and athleticism. Wells is a little too selfless at times, a little too reckless at other times and seems to play more in bursts than giving consistent effort over 40 minutes.
The Terps will need the 6-5 senior guard to take over as much in the first half of games as has been his habit in the second half. He also has to find a happy medium between going 100 miles an hour and barely hitting the speed limit.
Wells won't be a regular 20-point scorer unless he improves his outside shot – something he has been working on with former teammate and grad assist John Auslander over the summer – but he certainly can improve on the 14.9 points that led the team last season.