Terps beat writer Don Markus on the four Terps that are invited to the NBA combine. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Of the four Maryland players at this week's NBA combine in Chicago, forward Robert Carter Jr. might have had the most to prove.
After a disappointing end to what had been a mostly productive redshirt junior year, Carter announced his plans last month to leave Maryland and sign with an agent, thus foregoing his final season of eligibility.
Projected by some to be a late second-round draft pick – and by many to go undrafted – the 6-8½, 250-pound Carter showed both his perimeter game and his post-up moves in Thursday's first scrimmage.
Carter hit eight of his 15 shots from the field, including two of his three 3-point attempts, tying A.J. English of Iona with a game-high 22 points to go with a game-high seven rebounds in leading the White team to a 96-93 victory. Carter also had four steals, four turnovers, a block, an assist and six fouls in 26 minutes.
"I expected to play well. I put in a lot of work over the last four weeks out in California, training with some great guys, some great competition," Carter told reporters in Chicago afterward. "Hopefully the scouts were impressed a little bit with my game. All I need is one team to believe in me and I'll be fine."
Carter said it was a "comfort level" having former teammates Jake Layman, Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone also in Chicago, as well as Maryland coach Mark Turgeon in attendance watching them.
"It shows you what the Maryland family is all about," Carter said of Turgeon's presence.
Carter said he met with the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards since getting to Chicago and plans to meet with "four or five teams," including the New York Knicks on Friday.
"This whole process is just unreal to me, because I've always wanted to be here. I've watched it on TV," said Carter, who along with Layman will graduate Sunday. "I'm just excited going to everything, my eyes wide, having a good time."
Carter said his choice to leave Maryland rather than returning for his senior year was "a really tough decision."
"I really wanted to stay at Maryland, but I felt this was a perfect opportunity for me to come and fulfill my dream," he said. "I feel like I can learn so much in this league over my career. I feel like I can be a really good player in this league and I feel like my game is definitely an NBA-type game. I made the decision with my family. I prayed over it. I'm just focused on making an NBA roster come the draft."
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, who was part of the four-man broadcast team at the combine, said Carter was one of the players that stood out on the first day of competition. Carter also measured with one of the largest wingspans, at better than 7-foot-3 1/4.
"He's a guy that can knock down perimeter shots," Bilas said on the telecast. "He did not hesitate when he caught the ball. He was in catch-and-shoot mode right away, a little bit of pick-and-pop action. He went down in the post and executed some moves. He rebounds. I thought he had a great, great day, and he answered a lot of the questions whether he can consistently knock that shot down and he did."
Layman and Trimble might have to show a little more Friday than they did Thursday, as well as in individual team workouts. Both are currently projected to be second-round draft picks.
In the second scrimmage, the two former teammates played on opposing teams. Layman had nine points on 3-for-6 shooting (1-for-4 on 3-pointers), six rebounds and one blocked shot – on a drive by Trimble where Layman flew from the weak side to swat it out to start a fast break – in a 109-69 rout.
After making his first two shots, including a 3-pointer, Trimble missed his other six tries to finish with five points, two assists, two turnovers, a steal and a rebound. Trimble, who reportedly worked out for the Los Angeles Clippers last Saturday, has until May 25 to decide whether to return for his junior year.
"Most important for me is the individual workouts because he's going to have to go up against guys like a Kay Felder [of Oakland] or a Dejounte Murray [of Washington]. He's going to have to prove himself," ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said. "The things teams don't like about him is size and length – he's only got a 6-2 wingspan as opposed to guys that play longer, and that's an issue."
Said Bilas, "He's a good player, but I'm not sure the timing is right for him to go into the NBA right now."