COLLEGE PARK -- A year ago, Mark Turgeon went into his first media day as Maryland's basketball coach talking about somebody else's team – the one he inherited from Gary Williams. As diplomatic as he tried to be, the typically blunt Turgeon couldn't hide his true feelings.
"I knew everything wasn't going to be perfect, and I'm not naive enough to think that it is going to be perfect," Turgeon said then. "There are a lot of things you have to do your first year, and I think first and foremost what I've tried to do is develop relationships with my players to where they trust me and believe in me, so when times get tough we'll stick together and get it done."
On Tuesday, Turgeon made it clear that the 2012-13 team was more of a reflection of him: how the players he inherited had grown, how the players he recruited had raised the level of competitiveness in pickup games and, without mentioning names, how some of the players no longer here – one in particular – were not missed.
"It's completely different, I really didn't know what I was getting into last year," Turgeon said during a news conference at the Comcast Center. "I had taken over other jobs before but I had never taken over Maryland. I didn't know much about the ACC. Now I feel for the league, a feel for the coaches, a feel for the kind of player it takes to be successful at this level."
Here are a few more points Turgeon made:
Turgeon said that the addition of freshmen Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman and Seth Allen has raised the talent level – and thus the competition for minutes – but the two newcomers with college experience could even be more important. A lot will depend on if and when Xavier transfer Dez Wells regains his eligibility and whether former Albany guard Logan Arenholt can make the jump to the ACC.
"We only signed three players early, to be able to add the pieces we did late that really helped to deepen our team, " Turgeon said. "We feel comfortable with our team. Pe'Shon (Howard) is healthy now, it's great to have him back. It's amazing how much better the four returning scholarship players have gotten – Pe'Shon, Nick (Faust), Alex (Len) and James (Padgett). We know we have a lot of problems just like every other team does this time of year, but standing here today compared to standing here a year ago I feel we're much further along. We'll see if it translates."
The interesting thing about Tuesday was how Terrell Stoglin's name never came up, at least during the news conference. As much as Turgeon and Stoglin seemed to find a place where they could at least co-exist by the end of last season, you get the feeling that the Terps are not that unhappy that last season's ACC scoring leader is no longer here after being suspended by the athletic department and then deciding to put his name into the NBA draft.
Turgeon said that "the chemistry right now is great but we haven't played a game" and "my philosophy this year is everybody thinks they're starting". But Turgeon said that the returning players "have done a great job accepting our new guys, because the guys who are still around have tremendous character and the guys we recruited have tremendous character. Therefore they blend in with each. The guys we signed, they don't have egos. When you have that, chemistry is going to be good…It's not fake, you can't fake chemistry. Some teams try to do it and some don't."
It became clear to me that Maryland might have been one of those teams last year because of Stoglin, who was clearly Turgeon's best offensive player but one who didn't play much defense or practice hard much of the time. When I asked Faust the difference he sees between the way the Terps will play offensively this season, he said bluntly, "Everyone is going to touch the ball before we shoot it."
We'll have more on Tracking the Terps the next couple of days as Turgeon's team gets ready for Maryland Madness, including an interview with former Terps guard Eric Hayes, who has joined the coaching staff as a graduate assistant. I'll be doing a live chat Wednesday at noon for those of you who have any questions.