Welcome back to Morning Shootaround, a regular feature this season the day after Maryland basketball games. While we can't bring you into the Terps' lockerroom after games – reporters haven't been allowed in there since the last couple of years under Gary Williams – we will recap what was said in the press conference afterward by Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and his players. We will give some of our own insight into what transpired on the court during the previous night's game and what the Terps will be working on at practice looking ahead to their next game.
Maryland 100, MarylandEastern Shore 68 Wednesday at Comcast Center
In his 40thgame in College Park, Mark Turgeon finally relaxed a little.
He started a new lineup that included three freshmen and vowed to do something like that Saturday against South Carolina State. He gave his now 7-1 team a "pass" for playing pickup-ball defense – maybe even less than that – and committing 15 turnovers. He got his walk-ons in late and his starters out early.
It was not just a sign of Turgeon knowing that UMES (0-8) came in having not won a game this season and was down to seven healthy scholarship players. It was also an indication of how much fun Turgeon is having with this group compared to what he was going through last season. It seems like five years since Terrell Stoglin, Mychal Parker and Ashton Pankey were Terps.
"I was pleased with the way we shared the ball, it was one of those games where you could really be selfish and we weren't – 27 assists," Turgeon said in starting off his post-game news conference. "I think we had one game with 28 year and one game with 27 this year, that's almost as many as we had in the whole season last year in those two games."
3 POINT SHOTS
*** A year ago, Turgeon tinkered with his starting lineup early on because Alex Len was sitting out an NCAA-mandated 10-game suspension and Pe'Shon Howard was sidelined with a foot injury. On Wednesday, Turgeon sat Len, Howard and sophomore Nick Faust to give Shaquille Cleare, Seth Allen and Jake Layman a chance to start.
"I want everybody to know what it feels like to start in a game," Turgeon said after his team's seventh straight win, albeit against a team ranked 346 out of 347 Division I teams in the Sagarin ratings. "I've never done that before, but I've never had a team like this that really likes each other like this team does and has the kind of depth this team has. I know there's no bruised egos because I did this."
If anything, Turgeon's decision helped build some confidence for Cleare, who's been erratic at best, and Layman, who has really struggled offensively to find a role. After showing some progress, Cleare was coming off a 7-minute, 3-foul, 0-point and 0-rebound performance against George Mason; Layman didn't score in 14 minutes Sunday and had yet to look anything close to a player who made the U-19 national team last summer.
Both had more of a bounce to their games against UMES.
Layman started off by feeding James Padgett, who was fouled on a pick-and-roll to start the game, got the ball to Cleare for a dunk, hit his first 3 and found Padgett again for a layup; Cleare hit three straight baskets inside to start. Layman finished with 10 points and four rebounds in 22 minutes, Cleare with 12 points, three rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes.
"You have ups and you have downs," Cleare said after Wednesday's game. "I'm a passionate player, and person, I was thinking I might drop my head, but I'm going to get back in the gym and work hard. You can feel sorry for yourself for so long, I try to keep focused and do what I had to do to get ready.It helped me get back on the right track and helped me get focused again."
*** What has struck me about Cleare is his maturity for a freshman. It might have something to do with his upbringing and the fact that he, unlike a lot of players his age, hasn't been treated like he was a big deal since he was 10 years old. Cleare didn't start playing competitive basketball until his family moved to Texas from the Bahamas when he was 16.
I am not comparing them as players, even at a similar stage, but Cleare's demeanor reminds me of when Tim Duncan first came into the ACC. He was overshadowed by Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse at North Carolina, Cherokee Parks at Duke and by Joe Smith at Maryland, but after Smith left for the NBA after his sophomore year, Duncan gradually developed into the best overall big man in the ACC.
It's going to be interesting to see how Cleare and Charles Mitchell – or "Chuck" as Cleare calls his fellow freshman – grow together when Len leaves for the NBA. I know Turgeon isn't going to talk about it, but Len is now being mentioned as an NBA lottery pick lock for the 2013 draft. According to a recent story on CBSSports.com, a number of GMs say that Len could be the top overall pick.
So when Turgeon talks about starting Cleare because of "what lies down the road," he might not just be talking about this season. I think it's going to be fun watching how Cleare and Mitchell match up this year against more experienced players like a Mason Plumlee at Duke or a C.J. Leslie at N.C. State. Mitchell is fearless and that's eventually going to rub off on his buddy Cleare.
*** It's very easy to have great chemistry in a 32-point blowout against an overmatched opponent. But I sense that this Maryland team has it. As Allen said with big smile, "We pretend like an adopted family, different brothers from different homes."
That's not just the starters, or even the players in the regular rotation. When Turgeon cleared his bench and gave his walk-ons and little-used scholarship players a chance, you saw Dez Wells standing up on the sideline waving a towel.
When freshman guard Connor Lipinski hit four straight free throws, the last two getting Maryland to triple digits for the first time since Turgeon came to Maryland, everyone got excited. Said Turgeon, "I can hardly get a word in during the timeout. Our guys were like, 'Play hard, you got to do this, it's your time, you work hard.'"
Turgeon credited his scout team – led by Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz and Varun Ram, a point guard from Howard County (River Hill) who is also sitting out after playing at Trinity (Conn.) College – with getting his regular rotation of players ready for every game.
"They have a lot on their plate, they have to learn our plays and all the other plays and if they're not running them right I'm on them," Turgeon said. "If you ever watched us prepare for a game, I think you'd appreciate those guys a lot more. Our guys appreciate them because we respect each other because of what we're all about. That's why those guys were so excited."
Who's going to start Saturday against Delaware State? I wouldn't be surprised to see Mitchell get his first start with Layman and either Cleare or Layman up front, along with Aronhalt and possibly Allen or Faust, both of whom played well at the point with eight and seven assists respectively.