COLLEGE PARK — Maryland senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. described Tuesday, the first day he was a full participant in the Terps’ practices in more than a week after suffering a concussion, as “a good day.” He hopes there are more to come.
Cowan made no efforts to hide his intentions for this season Tuesday, when a Maryland basketball program expected to be ranked among the top 10 in the nation in most preseason polls held its media day. He returned to College Park with a simple goal in mind.
“I want to win,” Cowan said. “That’s been my main goal this whole time. They can all say everything about the points or the assists, but at the end of the day, I haven’t won anything.”
That isn’t to say he’s not fond of the fact that last season provided his first career postseason victory as the Terps reached the second round of the NCAA tournament, nor that he ranks in Maryland’s all-time top 12 in assists, free throws and 3-pointers.
But he wants more, and he believes this Maryland team, with center Bruno Fernando being the program’s only major departure, is the one that can help deliver it.
“I gotta win something. That’s just how I’m built,'' he said. "It’s hard to sleep if I’m not winning or if I’m not helping my team win. I was coming back just to do that.
“We invite expectations. We want to get everybody’s best shot. We’re competitors at the end of the day. We’re going to compete, and we want to play basketball. What more can you ask for?”
Coach Mark Turgeon noted how rare it is for players as talented as Cowan to reach a fourth year.
“In a world where it’s not great to become a senior, I’m really proud of Anthony," Turgeon said. "Maybe he can make it cool again.
“Anthony came back to win. Anthony’s done a lot of things with scoring points and steals and assists, but he wants his legacy to be winning and winning at a high level, and he knows he’ll be remembered more if our team wins at a high level.”
Added weight has ‘Stix’ ready to lay the wood
Sophomore forward Jalen Smith has heard the talk, including from his coach, that his added weight has turned his longtime nickname from “Stix” to “Logs.” But he won’t hear any of it.
“I’ll still always be Stix,” Smith said with a smile.
Smith put on about 12 pounds of weight this offseason, with Turgeon saying the 6-foot-10 Mount Saint Joseph product has added about 35 pounds overall since arriving on campus.
“It’s just going to help me be able to withstand more hits and have a longer endurance,” Smith said.
Turgeon said Smith played a lot of one-on-one games this offseason, including with Cowan, to improve his perimeter defense as well as his offensive game.
“With Jalen, we wanted to continue to make him bigger and stronger, which he did,” Turgeon said. “I think he’s up 35 pounds from when he set foot on campus. We really worked hard on him to score in a lot of different ways. He’s pretty good on the right block, pretty good catch-and-shoot three guy, but we tried to do a lot of different areas on the floor.
“His perimeter defense got so much better as the year went on. Last year, it was all new to him, and now I’m very confident in his perimeter defense and what he can do, and then post defensively, he struggled when he had to guard a five last year. Hopefully, the weight helps. Hopefully, the experience helps.”
Turgeon’s best staff?
The 2019-20 season marks Turgeon’s 22nd year at the helm of a college basketball program. That means he’s working with his 22nd collection of assistants.
“I don’t want to make anybody mad that’s worked for me,” Turgeon said, “but I think this is my best staff.”
He especially praised two recent additions. Turgeon said second-year video coordinator Greg Manning Jr. is “way overqualified for his role,” while he was particularly effusive about new assistant DeAndre Haynes, who will help coach the Terps’ backcourt.
“We call him the young guy at 35 on our staff, and players love him,” Turgeon said. “They love being around him. He’s a great teacher.”
Cowan pointed out how much Haynes has helped the Terps with spacing the floor.
“A lot of times, in previous years, our spacing wasn’t what it needed to be for us to be successful,” Cowan said. “I think that’s what he’s really keying in on, and that’s what he’s helping us on a lot.”
Turgeon said he’ll regularly use only about 15 of the 20 practice hours allotted to him each week, leaving the remaining time for his assistants to work in particular areas with the players. Matt Brady and Bino Ranson make up the rest of Turgeon’s coaching staff, to go along with director of basketball operations Mark Bialkoski and director of basketball performance Kyle Tarp.
“It’s a great staff,” Turgeon said. “Hopefully, it will pay dividends for us as the games come along.”