Maryland basketball’s Darryl Morsell happily stuck being Terps’ ‘glue guy’

In Mark Turgeon’s first eight seasons at Maryland, the two best men’s basketball teams he coached came in consecutive years and had one common ingredient: a valuable “glue guy” who did all the little things and played a key, if understated, role in the team’s success.

The 2014-15 team, which finished 28-7 and became Turgeon’s first in College Park to reach the NCAA tournament, featured senior guard Dez Wells and freshman guard Melo Trimble, but it was graduate transfer guard Richaud Pack who helped the team overcome an early injury to Wells and played a complementary role in 14 regular-season Big Ten victories.


The 2015-16 team, which finished 27-9 and remains the only one of Turgeon’s Terps teams to reach the Sweet 16, had a starting lineup that included Trimble, Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter Jr., former five-star prospect Diamond Stone and Jake Layman. But it was Rasheed Sulaimon, who transferred after graduating from Duke, who helped the Terps with his defense and deference.

“Both those guys took their defensive perimeter assignment insanely serious,” former Terps assistant coach Dustin Clark said of Pack and Sulaimon. “They knew the defensive game plan in terms of the other team’s tendencies as well as the coach doing the pregame scout.”


Going into the 2019-20 season, which begins Nov. 5 against Holy Cross, Turgeon has his deepest and perhaps most talented team since coming to Maryland in 2011. Junior guard Darryl Morsell has always been overshadowed by others — most notably Anthony Cowan Jr., Kevin Huerter, Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith, his former high school teammate at Mount Saint Joseph.

But he’s never been underappreciated.

“It’s nice to have guys that all they care about is winning, and that’s all Darryl cares about,” Turgeon said last week during Big Ten media day in Chicago. “Now he wants to be more consistent offensively and he wants to take care of the ball better. That’s all part of it. But he just wants to win, and that rubs off … on the rest of the guys. Darryl is definitely our glue guy.”

Said Cowan: “He’s super important, and I try to tell him that as much as possible. He really is like a backbone for our team. I sent him a screenshot of [Houston Rockets forward] P.J. Tucker. I told him, ‘If you’re like a P.J. Tucker for us, we can win a lot of games.’ He takes on that challenge.

“He’s not necessarily worried about a lot of scoring. He’s worried about all the other little things. That’s the kind of player you need on your team to win. He makes sure he’s that kind of player for us.”

Morsell, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound junior, spent much of his freshman year playing out of position as an undersized power forward, often guarding opponents who were 5 inches taller and up to 50 pounds heavier. As a sophomore, he played more as a small forward and shooting guard and eventually became a better playmaker, as well as the team’s best perimeter defender.

While his scoring has remained fairly steady — 8.7 points a game as a freshman, 8.5 as a sophomore — his shooting improved to a respectable 45.9% from the field last season, and he attempted more 3-pointers (3-for-25 as a freshman, 18-for-62 as a sophomore). His assist-to-turnover ratio, once a concern for Turgeon, also took a huge step forward the end of last season, when he had 16 assists and just three turnovers in his last five games.

Asked about being called a glue guy, Morsell said: “I don’t find it to be something negative. I feel that with success, if everybody wins, everybody gets what they want. That’s always been my mindset if I’ve got to be a glue guy. In high school, I had to be a scorer. I just try to diversify and try to do a whole bunch of stuff so I can stay on the floor longer.

“I just want to do whatever I can do to help the team win.”

A late-season talk last winter with Turgeon got Morsell back on track. In his last five games, along with his improvement making plays for others, Morsell averaged 12.4 points, including tying his career high with 18 points in a 79-77 win over Belmont in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Morsell secured the victory in Jacksonville, Florida, with a steal and free throw with 2 seconds to play.

“Those games [in the NCAA tournament] gave me confidence. They motivated me to stay in the gym, motivated me to try to repeat that success,” Morsell said. “I feel we set a foundation last year by making the NCAA tournament and winning a game, and my emphasis the whole offseason has been taking that next step — taking that next step in the weight room, taking that next step on the court, so we can improve on that success.”

Part of the way Morsell has rubbed off on his teammates has been with his innate toughness, learned in the pickup games, Amateur Athletic Union tournaments and high school games he played growing up in Baltimore. He and Fernando tried to bring it to the 2017-18 team as freshmen supporting Cowan and Huerter, but the bigger impact came last season with the arrival of five freshmen willing to take their lead.


With Fernando joining Huerter on the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks this season, Morsell will carry the leadership mantle with both the returning players and the incoming freshmen.

“I feel like the Big Ten makes you tough,” Morsell said. “You’ve got to be tough to play in the Big Ten. Those guys inserted into those tough battles last year, I feel they had to be tough in order to have success.”

Longtime Mount Saint Joseph coach Pat Clatchey, who coached Morsell and Smith in high school, said Morsell is more like the players he coached years back who really didn’t care how many points they scored as long as their teams won. As a senior, Morsell helped the Gaels sweep the Baltimore Catholic League regular season and postseason, as well as the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs.

“I think it starts with the fact that he’s accustomed to winning,” Clatchey said. “He’s won championships. He’s smart enough and he’s perceptive enough to realize that in order for that to happen, guys have to make sacrifices, and if that means taking less shots or guys who are willing to make the right play on either end of the floor and doing the dirty work and the little things, I think he’s that type of player.”

Turgeon can sense Morsell has bought into his role more than ever before.

“Darryl’s really matured,” Turgeon said in Chicago. “He’s really at peace with himself. His leadership is at another level. A lot of guys look up to him. He’s very confident, he’s very comfortable in his skin in who he is. And you can see that. And that usually translates to a pretty good season.”


Turgeon was asked to explain what being at peace looks like with Morsell.


“Just calm,” Turgeon said. “He knows he can play at this level. He knows his game has gotten better. He knows he can guard the best players. He understands who he is. Maybe last year he still wanted to be a scorer. Not to say he’s not going to have games where he gets 15 or 16 for us, because he’ll have games like that. He knows who he is and he’s at peace with it.”

Season opener

Holy Cross@Maryland

Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.


Radio: 105.7 FM

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