With Damion Lee picking Louisville, Terps look to two current guards and a transfer to fill spot

Maryland's Jared Nickens (11) drives against Indiana's James Blackmon Jr. (1) during the second half in a Big Ten Conference quarterfinal on Friday, March 13, 2015, at the United Center in Chicago.
Maryland's Jared Nickens (11) drives against Indiana's James Blackmon Jr. (1) during the second half in a Big Ten Conference quarterfinal on Friday, March 13, 2015, at the United Center in Chicago. (Armando L. Sanchez / TNS)

After Drexel transfer Damion Lee tweeted recently that Maryland was among the five schools where he was considering finishing his college basketball career next season, many thought College Park was the likely landing spot for the shooting guard from Baltimore.

Lee, who was fifth in Division I last season in scoring at 21.4 points per game, chose Louisville on Thursday over the Terps, Arizona, Gonzaga, and Marquette.


Now that Lee is out of the picture, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and his staff have to decide whether to recruit another potential graduate transfer or to go into a season where many are picking the Terps to make a deep NCAA tournament run with the shooting guards currently on the roster. Here's a breakdown of the prime candidates for the starting spot.

Dion Wiley: The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Wiley was at one point considered a better prospect than Melo Trimble before their respective senior years in high school. While Trimble flourished at Bishop O'Connell and became Maryland's first McDonald's All-American since Mike Jones, Wiley struggled with nagging injuries and a substantial weight gain during his last year at Potomac High.


While he didn't have the same kind of opportunity Trimble did as a freshman, Wiley showed flashes of becoming a good college player who could do more than shoot 3-pointers, which was his reputation coming in.

The biggest problem for Wiley last season was playing behind Dez Wells.

After back-to-back performances in which he scored a season-high 19 points against VMI and then 12 against Virginia, Wiley disappeared from the rotation for long stints. On the same January afternoon that Trimble scored 27 points against Michigan State, Wiley went scoreless in 10 minutes.

It was one of nine games that Wiley failed to score a single point, including five straight Big Ten games later in the year in which he played a total of 23 minutes. But Wiley finished the season by getting a decent 31-minute run in two NCAA tournament games.

This will be a big summer for Wiley. If he can show Turgeon that he is willing to take on more of a role as a shutdown defender — something he appeared to do late in his freshman year — it could pave the way for him to start alongside Trimble next season.

Jared Nickens: The 6-7, 205-pound wing was Maryland's biggest surprise last season. Only Trimble hit more 3-pointers than Nickens (57). Initially too skinny to be in Turgeon's plans for last season, Nickens packed on nearly 30 pounds of lean muscle by the time the season started and got his chance when Wells got hurt.

Nickens had a number of memorable performances as a freshman.

He scored 15 points off the bench in the early season upset of then-No. 13 Iowa State, hit big 3s to start both the game and the second half in an 11-point performance in a win at Oklahoma State, and hit huge 3s in wins over Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana before finishing the season with a 12-point first half (14 for the game) against Valparaiso in the NCAA tournament.

Juan Dixon said before last season began that Nickens reminded the former Terps star of himself — except that Nickens was four inches taller. Because he wasn't highly recruited out of high school Nickens also plays with a huge chip on his shoulder.

Nickens will likely be relied on in much the same role — except with more minutes and shots tagged on — as a sophomore. If his defense and ball handling improve this summer, it might be difficult to keep him out of the starting lineup.

Jaylen Brantley: Given that Brantley will be a 22-year-old sophomore when the season begins, the maturity of the junior college transfer might give him the edge to get a starting role. A four-star prospect in high school, Brantley was also considered one of the best shooters to come through the highly respected Boston All-Stars AAU program.

Going into his junior year of high school, Brantley played a year up and led an AAU team that featured future lottery picks Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams — as well as future Maryland teammate Jake Layman— to a national championship. In the title game, Brantley scored 31 points on nine of 15 shooting.


While Brantley has taken a circuitous route to College Park, going to prep school after he fell one core credit short of getting immediate Division I eligibility (he was headed to Virginia initially) and then to Odessa Junior College after the NCAA questioned the academic program in the prep school, the 5-11 combo guard will likely start the season as Trimble's backup, as Pack did a year ago.

Though playing Brantley and Trimble together might make Maryland vulnerable against teams with taller guards, the fact that the Terps will be lining up 6-9, 240-pound Robert Carter Jr., 6-10, 250-pound Diamond Stone, 7-1, 235-pound Michael Cekovsky and 6-11, 245-pound Damonte Dodd on the interior will certainly allow Turgeon that luxury.

Brantley's ability to run the point will also give Turgeon some flexibility if he decides to move Trimble off the ball in stretches.


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