On a Maryland men’s basketball team that features several new faces, sophomore guard Darryl Morsell is one of the few who was part of last year’s team.
Except in the case of the former Mount Saint Joseph standout, there’s a distinctly new look to Morsell and his game.
It starts with his number — his old high school jersey No. 11 rather than No. 10 — and continues with what appears to be a more wiry, leaner look. But the biggest difference is his 3-point shot.
Simply put, it’s going in.
What started over the summer in team workouts before the three-game, 10-day trip to Italy, and was punctuated when Morsell hit four 3s in one half of the last game of the tour, is now a regular occurrence during preseason practices at Xfinity Center.
As reporters were given a rare peek by Maryland coach Mark Turgeon of his team’s practice at Media Day on Tuesday, the 6-foot-5 guard’s stroke was so pure it resembled that of former Terp Jared Nickens — the player whose number he took — than what Morsell showed as a freshman.
"I guess Jared gave me some of his powers or something,” Morsell joked.
Nearly all the shots came without hesitation, in rhythm, and hit nothing but the bottom of the net. It got to the point in which, after hitting five or six in a row in about 10 minutes, Morsell seemed to be surprised when one rimmed out.
More than the mechanics of the shot, Morsell appeared much more confident taking them. That wasn’t the case last year, when Morsell seemed to be confident about everything but his 3-pointer. It wasn’t a shock, since he made just three of 25 attempts from beyond the arc last season.
“Every time I see a shot go in, it gives me more confidence, but every time I shoot it, I expect it to go in,” Morsell said. “When I don't make it, it’s frustrating to me because I worked too hard and I put in a lot of work because I expect to make every shot.”
Asked what the difference is this year, Morsell said: “A lot of hard work. Being in the gym late. Being in the gym early. The Italy trip gave me a lot of confidence. In these practices, I’ve hit a lot of shots. That’s what’s given me a lot of confidence to shoot the ball and that should carry over into the season.”
It has certainly been a pleasant surprise for Turgeon, who is trying to replace the team’s two best 3-point shooters, Nickens and Kevin Huerter, with a committee that was supposed to be led by junior Anthony Cowan Jr., as well as freshmen Aaron Wiggins and Sorrel Smith.
Now Morsell, known more for his defense, toughness and athleticism, is vying for membership on the committee. It has also allowed Turgeon to move Morsell back to his natural position on the perimeter rather than being used as an undersized power forward, as he was after the Terps were hit with injuries last season.
“Nothing against Darryl, but I thought Darryl would have been a great sixth or seventh man last year and he ended up playing 35 minutes [a game] at the 4-spot,” Turgeon said Tuesday. “He came in as a combo guard. He didn’t mind, he just loved being on the court. He’s back to his natural position. I think he’s going to be a lot more confident.”
Even without a reliable 3-pointer, Morsell finished with respectable freshmen numbers: 8.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists (also 2.2 turnovers) per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the field. It meant that Morsell made 98 of 213 2-point shots (46 percent).
Morsell believes his hot shooting will continue when the regular-season begins Nov. 6 against Delaware.
“I don’t know what to say, but I’m confident in myself,” Morsell said. “My teammates are confident in me. So I think that will carry over into the season. Even if I miss some shots, I’ll still be confident in myself.”