Archives for posts with tag: Mark Turgeon

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

The Melo Trimble Show is now only available on re-runs in College Park.  The point guard who helped lead the Terps to a 75-25 mark and three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament departed for the pros last spring.  But the cupboard is far from bare for coach Mark Turgeon:  “I’ve heard people say we have a young team.  I feel like we’re much more experienced than we were last year.  We’ve got eight of our top ten guys back–you know, the three freshmen become sophomores.”  Those three sophomores- Justin Jackson, Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan-made a combined 96 starts last year.  Jackson led the team in rebounding, Huerter made the most three-pointers on the roster, and Cowan actually had more assists and steals than Trimble.  The future isn’t just now for this team, it was here last winter as well.  “We relied on them a lot last year-quite a bit too.  I think (this year) they’re much more prepared,” Coach Turgeon added,”I do think every one of them has gotten a lot better.”

Justin Jackson almost wasn’t a part of the picture this season-as the forward from Ontario tested the NBA Draft waters last spring before deciding to return.  But he didn’t leave the draft workouts empty-handed.  “Going up against a lot of top guys-just proving to myself I can play on that level,” Jackson said, “it really helped the college game slow down for me, and I’m starting to make the right plays and make the right reads.”  The 6-foot-7 forward will play both forward positions this year for coach Turgeon: “he’s one of those guys now who is much more competitive and plays harder every day–has added to his game.”  Jackson actually led the team in three-point shooting (44%) as a freshman, and is focused on becoming more of a perimeter threat this season.  “I’ve been working on my ball-handling and making decisions,” Jackson said, “you got to know what you bring to the table and how you can help your team.”

If Jackson is able to shine at the small forward position-fellow sophomore Kevin Huerter can slide over to the shooting guard spot and provide major mismatches with his 6-foot-7 frame.  He’s tried to change his offensive approach after averaging 9.3 points per game as a freshman. “Coach Turgeon said he wanted me to get to the free throw line a little more…and that comes from not just shooting jumpshots.” Huerter said, “For me I’m trying to get into the paint–come to two foot stops and make plays off that.”  The Clifton, NY product also returns on a mission after the team melted in March: “We didn’t finish the way we wanted to last year…we lost first round Big Ten, first round NCAA’s.  I don’t think we stayed together as a team as well as we could have…and we definitely have to change that going into this year.”

Huerter may have played the most minutes of the trio and Jackson may have produced the most points and rebounds, but the catalyst on both ends of the floor will be Anthony Cowan.  Offensive possessions will more often than not begin with the ball in his hands.  “My message to Anthony is make the right decisions,” coach Turgeon said, “Read the situation–we have a read and react offense.  It’s about making the right decisions.  If Anthony does that we’re a much better offensive team.”  Cowan’s freshman year was a rollercoaster ride that saw the highs of 18 points against Richmond on a Friday night get followed up by an 0-for-3 shooting performance against Kansas State the next evening. Cowan said, “I just want to be a more consistent shooter.  The only way you can work on that I know is keep getting reps.”  Cowan scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the team’s exhibition victory over Randolph Macon.

There’s a foreign flavor in the frontcourt:  Slovakian center Michal Cekovsky is back after a fractured ankle ended his junior season.  Junior Ivan Bender (Bosnia-Herzegev) shot 75% from the field over his final six games last winter.  Graduate transfer Sean Obi (Nigeria) is healthy for the first time in two years.  Redshirt freshman Joshua Tomaic (Canary Islands) is better prepared after sitting out last season.  And Angolan Bruno Fernando should see major minutes as a freshman.  “I guess he’s a 6-10 Dez Wells,” Turgeon says, “plays to exhaustion-the kid’s amazing. Shot blocker, great rebounder. Very vocal…and we really haven’t had one like him:  athletic…skilled.”  A high-ankle sprain kept Fernando out of the exhibition against Randolph Macon, but he expects to play opening night at Stony Brook.

The other freshman of note comes to College Park from a much shorter distance than Angola:  Baltimore native Darryl Morsell brings a six-foot-four frame and projects to play both backcourt positions.  “Coach Turgeon told me when he was recruiting me that I’d be playing a little bit of point guard–I knew it would be a big adjustment when I got here but he told me he’ll help me.  It’s been going well.”  When it comes to playing in the Big Ten, size is–for lack of a better word–is huge. “Darryl gives us a defender on the perimeter that we really needed.  He’s a guy that loves to compete,” Turgeon said.  Other guards expected to contribute are senior Jared Nickens and junior Dion Wiley.

The Big Ten is back.  After being much-maligned in the regular season (just one team finished in the top 20) and sneakily successful in the NCAA Tournament (three schools in the Sweet 16), the league puts four teams in the Top 25–with Michigan State swimming amongst the favorites to win it all at #2 in both polls.  Maryland is one of three schools in the league also receiving votes, and will play seven games against the four ranked schools during the conference season-starting with #20 Purdue December 1st.  It was a loss to the Boilermakers at home last February that began a 4-7 tailspin to end the season after the Terps carved out a school-best 20-2 start.  Will the roster be ready for the conference clashes this winter?  “We’ve added three physical guys.  We’re a little bit more physical last year–which is good,” coach Mark Turgeon said, “I think our system will look a lot the same. We’re doing some different things in our small four-guard lineup that’s going to be really good for us.”  Early-season tests include a November 15th game against Butler (Bulldogs also receiving votes in both preseason polls) and a trip to Syracuse in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge November 27th (I’m going to take a flyer and say it might be cold that day up there).  The regular season tips off Friday, November 10th at Stony Brook and the Terps host Maryland-Eastern Shore November 12th in their home opener.

Penthouse Prediction:  the three sophomores click and freshman Bruno Fernando doesn’t disappoint.  The added physicality actually prevents the team from a the February fade they suffered the last two winters in league play.  The Terps don’t win the Big Ten but get to the tournament championship game.  A Sweet Sixteen trip in the Big Dance follows.

Worst Case Scenario:  Butler comes to College Park November 15th and exposes a young team that has yet to gel.  They aren’t ready for the early-December Big Ten games and instead of worrying about a February fade find themselves battling uphill all winter.  Their stay at Madison Square Garden is brief as they’re bounced in the second round…and the not-ready-for-prime-time players find their way into the NIT,

 

PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

Sometimes forty minutes can make all the difference.  A win over a ranked team in November can sometimes give a school the needed push to get into the field…while a conference loss on the road in February often downgrades their NCAA Tournament seeding by a few lines—or worse.  The Maryland Men’s Basketball team plays 31 games this winter…but coach Mark Turgeon already has one winning evening to look back at.  It came early in the offseason when he knew he was losing Jake Layman, Rasheed Sulaimon, Diamond Stone and Robert Carter, Jr. to the pros.  After winning 55 games over the last two years, the question was could Turgeon build off that momentum. “Justin Jackson (a four-star recruit) committed to me about 8:30—and Melo called (to say he was staying) about 9,” Turgeon said, ”that was a pretty good half an hour right there. My staff did some amazing things—late (in the recruiting process). It was exhausting to say the least-the late signings-but we did some amazing things that will give us a chance to be a good team this year.”

Melo Trimble’s return to campus for his junior season certainly changes the mindset of this winter from one of rebuilding (he would have been the fifth starter to depart) to one of reloading (21st in the coaches poll and 25th in the writers’ rankings).  And while you could have made the case over his first two years with the Terps that Trimble was the best player on his team, this season he’s not just the best player but this is undoubtably his team. Coach Turgeon explains, “He’s done a lot of the little things that have really helped him become a better leader…he’s getting more comfortable. To be a good leader you’ve got to have guys that listen to you too…and I think guys have bought into Melo’s leadership which is helping him.”  The junior from Upper Marlboro, Maryland averaged a team-high 15 points and 5 assists per game last winter while also leading the team in steals.   Junior Jared Nickens and senior Demonte Dodd also played more than 15 minutes per game last winter…while redshirt sophomore Dion Wiley comes back after missing all of 2015-16 with a knee injury.

It’s not always easy to see the forest from the trees…and one of the byproducts of last year’s  productive post game (Diamond Stone and Robert Carter each had ridiculous nights) was the clogging up of the lane in the perimeter player’s paths to the basket.  Not so this year- as Trimble is excited about playing small-ball. “I feel great about that…we can actually run, get into the paint, create driving lanes and kick out for threes,” Melo says with a smile, “Last year we wasn’t able to do that because we had really good post presence with Diamond and Rob…but this year we’re very fast and we can shoot so I think we’re gonna have a lot of fun with that.”  Expect Trimble, Nickens and Wiley to unload early and often from outside.

 

Demonte Dodd leads the big men this winter…as the senior has been a solid contributor while averaging 15 minutes a game the last two seasons. “We’ll be by committee on the low post…I got some things up my sleeve that I might try as the year goes on,” Coach Mark Turgeon said, “I think Demonte’s growing…L.G. Gill’s growing down there. Hopefully Ceko (Slovakian center Michal Cekovsky) going to be able to give us some stuff down there.”  Gill comes to Maryland as a graduate transfer after starting at Duquesne where he led the Dukes in rebounding last winter.  Despite last year’s vaunted size, the Terps were in the middle of the pack of the Big Ten in rebounding margin.  Perhaps it takes a village after all…

 

In addition to Gill, contributions will be expected from the five freshmen on this year’s roster. “I think the guys we’ve brought in this year really have a great feel of when to shoot and when to pass…and a great feel defensively,” Turgeon says, “That’s exciting.  I think the smarter your players are the better coach you are.”  New York’s “Mr. Basketball” Kevin Huerter has international experience after playing in the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championships…and his lanky frame and reliable shot already have him compared to ex-Terp Jake Layman (facial hair will have to come later).  Anthony Cowan’s a four-star recruit from nearby Bowie and St. John’s College HS…while Justin Jackson is your stereotypical Canadian forward who is 6-foot-7 but boasts a 7-foot-3 wingspan.  Micah Thomas and Joshua Tomaic (from the Canary Islands) add frontcourt depth.

The season begins with a local flavor as the Terps will have non-conference dates against American, Howard, Towson and Georgetown.  After last year’s 75-71 thriller in College Park, Melo Trimble and company play the Hoyas this year in the District.  “I’m very excited…I’ve never had the chance to play at Verizon Center,” Trimble said, “In high school I had the opportunity to play there but once we (Bishop O’Connell) won they took the championship game out of there.  Whenever you play at a site like that…it’s fun.”  He’s not alone. “It’s great for this area,” coach Mark Turgeon said, “and of course both games (in the current series) have been nationally televised. I think Georgetown’s probably a little further along than we are this year-a little more experience than we have. Should be a heck of a game.”

 

The Big Ten Tournament will also be held at Verizon Center this season…and the league looks just as loaded as it was last season when four teams finished in the top 25 and seven schools made the NCAA Tournament.  Wisconsin returns conference preseason player of the year Nigel Hayes…while Michigan State brings back Tom Izzo and the Spartan culture. Indiana and Purdue look to build on strong showings from last winter (Hoosier fans shouting “BANNERS!” the entire time at their Boilermaker booster counterparts).  Maryland, Michigan and Ohio State are each within shouting distance of the top 20.  As fans who saw the top-ten Terps fall at winless in the league Minnesota last winter, there are no off nights.  Anywhere.

 

 

 

Coach Mark Turgeon enters his sixth season…through another different door at Xfinity Center.  In 2014 the question was, “could you lead this team to the NCAA’s?” and last fall the question was, “can this team win it all?”.  This year the question is about sustaining a program that has won 55 games over the last two winters…and will Mark Turgeon’s program be one that rebuilds or one that reloads.  He’s already re-upped:  last month the coach signed a four-year contract extension that runs through the 2022-23 campaign.  During media day I asked him if there was anything the Mark Turgeon of 2016 would tell the Mark Turgeon that took over the Terps in 2011.  “Oh, I don’t know. Just stay the course…believe in the process,” Turgeon replied, “I’m really proud of what we’ve done-it hasn’t been easy-and where we are today. I’m looking forward to a lot of great years in a row.”

 

 

Previously appearing on WTOP.COM–

What a difference one year can make in mens college basketball.  Last October, Mark Turgeon was dealing with massive defections (five players transferring in the spring) and there were questions if he would be the coach to lead this program back to the NCAA Tournament after a four year hiatus.   This fall the question is if this team is Final Four material…with Turgeon now dealing with impressive additions to an already talented roster.  Happy times are here again in College Park. 

The most important addition to the roster is the player who chose not to enter the NBA Draft.   Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Melo Trimble was the offensive catalyst for this team last winter—and coach Turgeon expects the sophomore guard to improve defensively:  “he has it in him.  I didn’t ask him to a lot of that last year because he couldn’t foul…if he picked up two fouls I’d get pretty nervous.”  Turgeon adds that he thinks Trimble’s assists will increase with the better offensive options at his disposal this year.

Options?  Former All-Freshman ACC guard Rasheed Sulaimon arrives as a graduate transfer after being dismissed from the Duke program last January.  The Houston native was actually recruited by Turgeon when he was coaching at Texas A&M.  “He’s a great competitor,” says senior Jake Layman, “he’s intense—especially on defense.  One of his goals this year is to be one of the best defenders in the country.”  Will the Terps get the player who oozed potential averaging 12 pts a game, or the one who was a non-factor at the end of his tenure in Durham?

Sulaimon’s not the only transfer joining the Terps.  Junior Robert Carter averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds a game his final season with Georgia Tech…and will provide some of the size and skill inside that last year’s team lacked on both ends of the floor.  He’ll also mentor five-star recruit Diamond Stone, a 6-foot-11 center whose skill set is more than apparent to coach Mark Turgeon:  “he’s terrific on the offensive end…great left hand/right hand around the basket, great feel–can shoot it.  It’s the other end that has to come the furthest-the defensive end. So he’s really working hard, watching a lot of film.”

While it’s nice to have talent coming into the program…one wonders how the minutes and rotation will shape up as coach Mark Turgeon has plenty of talent coming back:  Jared Nickens, Dion Wiley and Demonte Dodd each started games last year—averaging 13+ minutes a game.  Coach Turgeon likes the “problem”, saying “what a great position I’m in…to have these kind of players?  I’ve made the comment that I think we have eight starters.  A couple of the starters aren’t playing well…different guys are gonna play that night.”

With the infusion of talent, it’s rather easy to forget that forward Jake Layman was voted Preseason All-Big Ten.  The slow and steady senior has already passed the 1,000 point milestone and should reach 100 career starts by the end of his career.  Along with Carter, Layman’s expected to take the leadership reins left when Dez Wells graduated.

The Terps are one of four Big Ten teams in the Coaches Preseason Top 25:  Michigan State is 13th, Indiana ranks 15th and Purdue is tied for 24th.  Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State also receive votes…setting the table for what should be another competitive conference season.  Nobody expected Maryland to go 14-4 in league play last winter (most league wins since the 2002 National Title team),  and this year there will be no surprise factor whatsoever.

The non-conference schedule includes a November 17th showdown with Georgetown (first regular season game with the Hoyas since 1993) and a December 1st duel with preseason #2 North Carolina.  How does the weight of a top five ranking compare to the pressure of last October?  Coach Turgeon:  “I really didn’t feel any last year and I don’t really feel any this year.  I think as a coach you have peace of mind with what you do; and I believe in the people around me—players and coaches.  We know we have a good team”.  The regular season tips off November 13th against Mount St. Mary’s.

“I love my team.  I got eleven guys on scholarship that are all really good players and want to be here.  So, we expect to have a great year.”

Regardless of what coach Mark Turgeon said on media day multiple times, the 2014-15 Maryland mens basketball team will operate in the shadow last spring’s mass exodus:  Seth Allen, Charles Mitchell, Roddy Peters, Shaquille Cleare and Nick Faust left a major vacuum on a roster for a program that hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2010.  But what was he supposed to say?  “This program will be irreparably damaged for some time”?  “Is ESPN8 the Ocho hiring?”  Add in the fact that Evan Smotrycz begins the season with a broken foot, fans will definitely need a scorecard to tell the players apart.

“I love my team…”

The theory of addition by subtraction on a basketball team is that the players who remain benefit by not having locker room cancers around–and when that many players bolt when given the opportunity, it’s probably best that they’re no longer around.  Those who have stayed have either been brought into the situation by the coach or have already bought into his program.  Returning leading scorer Dez Wells looks to put it together for his senior season…and it wasn’t as though Jake Layman and Smotrycz weren’t effective in spots last year;  Layman led the team in minutes played and the Michigan transfer was second on the team in 3-pointers and rebounds.

“I got eleven guys on scholarship…”

Coach Turgeon expects the team to play better defense than last year’s hot mess that coughed up 91 to a subpar Oregon State in November.  For some reason last year the whole team never matched the sum of the players’ parts–and lineups you thought would lock things down left floodgates wide open.  Turgeon intimates that the bunch he has here might not be as talented as previous group, but has a better collective basketball IQ.

“All are really good players…”

Perhaps to balance the five departures, five freshmen come to College Park this fall–none more highly anticipated than point guard Melo Trimble.  The Upper Marlboro product notched 19 points and 5 assists in an exhibition against San Francisco State– and has the tools to become a solid if not impact Division I player.  Will there be growing pains this year?  Of course–I can only imagine the first time Trimble runs into trouble in East Lansing December 30th.  It might not be pretty.  But he has a nice balance in the backcourt with graduate transfer Richaud Pack (17ppg last year at North Carolina A&T)–whose true contribution might not be points or minutes but a steady hand to mentor a young roster.  At the other end of the spectrum is 7-foot-1 Slovakian center Michal Cekovsky…more than just an Alex Len 2.0.  “Ceko” comes to Maryland two years older than Len and already has a better grasp of English (Turgeon said all Alex could say originally was “chicken and gatorade”).  The 18-minute exhibition snapshot (0-1 FG, 2 rebounds and 2 turnovers) was a start…will it be something special?  I’m just glad I have the alliteration of “Slovakian center” available.

“Who want to be here…”

The motion offense comes to Maryland–even though coach Turgeon says it won’t be a true motion.  As if the savvy fans at XFinity Center don’t have enough to get used to…the flex offense takes a backseat to one that might be better suited to the personnel on campus.  Does Damonte Dodd make the leap from the freshman who watched to the sophomore who contributes?  Will Jon Graham take advantage of increased minutes or serve as a holding pattern until Jared Nickens proves he can contribute over the long haul?  Shooting guard Dion Wiley’s another intriguing piece to the puzzle…one that will be fun to watch piece itself together over the next few months.

“So, we expect to have a great year.”

Prepare yourself for the culture shock of not being able to say “we got hosed!” at Duke and North Carolina…as well as no annual day trip to Charlottesville.  The Terps leave a top-heavy ACC (3 teams ranked in the top ten but just 4 in the top 25) for a Big Ten that has one elite (Wisconsin’s ranked 3rd) squad but boasts plenty of depth:  four schools from #18 to 24th…and two more just missing the cut.  Will there be an adjustment to the “Big Ten style of basketball”?  Certainly…but it’s not as drastic as one might think.  Yes– the league might be more physical than the Atlantic Coast Conference, but it’s not like they’re wearing shoulderpads and helmets–I think.  Former coach Gary Williams often remarked that Maryland was basically the “Siberia of the ACC”…now they’ve become the “South Beach of the Big Ten”.  Somehow, even with the new league and vastly changed roster the Terps received three votes in the Associated Press Preseason Poll.  The season begins Friday, November 14th against Wagner.