A year after Maryland had failed to meet extremely high preseason expectations, the Terps came in something closer to what they’d been two years ago, a team relying on a good number of young players and thus were something of an unknown. As it turned out, those freshmen were highly productive and veterans like Melo Trimble and Damonte Dodd combined to put together a very solid 24-9/12-6 season. Within that, though, was some streakiness. The Terps started Big Ten play 8-1 before going 4-5 down the second half stretch. This wasn’t shocking, given the youth of a team starting three freshmen for most of the season. In the end, it was a season which probably exceeded expectations a little bit.
Melo Trimble – One of the tougher guys to figure out in recent Big Ten memory. Trimble got off to a really good start as a junior before hitting a rough patch late with his shot…his 3 point % slipped all the way to 31.7%. Still, he was mostly an effective leader for a young group. He continued to draw fouls at a strong clip and led the team in scoring at 16.8 ppg. Now that it’s all in the rear view mirror, it’s easy to conclude that perhaps Trimble made a mistake by not leaving after his freshman season. His sophomore year was definitely a downtick, as he looked like a guy who really didn’t want to be in college anymore. Last season, his attitude seemed better but again, the late performance didn’t measure up to his earliest play. It could be that Maryland is better off for moving on from the Melo era.
Damonte Dodd – Dodd never became a star but a year after being passed in the Terp rotation by some incoming players (Robert Carter, Diamond Stone), he put together a solid senior season as a big body and defensive presence. Dodd averaged 6.2 ppg and 4.4 rpg while leading the team in blocks with a 2 per game average. There’s always room on a good team for a big body who knows his limitations and plays with energy and toughness and that’s what Dodd gave Maryland last season.
Jaylen Brantley – Brantley elected to transfer to UMass after serving as a backup point guard during his two years with the Terps. This was unfortunate for Maryland as Brantley would have been a very strong backup this coming season for Mark Turgeon’s group. He averaged 4.9 ppg and was at least a steady presence on the ball.
LG Gill – Gill was a grad transfer from Duquesne who was expected to fill a role at the 4 but never really managed to seize significant minutes. He averaged 3.5ppg and 2.1 rpg.
Justin Jackson – Jackson, a 6’7″ forward, took his NBA Draft decision down to the wire but his electing to return for another year in College Park was a major positive for the Terp program. Jackson is an athletic and long guy who plays primarily at the 4 but has the ball skills to swing outside when needed as well. He averaged 10.5 ppg but shot extremely well (44/44%) and grabbed 6 boards per game, while also providing some decent rim protection. If he can be more consistently assertive on offense, he could be an All Big Ten type performer. I’m betting his numbers take a significant step forward.
Anthony Cowan – He is a quick, aggressive point guard who made this team better simply by taking that responsibility off Trimble’s shoulders. Cowan averaged 10.3 ppg and led the team in assists and steals. He needs to gain consistency with the jumper (32% from deep) but was almost as proficient as Trimble in drawing contact at the rim. He’s another young player who seems set to take a big step forward as a sophomore.
Kevin Huerter – A 6’6″ wing, Huerter averaged 9.3 ppg and 4.9 rpg. A 37% shooter from deep, Huerter also has an off the dribble game which should make him an all around scoring threat for the Terps this season. Improvement on the defensive end will help him as well but even as-is, he played almost 30 mpg for this team as a freshman. He’s yet another guy who probably improves with a year under his belt.
Michal Cekovsky – A 7 foot senior who saw half of his season wiped out by injury, Cekovsky is a key component of this Terp team. He doesn’t rebound as well as his size would suggest but Cekovsky averaged 7.6 ppg in just 13 mpg last season, due to the fact that he finished at a 67% clip from the floor. He can also block shots and has respectable mobility for a big man. If he can stay healthy and avoid foul trouble, Cekovsky could be a significant contributor for this team. They need him to be.
Ivan Bender – Bender is a 6’9″ junior who finally stayed healthy and ended up playing in 32 games last season. He was a solid contributor, mostly off the bench, averaging 4.8 ppg and 3.2 rpg in about 14 mpg. Expect him to continue to see a rotation role as a backup at the 4 and maybe occasionally the 5.
Dion Wiley – Wiley is a 6’4″ junior who has struggled with health over his Maryland career. He was a highly rated prospect coming out of HS but hasn’t been able to play enough to really make his mark on this program. He has an ability to shoot (37% from deep in limited attempts) and has the frame, strength and athleticism to help in at least a regular rotation role, but health will be critical.
Jared Nickens – Nickens is a 6’7″ senior wing who saw his role decrease substantially as a junior. He has primarily been a deep shooter but has seen his 3 point % decline each year, dropping from 39% as a freshman to last season’s 34%. Nickens has the experience to help this team if he can regain Turgeon’s trust in him. Maryland has perimeter minutes available, so Nickens will likely be given a chance to claim them.
Darryl Morsell – Morsell is a 6’4″ top 100 guard who has good athleticism and a reputation as a serious and versatile defender. Shooting and decision making are areas where he reportedly needs to work. Figure on Morsell at least playing a rotation role and perhaps pushing for a starting spot, depending upon how much improvement on the offensive end he can demonstrate.
Bruno Fernando – Fernando is a 6’9″ 230lbs post player who has good athleticism, strength and toughness, along with a tremendous motor. What he doesn’t have yet is a refined offensive skill set. The positive elements likely will give him a shot at a regular rotation role immediately, though.
Sean Obi – Obi is a 6’9″ 255lbs grad transfer from Duke. Obi was never healthy at Duke, where he’d transferred from Rice after a season in which he averaged 9.3 rpg and 11.3 ppg as a freshman with the Owls. Knee trouble limited his play two years ago and surgery took away last season entirely. It’s hard to know how much Obi has left to give but if he’s even close to being 100%, he should be able to at least help this team on the glass. Taking him was probably a worthwhile gamble for Turgeon, as there’s only upside available if Obi can move and stay healthy.
I think Maryland should be very competitive once again and has a good shot at another NCAA Tournament bid. Their three sophomores should all be better and more consistent with a year of experience behind them, and all of them have the potential to be big time collegiate players (and Jackson, perhaps more than that). Strengths for this group are the ability to get to the rim by the perimeter players and athleticism at the perimeter spots. Deep shooting is a potential weakness, so improvement by guys like Nickens and Wiley would be seriously welcome.
I think this is a team which shapes up as a group which could finish higher even than I have them here if enough things break the right way with health and return to form from a couple of veteran players. As it stands, I’m figuring enough things go well to get them into the Tournament and the first division of the conference.