Basketball season is officially upon us.
With only days until the Maryland Terrapins basketball team gets into full swing, head coach Mark Turgeon addressed the media for the first time this season on Tuesday afternoon. After a hectic off-season of recruiting, the Terrapins begin the season with a fresh set of faces with only four scholarship players returning from last year’s 17-win squad. If Tuesday’s presser is any indication, however, coach Turgeon is very excited to begin the season with a year of ACC experience under his belt and some new big men.
“”It’s completely different. I really didn’t know what I was getting into last year. Didn’t know much about the ACC. Didn’t know what kind of player it takes to be successful,” said Turgeon, when asked how it felt this year versus last season, coming into the ACC as a new coach.
With the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, Turgeon obviously believes that the conference is going to have some added challenges. This year, though, the head coach has a bit more scouting experience on what it takes to be successful.
“”The ACC is a lot better than when I took the job. It’s a different league [than the Big 12]; it’s a longer, taller athletic league than what I came from. It’s a little more of a finesse league than a power league, even though some teams get at you [like Virginia and Florida State].” Turgeon also believes that last year’s conference experience “helps us know what we need to recruit” in order to be a dominant ACC team.
The new highly recruited big men, Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell also garnered high praise for their work ethic this summer. They have both made the necessary adjustments health wise to become dominant low-post basketball players.
“I think of the four Where they really worked hard was in the weight room, conditioning. Shaq [Cleare] shed about 20 pounds in the offseason. Charles [Mitchell] shed about 20 pounds.”
That will be a boon for Maryland, who lacked much of any front court depth last season. Alex Len, the only real big man on the roster, missed the first ten games of the season and struggled adjusting to the league. James Padgett, another big man, only came into his own later on during the season. Maryland got beat inside consistently, but that is expected to change this season with a deep front court.
“The good thing is we have Padgett and Len for the second year so that’s nice. They both improved tremendously,” said Turgeon of the added depth. “Shaq was highly recruited and highly thought of. He’s a big, strong kid that likes to hit things. He’s just a great kid and gives you a dynamic that you don’t normally have. He’s 262 now, so he’s an above the rim guy.”
And more importantly, Turgeon added, “five more fouls for us.”
While all the young additions this offseason had very good summers, Turgeon seemed most impressed with newcomer Seth Allen of Fredricksburg, Virginia. In particular, he was impressed by his defense.
“Seth Allen is a big time athlete…he is a much better defender than I thought.” Later, when Turgeon was asked to elaborate more:
“He is such a dynamic scorer, and anytime the ball is in his hands he can get to the rim. He is so dynamic offensively, [but on defense] I was shocked at how well he played the ball…I don’t know what a world-class athlete looks like, but he’s one.”
Those glowing words bode well for a Terrapins team that is going to be young and in need of scoring after losing ACC points per game leader Terrell Stoglin to the NBA/D-League/Europe. Hopefully Allen will be able to fill in quickly, because Turgeon did not have high praise for the presumed backcourt scorer on the team in Nick Faust.
“[Nick Faust] is not practicing as well as I’d like for him to practice, to be honest,” said Turgeon. “He still tries to do a little too much. I need him to practice better and play better than he is right now.” Turgeon did, however, make note of his improvement during the offseason with regards to his shooting, which “if you haven’t seen it, it doesn’t look the same.”
Overall, some very good things to hear leading into the season opening game at the Barclay’s Arena in Brooklyn, New York against the defending national champions, the Kentucky Wildcats. All the new additions bring some much needed depth to the Maryland Terrapins, but it also means that there may still be some growing pains for this young team. Talent wise, they are perfect, but the youth movement has arrived and there may be bumps along the way, as reflected by the fact that very few national polls have Maryland ranked highly. Of course, playing against Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke twice, and George Mason, to name a few, means that Maryland is going to have ample opportunity to prove themselves and become a tournament team.
Either way, the future is today, and Mark Turgeon appears ready to keep pushing forward.