1.) Maryland has already added three players in the 2014 class, and are now looking at a big man to round out the class. Realistic expectations in check, do you prefer Okonoboh, Reed, Onuaku, or a write-in candidate?
Chris Bengel: Keeping my head out of the clouds, Onuaku is the best option for Maryland. Until Goodluck Okonoboh cuts his list significantly, he is still a pipe dream in my eyes. Many people sleep on Onuaku and see him as a long-term project for Mark Turgeon and company. I strongly disagree with that sentiment.
The Riverdale Baptist star is a monster on the glass and blocks a substantial amount of shots. He makes his living in the lane altering shots and has the size to dominant in the paint. Onuaku stands at 6’10, 220 pounds and is an absolute force in the low post. One factor weighing in his favor is that he plays on one of the best AAU teams around in DC Assault. Onuaku has had a very good summer and is putting himself into a good position as the live evaluation period concludes.
He is a bit of a late bloomer, as his stock has skyrocketed over the past few months. His offense is also a few shades above what he is given credit for. When the DC Assault forward is fed the ball down low, he can score against almost anybody. He is also very good athlete for a near seven-footer and can overpower most of the competition in his path.
To summarize, Okonoboh is still definitely in play for the Terps but I’m just not sure if they will make the final cut for him. Georgia native Trayvon Reed is the one out of the trio of prospects that is a project. Onuaku has the potential to be a very integral part of Maryland’s future and would be a great addition to the program.
Michael Willis: You’ll hear no disagreement from me in this regard. Okonoboh probably isn’t going to be a Terp, as much as I’d like that after forcing my girlfriend to watch his highlight reel and explaining to her just how much NBA potential the kid has. He’s the best option, period, but the best options don’t often come to Maryland. With his connections to Indiana, I just don’t look at him as a very realistic prospect for the Terps.
So it comes down to a battle between Onuaku, Reed, and (insert player here). The player who I’d insert is Obi Enechionyia, as I’ll explain later. If it’s between the first two, I’d probably want Onuaku. He’s only 16, and as Chris mentioned before, the kid is ready to play defense against college players right now. I don’t care about his offensive game, as it’s not that stunted and it certainly won’t be a focal point of the team, as much as I care about his ability to protect the rim. That need has to be addressed in short order, and Onuaku is athletic enough to even guard some stretch 4’s as well as traditional back-to-the-basket 5’s.
I like Reed’s size, but I’m not sure how much he could contribute right away. He’ll probably enter college even skinnier than Alex Len, and even though Turgeon has clearly shown he can develop big men, I’m impatient and want results right away. In the long run, Reed may end up being a monster, but for now, Onuaku is the one to contribute right away.
X-Factor: Obi. I know we’ve backed off him significantly, but he’s still a very underrated talent. Obi is the best shot-blocking forward between Onuaku and Reed, hands down. He’s also got a better offensive game than the both of them. I’ve seen the kid play plenty of times against some of the best players in the world at his age group, and even though he is inconsistent at times, when he’s on he is a borderline five-star player. I’d take a scholarship risk on a shot blocking kid who likes to dunk any day.
And another thing that goes unsaid: Okonoboh is an NBA player if I’ve ever seen one, which means he’s probably a one-and-done kind of guy. Going down that road is a dangerous game to play, especially when the Terps don’t have the success to warrant bringing in a yearly replacement of 5* one-and-done kids to make up for early departures. As it stands now, Maryland may actually be better off with a guy who can contribute some in year one, and blossom in years two and three when all these young guns who are coming in will be hitting their peaks as college players.
With Goodluck, we probably don’t get that. With the other options, there’s a very good chance we do.
2.) Are you in favor of Maryland adding a wing player, and if so, who?
Chris Bengel: My method of thinking is that you can never have too many wings. With Dez Wells and Nick Faust possibly leaving after the 2013-2014 season, adding another wing make a lot of sense. Maryland could be entering the 2014-2015 season with just Jake Layman (who will be a junior) and freshman Jared Nickens at the three.
In the past week, the Terps have offered New Jersey forward Dominique Uhl and North Carolina forward Gary Clark. Both are listed at the power forward position but could play on the wing if Maryland has a lack of depth. Uhl has good height at 6’8 but only weighs a mere 180 pounds, proving that he could easily play on the wing. During his high school career, Uhl has made his living inside due to his massive height. The Point Pleasant beach native is also a monster on the glass and can shoot from the outside. Clark has a similar build to Uhl and also has played the power forward spot throughout his high school career. He also is a rebounding machine and is an incredibly strong force in the low post. He is also pretty quick in the open floor and can always seems to command the basketball.
The wing spot is such a key position for a basketball team and the Terps can’t afford to be thin a year or two down the line. I expect Layman to blossom into a big contributor by 2014 and will probably be a borderline starter. Nickens isn’t quite as highly regarded as the guys that he is coming in with, but he will be a key piece off the bench as a freshman and should be a four-year player for Turgeon. Adding another wing just puts even more talent on a team that could be extremely talented in a few years.
Willis: I’m in favor of adding as much quality talent as possible. And I’m emphasizing the word quality here. I’m a huge fan of stockpiling talent, because scholarships come and go with every offseason, and having a backup plan is never a bad thing. Faust and Wells are two candidates who could leave early, with Layman pulling up the rear if he has a monster season. At this point, calling up Liberty Mutual and signing up for a policy is a great idea.
That being said, I’d rather have quality players or nothing at all. If there is secession from the U, then replacing the lost piece with a sub-par talent is just a waste of our time and limits our flexibility. I’d rather have nothing and wait a season rather than scoop up someone who will hurt us on the court with their play.
So who would I add? I’d add Obi. He’s versatile enough that he may actually be able to learn the wing position (though it may take some time), and he has shown an ability to shoot from outside. Consider Obi could theoretically play three different positions on the floor, and is very unlikely to be a bad player in college, I’m all for scooping him up.
3.) Who is the most likely candidate to leave the team after this season?
Chris Bengel: It has to be Dez Wells. Now it’s not as sure a thing as Alex Len was coming into this past season but it definitely could happen. Wells has the body that NBA scouts look for. Wells is a 6-5 combo guard that has an insane amount of athleticism and finishes plays with flare.
The Raleigh native averaged 13.1 points-per-game to go along with 4.9 rebounds-per-game as a sophomore with the Terps last season.Wells isn’t a great shooter but he has all the physical tools to succeed at the next level. It’s going to come down to what type of season he has, as he definitely will be the leader of the team with Len now in the NBA. Even with the 2013 NBA Draft class expected to be one of the deepest in history, Wells can still be a first round pick if he produces throughout the 2013-2014 season. He has shown his ability to overcome adversity and has a great head on his shoulders.
I suppose Nick Faust could be a candidate if he does graduate early and potentially transfer. However, I just don’t see that happening. Wells just has too much upside to not be considered to play basketball at the professional level.
Willis: No matter what, it’ll more than likely be a wing. Dez Wells is on the NBA radar, and if the Terps make the tournament (which would allow him more exposure), given how much higher he raises his game in tough situations, I think scouts will scoop him up. Say what you want about Wells, he’s a pretty capable defender and an athlete, and those guys just don’t completely fail in the NBA. Tony Allen is a perfect example of a guy with no offensive game, but who committed himself to the defensive end and has made a living since. Dez doesn’t strike me as the lazy type on the D end of things, and as such I can see him being a role player in the league and leaving early for that opportunity.
Nick Faust might get fed up if he doesn’t improve this season even more and attempt to go elsewhere, be it overseas or to another college. I’m not entirely sure he’s going to leave, since he is such a great kid and loves the Terps, but if he does I wouldn’t blame him. Faust has a chance to be a huge leader on this team in 2014, and in all honesty I think Mark Turgeon does whatever it takes to keep him around. Ideally you want a senior leader to be starting on the team over some freshmen, and Faust can provide that consistency.
4.) Of all the 2014 recruits, which one do you see as having the most upside? Most downside?
Chris Bengel: As far most upside goes, I believe this is a relatively simple choice. Since committing to stay home and attend the University of Maryland, Romelo Trimble has been playing like a man possessed. Trimble has shown the ability to do it all in both WCAC and AAU play this year. The Bishop O’Connell star guard showed that he can drive to the basket and convert tough layups. That’s not even bringing up the fact that Trimble can also hit any shot from the outside and do it with great consistency. Plus, he doesn’t back down in key situations; Trimble netted 32 points in the WCAC championship game against St. John’s, whic h gave Bishop O’Connell their first title since 2004.
I would say the most downside would have to be Jared Nickens solely based on his ranking. I see Trimble and Dion Wiley being incredibly productive players at the collegiate level. But just because he isn’t a four or five star recruit, it doesn’t mean that he won’t be a player. Obviously he doesn’t have the upside of Trimble and only had one year in which he burst onto the scene. Yet Nickens improved his game immensely over the past year. He used to simply just be a shooter from the outside and didn’t have much else to offer. Now he has added a mid-range game and can drive to the basket which he previously didn’t do very often. He’s becoming more of a complete player but still has a little ways to go. That’s the only reason I see any downside to Nickens.
Willis: The most upside probably goes to Dion Wiley for me. The thing people forget about Wiley is that he can probably do even more than he’s doing right now, but because he’s on such a loaded AAU team, he’s not asked to do anything more than drain shots. In that regard, he does it incredibly well.
But from the glimpses I’ve seen of him, Wiley is also an underrated passer. He doesn’t always look for his shot, he just always puts himself in position to hit it. He gets a lot of secondary assists, and is fantastic at placing the ball right into an open man’s hands. He isn’t a visionary when it comes to dishing out assists, but you can count on Wiley to never disrupt the flow of the offense.
As for downside, it may also be Wiley just in terms of meeting expectations. He’s always going to be a good shooter because of how great his form is, but guess who else was a great shooter coming into college? (281)-330-8004. Wiley has a more complete game than him, but he has to prove that he can do more than just shoot on a college level consistently.
5.) Does it make sense for the Terps to add a fifth scholarship player to the 2014 class?
Chris Bengel: This coincides with one of the earlier questions. It is clear that Maryland needs to add depth to the frontcourt and could fill that spot with a guy like Chinanu Onuaku, Goodluck Okonoboh, or Martin Geben. However, it makes sense to add a wing as that fifth scholarship for the 2014 class. Like I said earlier, you can never have too much depth at any one position. The Terps had tremendous frontcourt depth this past season as they had Alex Len, James Padgett, Shaquille Cleare, and Charles Mitchell all playing significant minutes. Well now Len and Padgett are gone and the Terps need to have depth on the front lines. Yes, they do have Evan Smotrycz and Damonte Dodd coming in this year. However, Smotrycz only has two years of eligibility and it’s unclear what type of player Dodd will be.
As I said earlier, adding another wing makes sense with how deep the 2014 recruiting class is. It’s something that I’m sure Turgeon and his staff are heavily considering. After all, they wouldn’t have offered Dominique Uhl and Gary Clark if they weren’t considering it. We’ll see how it plays out but I think it makes complete sense to have a deep class then do patchwork to fill up the rest of the roster over the next few years.
Willis: It does and it doesn’t. Logically, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to use a scholarship in 2014 to a wing player. But realistically, scholarships are always a free-flowing thing in college, and they are historically not a solidified number. Adding a wing makes sense, but I have to urge again that the wing should be able to play multiple positions and be able to do at least one thing very well.