With news coming in from multiple sources claiming that Roddy Peters seems poised to become the starter of the Maryland Terrapins basketball team after his surprising ten point, six assist outing against Oregon State, it’s probably worth discussing it. Peters, the five-star freshman, came into College Park with quite a bit of acclaim and expectations to his name. Up to this point, Coach Mark Turgeon seemed to want to shield Peters from doing too much, too soon. After all, Peters was just coming off shoulder surgery the year prior, hadn’t played in nearly a year, and was making the leap from high school to one of the toughest conferences in the nation.
But you don’t bring in five-star point guards to let them sit idly on the bench. Not at any school, and definitely not at one where your would-be senior point guard transfers out and your three-star replacement combo guard gets hurt before the season begins. That’s what blue chip, marquee players are brought in for; they can start right away, and they can make an impact immediately.
We saw how good Peters could be against Oregon State, which employed a zone defense for the vast majority of his time on the court. Peters the court like his sandbox; whatever he wanted, he just took. Getting to the rim was a formality, and because of how much body control this kid has, he finished with 5-of-9 shooting for the night. Peters may not really have much of a jumper right now, but against a fair amount of opponents that isn’t going to matter. He can exact damage by getting to the rim and finishing, all while drawing contact.
That’s how a Peters offense operates: bring a defender out to the perimeter to guard him, stutter-step his way to the rim in a pretty fluid manner, and dump the ball off once a help defender commits. He does it with the ease of a veteran guard, and it’s his modus operandi. It’s why he works so well alongside Dez Wells. When Wells is off the ball, Peters getting to the rim opens up space for Wells, should he get a kick out. Against a zone, slashing to the rim breaks the foundation of the defense, and ensures someone like Wells has more room to operate and get open. Three of his assists against Oregon State came on plays where he collapsed the zone onto him, dumped it off to a cutter or a big man for an uncontested finish at the rim.
Imagine playing this lineup: Peters, Wells, Layman, Smotrycz, Shaq/Chuck. What it lacks in size on the defensive end, it more than makes up for in versatility. No one under 6’4, an inside presence, two perimeter shooters, an athlete who can draw contact, and two solid rebounders. Offensively, it’s going to be hard to stop if the shots are falling, and I think that’s what Coach Turgeon understands. It also includes the most important part of the offense: an actual facilitator. Peters can thrive in that role, in that lineup.
Peters likes to push the tempo, but that doesn’t mean he’s just a run first point guard. His first step and shiftiness suggests he can thrive even when Maryland is forced into half court sets. Nearly all of his assists this year actually came during half court play and not on the fast break. While he does have a propensity towards speeding up play, that’s more attributable to being a freshman still feeling the game out than it is an actual flaw in his game. If Peters can master the pick-and-pop quickly, he and Layman could be deadly. Or he and Dez Wells, it really doesn’t matter who.
That would, of course, put Nick Faust on the bench. The junior guard has been aggressive this season offensively, and has come up big for Maryland as a defender on numerous occasions. Still, Nick Faust is a good kid, and if Turgeon requests that he come off the bench, then Faust will be the same aggressive playmaker there as he was as a starter. As it stands, it might be better in the long run. There seems to be too much personality on the first team offense, anyway. A lot of times, these guys try to do it themselves as the rest of the team ball watches. Sure, they can do it by themselves, but that’s not the way basketball games are won. Giving Faust the freedom to go it alone against a second team defense should boost, for starters, his stats, and secondly his focus and intensity. That’s a good thing.
Still, there are some issues with his game that will limit him a bit. For one, while you can’t deny him the left side of the basket (Peters is a natural southpaw), he doesn’t really have a very developed right hand. A lot of his turnovers come on switching over his dribble from right to left, or left to right, and the minute coaches get a hold of that tape, they’re going to prey on it. Most of his baskets come from the left side of the basket, and he tends to pass to the right side of the court off drives. These are things that the Thad Mattas, the Jim Boeheim’s, and the Coach K’s of the world will figure out upon a cursory look at game film.
Peters also can’t shoot well. His mechanics need a pretty significant revamping, from what’s been seen thus far. He doesn’t have the range to extend a defense, and if they play off him he won’t be nearly as much a threat as fans would like. He’s also a pretty poor defender. For as good as Peters is at getting to the rim, he doesn’t quite understand the defense yet, and has trouble staying in front of his defender. His decision making on defense is the main culprit. Oftentimes, you can find him guarding the wrong man on the press, or not fighting through screens, or keeping his hands at his knees.
He also has this maddening propensity to try and draw fouls unsuccessfully by throwing his hands into the air. Four of his turnovers (going back to the Catholic game), have come from Peters driving into trouble on a fastbreak or in a half court set, and throwing his hands into the air the minute a defender gets a finger on the ball. That might work in high school, but acting classes aren’t for the college game. The end result is a turnover where there could have potentially been a scrum. It’s good that he’s expecting contact, but he should be expecting the right contact.
And then there’s the question of what to do once Seth Allen gets back from injury. For some, this may eventually become a controversy; does Seth Allen get the start he earned in the offseason even if Peters is playing well? It’s a valid point. Allen will still have more experience against the ACC, and was presumed to have gotten a lot better in the offseason. It seems only right that he should be able to continue to lead the offense that he’d worked so hard to become the general of in the summer months.
Still, I wouldn’t put much stock into this one. Allen will be coming back from injury, which means he won’t be up to speed right away. It’ll take time for him to fully recover, and removing Peters from the lineup for a guy with rust wouldn’t make much sense. Even if Seth Allen comes in and plays incredible basketball right from the get go, that only makes the Terps a better team with more depth. It’s not a controversy when everyone will be okay with it. Allen starts and Peters mans a strong second team; Peters starts and Allen goes on offensive explosions with the second unit. All of it is good for the program.
Peters is going to be good for Maryland. The offense just looks better when he’s on the court, as long as he isn’t making freshman mistakes. He’s going to have his ups and downs, starter or not, so expect them. But for a freshman to start after only three games? That’s something Maryland should welcome with open arms.