Following the Maryland Terrapin’s loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night, it is difficult to pull many positives. Maryland couldn’t buy a basket for long stretches nor could they stop Pittsburgh from getting open opportunities on the defensive end. After playing their best game of the season Saturday afternoon, Maryland looked like a completely different team Monday night. Part of the problem could have been the quick turnaround from playing a Saturday 2:00pm game, traveling, and then playing Monday night at 7:00pm. Either way, with the non-conference Maryland had, their is no more room for excuses.
Despite the poor showing on Monday night, there was one positive that really stood out. Maryland has lacked on court leadership since the 2009-2010 season, but a young sophomore might be growing into the leader that the Terrapins so desperately need. Sophomore guard Seth Allen has never been shy to the big stage of college, which was a surprise to everyone given his recruiting ranking and lower profile high school. Last season as a freshmen, Allen stepped up in key situations and delivered good results (two go ahead free throws against Duke) but some times poor results (missed game tying three against Florida State). Regardless of the outcome from these situations, it was encouraging to see a young player feel as confident as Allen was when these situations arose.
The sophomore class right now at Maryland, has been a mixed bag of good and bad, and it is part of the reason for Maryland’s struggles so far. Even though Seth Allen has missed a majority of the season, his return has stabilized the team and calmed everyone down. There is something about the way he conducts himself on the court and his genuine excitement about the game that has calmed his teammates down. It is evident in the way that guys like Nick Faust, Dez Wells, and Shaq Cleare have looked like different players since getting Allen back.
Following the 2009-2010 season, Maryland has struggled with leadership on their teams. Guys like Jordan Williams and Terrell Stoglin could fill a stat sheet up, but they didn’t make the other four players on the court better. Sean Mosley and James Padgett despite being seniors were more quiet in their approach. Last season, Dez Wells’ late game heroics would lead you to believe that he was the leader of the team, but even he and coach Turgeon said at times that Dez struggled to be a leader given how late he arrived on campus and how late he was cleared to play. The last player Maryland had who fired up the fans, made his teammates better, and took ownership of the team was 2010 ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez.
Vasquez didn’t come in a leader, and he didn’t take over the locker room right away and make the team his. Even as a sophomore, Vasquez struggled with his increased role on the team after losing one of the better post championship senior classes. Vasquez had good moments (15 assist vs North Carolina State) and he had bad moments (fouling out mid way through the second half against Boston College). All of this served as a learning experience for Vasquez, who’s team ended the season at Syracuse in the second round of the NIT. Junior year (2008-2009) is when Vasquez came into his own and began to show that he could be one of the greats to wear a Maryland uniform, as he lead a team with a 6’6″ center to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The story of Vasquez’s senior year is well known, with Maryland winning a share of the ACC regular season championship and Vasquez being named ACC Player of the Year, the culmination of four years of hard work.
Seth Allen is still figuring himself out as a basketball player, and most importantly how he fits in with this year’s Maryland team. After missing as much time as he did, it will take him some time. Already though, you can see him leaving his mark on games. One thing that we know for sure, is that Seth brings on-court leadership and courage to a team still figuring themselves out. Numerous studies have been done on leadership, and if people are born leaders or if they become leaders. From what I have seen of Seth Allen so far, the way he carries himself, the trust his coaches have in him, and the way his teammates respond to him, it is clear that he possesses the qualities of a leader.
This year’s Terrapins are still a young team. They are still learning how to play into their new roles and how to do so consistently. Getting Allen back on the court will make this transition easier for everyone. Monday night at Pittsburgh showed how important it is for Maryland to have him in the line-up. Once Seth Allen gets back to 100%, the Maryland Terrapins will look like a more cohesive and well rounded team. A team who understands their roles and feeds off of their young leader.
Seth Allen is a special player who has the ability to make those around him better, and this will go a long way. He may not replicate what Vasquez did at Maryland, but I feel confident saying that he will leave a positive mark on the Terrapins program once he’s finished. Similar to Vasquez, there will be bumps along the road to success. How Seth Allen manages those bumps will be the most telling. For now though, lets put aside our desperate desire to get back to the NCAA Tournament and enjoy watching a young sophomore go through the growing pains that come from being good to great.