Dec 14, 2013; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard Nick Faust (5) passes the ball in the second half against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Comcast Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Gunnin’ Down A Dream: The Nick Faust Story


 

The Original Stay Home Movement

We’re gonna win a national championship. – Nick Faust, 2010

Back in 2011, the “Stay Home” movement, wherein recruits decide to attend college locally rather than continue the talent drain out of the DMV area, was still in its infancy. While Stefon Diggs, the Terps star wide receiver and former local high school phenom (he attended Good Counsel in Olney, Md.), is unquestionably the face of the unofficial movement after his unexpected commitment to the school, he didn’t start it. It’s origins go even further back than that, and even a year removed, still, from the Maryland Pride uniforms which the football team debuted in 2011.

In many regards, Nick Faust’s commitment was the originator of the Stay Home movement.

Faust is hopefully bridging the gap between national recruits like those and the more local recruits ranked in the mid-40s to mid-60s. – Ben Broman, TestudoTimes (2011)

Back in 2010 when Faust committed to Maryland, it was arguably one of the larger splashes the Terps had ever made in the recruiting scene. This wasn’t just the best player in the state and a consensus top fifty player committing to Maryland (though he was both), it was far more symbolic because of one small detail: Nick Faust was also the best player in Baltimore. Why’s that important?

Because the Maryland Terrapins never got the best Baltimore had to offer under Gary Williams. They missed on Josh Selby (2010, Kansas), Terrell Vinson (2009, UMass), Henry Sims (2008, Georgetown), Donte Green (2007, Syracuse), DaJuan Summers (2005, Georgetown) and obviously Carmelo Anthony (2002, Syracuse). The ties to that area were, plain and simple, severed. Gary had no interest in playing the Baltimore AAU circuit and some of the shadier games, and it showed; Baltimore was a city lost. Maryland wasn’t just bleeding homegrown talent to northern schools like Syracuse or Villanova; they were losing out locally to Georgetown too (Greg Whittington also chose the Hoyas).

But then Nick Faust committed. In late 2010 when he decided to attend, there wasn’t even a question about who the best player in Baltimore was (or Maryland, for that matter). It was Nick Faust, the star scorer of Baltimore City College and an AAU phenom. A state title, range for days, the ability to rise up and slam it home, and with those youthful looks, Faust was set to become the Babyface Killer; he was literally compared to Stephen Curry. New assistant coach Bino Ranson and his AAU connections were starting to bear fruit, and Faust was the first of many. His addition made it feel like Maryland had a good shot at another top local prospect, Adjehi Baru, and that 2011 class was looking more and more like it would propel Maryland back to prominence for a long time. From the Baltimore Sun:

When the Terps added Baltimore native Bino Ranson — who Faust said he’s known since he was 9 — to their coaching staff in June, the stakes were raised even higher. Suffice it to say Faust was feeling just a little bit of hometown pressure from Maryland fans to pick the Terps.

“I think they wouldn’t have been too mad [if I committed elsewhere], but maybe a little upset,” Faust said with a laugh.

Then Gary Williams retired at the end of the 2011 season, Sterling Gibbs and Martin Breunig asked for their release, and Nick Faust was an island in that recruiting class. Eventually, Faust would ask for his letter of release before eventually settling officially on Maryland as Mark Turgeon was hired and convinced him to stay. Faust, the top player in Baltimore, chose Maryland.

He could have left after the future Hall of Fame coach put the mantle down. He could have done exactly what Gibbs and Breunig did and gone somewhere with a more certain future and a bit more stability. Instead, Faust was as loyal as they come and seemed prepared to take on the title of heir apparent to the last overlooked Baltimore kid who led Maryland to a national championship.

And during his commitment at the Baltimore Inner Harbor, what did Nick Faust say when asked why people should fear Maryland?

“We’re gonna win a national championship.”

I’ll Be Gone Till (After) November

The Terps were still looking for that player to fill the star role left by Greivis Vasquez graduation and Jordan Williams early departure for the NBA. With the absence of seniors Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker, and Dino Gregory, Maryland had minutes to spare at the guard position in 2012. With Pe’Shon Howard hit with the injury bug and Terrell Stoglin showing it in spurts the season prior, there was a wide open spot for the underrated B-More boy to step in immediately and prove himself worthy of being the heir apparent to Juan Dixon.

Faust got every kid’s dream of starting on day one, and his career started off against UNC-Wilmington (a 1-of-4 performance from the floor to the tune of 7 points and 6 rebounds). Turgeon actually gave Faust the nod over Terrell Stoglin for his first game. Though that changed the very next game, it goes to show you how much the new coach was still becoming acclimated to both his roster and the talent he had at his disposal. No role was safe, certain, or established.

Unfortunately, Nick’s first November of his college career would end up being just like every other one during his three-year legacy: starter’s minutes and terrible shooting. Faust’s second game was a 1-of-6 performance from the floor (1-of-4 from deep) in a loss to Alabama that, really, was emblematic of his propensity for slow starts to his season’s. To shorten the story, Faust finished November shooting 24% from the floor over six games, while hitting a pretty low 13% of his three pointers (3-of-22). He scored in double figures once: 15 points against a tournament bound Colorado team. In other words, just enough to tantalize and give you hope that he’d figure things out.

At the time, we chalked that inconsistency up to freshman jitters; Faust was just getting acclimated to the collegiate game. Freshmen take time, and there were still enough glimpses of success that a slow start was no biggie.

It took Nick 11 games to lose his starting job during 2011-12 season. Funnily enough, Faust’s first excursion to the bench was against future Terp Logan Aronhalt’s Albany team, and on the same day Alex Len played his first game for Maryland.

Faust scored ten points off the bench that night, with four rebounds and no turnovers.

Aprendiz De Todo, Maestro De Nada

We should probably stop right there and discuss one of the biggest, shall we say, anomalies, in Nick Faust’s career at Maryland: his role. We could talk about his annual November slump; we could discuss his attitude; we could discuss his basketball acumen. But we can never talk about his role on the team because Faust never really had or grew into one.

“There’s been so many changes since he’s been here and we didn’t have many [scoring] options, so he had to create a little bit harder. I think he’s trying to find himself.” – Pe’Shon Howard, 2011

To be clear, Nick’s initial role at Maryland was to be a sharp shooter that everyone slept on. Heck, ESPN thought Faust was brought in to be Stephen Curry for the Terps, literally. In retrospect, those lofty expectations for Faust were essentially delusions of grandeur given what he was, but that didn’t stop the fan base (and probably coaching staff) from lapping it up. You don’t get called Stephen Curry in any capacity if people don’t think you can ball.

But Faust’s slow starts to every single season punted his chance at securing the role of first gunner at Maryland; he was unreliable every season. Faust never once shot over 20% from deep during his three November’s in College Park (13% his freshman year, 22% his sophomore, 20% his junior). Even when he put in a solid offseason of work (for example, in 2012 the talk was about his massively improved jump shot), Faust could never put it together for the Terps right away and live up to those preseason expectations. Every year, folks would get excited for the coming of Faust, and every year without pause Faust would have a terrible first month or so.

Eventually, pretty much every coach on the staff and fan alike was thinking the same thing: bring him off the bench. You’d be right in that assumption. Faust’s herky-jerky, all over the place play wasn’t made for teammates; it was made for someone who could be instant offense if he got hot, and would just kill the productivity in a typically unproductive second-unit if he got cold. At least he wouldn’t stagnate the first unit’s mojo.

It took Nick 11 games to lose his starting job during 2011-12 season.

(Side note: Faust’s first excursion to the bench was against future Terp Logan Aronhalt’s Albany team, and on the same day Alex Len played his first game for Maryland. Go figure.)

Faust scored ten points off the bench that night, with four rebounds and no turnovers. A decent line for a decent bench player with tons of talent.

But this is where the Faust paradox exists:

He starts the season off slowly, so you move him to the bench in hopes that he starts to produce in some capacity. He then starts to play well, make some plays, and build up your trust in him, so you think he’s ready to start for your team. Eventually you start him down the stretch, he kills it, and you assume he’ll be a reliable option in that role next season. He then starts the season off slowly, so you move him to the bench, in hopes that he starts to produce in some capacity. He then starts to play well…

You get the point.

No one knew where to play Faust, not even Turgeon.

When Pe’Shon Howard went down his freshman year, Faust was playing the point guard spot decently enough, but that was only because Maryland had no other realistic options. He also filled that role again when Howard was borderline unplayable his sophomore season, but Faust again became a playmaking turnover machine, so Turgeon relegated him off the ball.

Faust has always been a playmaker, there’s no mistaking that. He’s been one of the better passers for Maryland every season he’s been around for the Terps. But the net gain for all those stunt-plane passes is somewhere around zero. For every great play Nick Faust makes, there is an equal and opposite reaction that cripples the Terps. A quick look at the stats shows his assist to turnover ration to be right about 1:1 (226 assists to 218 turnovers).

So Faust.

And even if he wasn’t a point guard, there was a chance he could play the other backcourt or swingman spot because of his defense. That would be fine for Nick, too, if he decided to just become a defender and not some do-it-all maestro with the ball. But Faust played the shooting guard spot like a combo guard without a filter. Turnovers, missed three pointers, errant drives. Faust wanted to score like Kobe, but he couldn’t hit jumpers reliably; he wanted to be top notch passing swingman like Kobe, but he turned it over too much; he wanted to drive like Kobe, but he wasn’t aggressive enough.

All that tenacity offensively you’d find from Faust as a bench player with tons of energy, was lost on Faust as a starting shooting guard. Or a starting small forward. It always felt like (and still feels like) Faust had too much talent to be a bench player, so you never wanted to leave him there. Unfortunately, he never developed.

“Has Nick Faust finally turned the corner between being a talented but erratic player who has been as fun to coach as he has been infuriating?” – Don Markus

What home does a player who finishes the final 11 games of the season averaging 12 points per and shooting lights out have when the other 20 are so frustrating it isn’t worth it?

The constant lowering of expectations throughout Nick Faust’s career were perhaps the most infuriating aspects of his game. Faust titillated us with talent so many times, showed so many glimpses of becoming that star player Maryland so desperately sought, that the inevitable frustration one would get when he wouldn’t live up to those expectations bordered on painful. That’s being a fan.

But separate yourself from the fandom, away from the angst about mind-numbing lay-up attempts at the last second when you need a timeout. One thing is certain:

 

 The jump

never

 

happened.

You almost feel for Coach Turgeon here. Faust is and always will be a dedicated defender, and in that regard he’s someone you don’t ever mind having on a basketball court. He works hard on and off the court and has since he arrived on campus; how can you not believe that someone who works as hard as Faust does isn’t going to just turn it around all of the sudden? Shooters eventually learn to start hitting shots consistently.

But with Faust, it just didn’t happen, and that’s what has been so morose about his entire career. Statistically, he’s more or less flatlined since his freshman year. His shot hasn’t gotten any more consistent despite his improvement mechanically, and while he’s turning the ball over less, Faust isn’t doing what Maryland has needed the most since he’s gotten here: scoring.

From his freshman year to his junior year, Faust gets to the line less, he attempts more threes and makes them at a lower rate, and doesn’t produce as much offensively as he used to. Faust was a fading star this year as the realization sank in that he wasn’t really looked at as a scorer this season because of his inefficiency. You could tell after the very first game against Connecticut that Faust wanted to be the alpha dog for the Terps offensively, but no one wanted it.

“His floor game is so much better than it’s been. In practice, he’s making really good decisions.” Turgeon said after the loss to UConn. “He was just excited. Hit a few, thought he needed to hit some shots for us. If he could take a few back, I’m sure he would. He’ll learn from it.”

That was three weeks ago. – Daniel Martin, CSN

What everyone wanted was for Faust to embrace the role of being the best defender and transition player Maryland had ever seen, and in the half-court sets he would default to just about everyone else. They wanted Faust to ignore offense and strap down elite scorers so Maryland didn’t need to score as much.

“This is a mess. When you lose over 20% of your roster, it’s a problem. Is this going to kill us for next year? No, but these are Turgeon’s kids and there is more and more rumbling out there about him being a hard coach to play for. Not good, not good at all.” – TestudoTimes commenter Terpentine

If there’s one certainty about Faust’s departure, it’s that they lost a very competent defender and a senior who was regarded as a hard worker and a positive influence. The rush to bring in new, talented recruits isn’t going to bring in a veteran worker. Faust averaged a little over a steal a game, and only two fouls per contest; he could always be relied on to stay on the court and defend.

No matter what, that’s not a replaceable part in the program. The departure of Faust will hurt. Seniors want it more, they play harder, and they tend to be focused because it’s their last go-round as ball players. You generally want them on your team, and without a massive influx of talent, you’re not going to win most big time games without them.

Faust leaving puts the onus on some young guys much earlier than initially anticipated. The writing was on the wall for him (and really, Shaquille Cleare) after Maryland signed a three elite guards to their incoming class. Three guys coming in that play your position and not even scholarships to go around got a little awkward. Attrition had to happen, and these things always tend to work themselves out. Nick had his chances, and it’s sad to see him go. But at what point is it some other young, local talent’s turn to continue to Stay Home Movement? To try and be the consistency Maryland wanted from Nick?

They brought in Dion Wiley because he sure, he can bring the ball up the court sometimes, but he’s definitely a long, swingman and not a ton else. They brought in Melo Trimble because he’s decidedly a backcourt player, either the one or the two. They brought in Jared Nickens because he’s a gunner like Faust with the length to become a defender. They’ve got roles moving forward, but will any one of them become the master at one of them that Nick Faust hadn’t shown himself to be?

That’s the question we’ll really have an answer to this time next year.

Happy trails, Nick Faust. It was a pleasure to watch you play.

Tags: Mark Turgeon Maryland Terrapins Nick Faust Terps Basketball