These aren’t situations any head coach wants to have to deal with. Mass transfers from the basketball team that render three recruiting cycles basically defunct (the rest of 2011, 2012 minus Layman, all of 2013), zero tournament berths entering your fourth year, entirely new opponents to prepare for in an entirely new conference, and one of your highest rated recruits in your incoming class officially not coming to the university. Mark Turgeon’s aging in dog years right now.
Trayvon Reed, the 9th rated center in the 2014 class, is gone now in case you haven’t heard, and the Terrapins are going to have to adjust quite a bit. Much like throwing a stone into a pond, the initial impact also creates waves, and those extend to matters both on the court and on the recruiting trail. Trayvon Reed was supposed to be the project big man who may not have been ready to play right away, but could have been a monster a few years down the road. He was supposed to be that rim protecting center.
The roster is officially janky
Without Trayvon Reed, Maryland’s roster has yet another big man problem in that they legitimately don’t have a center. Reed was the only true center Maryland had, and even though he was an injured true freshman who wasn’t ready for prime time, he was still a skyscraper to throw into the middle in a pinch. There’s no avoiding the fact that this is officially Maryland’s weakest point on their roster, and it makes losing Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell hurt just a little more.
As it stands, Maryland’s going to have to rely on Damonte Dodd, Jonathan Graham, and Michal Cekovsky in a center-by-committee approach. The worst part is that none of those players are true centers; Graham is undersized, Dodd is skinny and has no offense, and Cekovsky is a freshman stretch 4. Damonte Dodd is going to get mauled by some of these Big Ten forwards and centers who are thick as he gets thrown in this year. Jonathan Graham lost his starting spot as a Big Ten forward a year and some change ago because of a lack of skill, and he’s not a center. And I challenge anyone to name for me the last dominant European imported big man to thrive in his first year in a major conference. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
This doesn’t only gimp Maryland’s raw numbers at the center position, but it also indirectly affects the power forward position. With Cekovsky the prime candidate to start at center (unless Dodd is doing amazing things this offseason), the backup power forward spot is occupied by Graham, and not Cekovksy. Smotrycz played too many minutes last year and his back broke down on him. Maryland’s ability to keep him fresh was going to be easy with Cekovsky able to relieve some of that pressure without a huge drop off in talent. But the drop off in talent and ability between Smotrycz and Graham is a gulf. The same applies for Dodd, too.
But that’s the bad news, because the good news is that Reed probably wasn’t going to be that much of a game changer (performance-wise) right away. He was a body, and a really big one with five fouls attached to him, but that’s it. If Maryland can remain very healthy and Cekovsky is as good as the reviews on him are suggesting he is, Maryland doesn’t have a problem on their hands. Sure, their backup options are nonexistent should Damonte Dodd or Smotrycz go down, but that’s not how you should look at things. Still, Maryland is a prime example of Murphy’s Law, so…
Maryland’s 2015 & 2016 recruiting focuses need to change
Maryland has to bring in another big man in 2015, that much we know, and their chances of landing an elite big man probably only got a little better with the departure of Reed. Maryland can pitch to any big man recruit one thing that a lot of elite big men want: minutes. The power forward position is occupied for at least the next two years behind Carter Jr. and Cekovsky, but the first big man off the bench/rim protector spot is open for the taking. That should appeal to a lot of prospects that may not have wanted to sit behind Reed or Cekovsky right away.
But to be sure, a guy like Diamond Stone wasn’t going to be coming to Maryland anyway. He was a reach before the news broke, and he’s just as much a reach now. Maryland’s not landing the best center in any given class without wins and tons of luck. They’re just going to have to start looking a little more at the big man options in 2015 and 2016 a little harder.
Develle Phillips of Clinton Christian has gotten some looks from the Terps before, and while he’s not the highest rated player he does have fantastic length and a nose for blocking the ball. Having gotten the chance to see him play more than a few times, I can say with confidence that he’d never start right away for Maryland, but could develop into a competent power forward much further down the road.
Other than that, Maryland could just try making some major inroads in the 2016 class. Mouth of Wilson (VA) center Rodney Miller is a solid talent who has interest in local rival Georgetown. There’s no reason why Maryland couldn’t appeal to a guy interested in staying locally, and they could certainly sway him from a crowded Hoyas rotation. These are down the road, obviously, but Maryland might as well start looking.
But the reality is that Maryland is going to cast a wide net in an attempt to see what bites they can get. This opens up the Terps options for a post player, and given that so often big men emerge from out of nowhere (like Chinanu Onuaku last season), Maryland could be in luck. It goes without saying that one of the best coaches among his peers at luring in transfer players is going to be eyeballing that constantly growing marketplace this summer as well.
Regardless, the Terrapins have work to do.
The prognosis isn’t as bad as it seems, but it isn’t perfect either
While losing Trayvon Reed is less than ideal, Maryland can recover from something like this. The good news for the Terps is that Reed doesn’t hurt them a ton in the short term. Thing have to start going the Terps way though, or this could all fall apart pretty quickly. They’re susceptible to death by injury now, or death by inexperience and players not panning out.
If Maryland gets good luck, they’re going to be able to adjust just fine. They’ve got to refocus on the recruiting trail to grab a post player with some size who can block shots, but that’s not a terrible thing. Maryland’s been good at recruiting so far, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t do it well again.