Mar 9, 2014; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon talks with his bench against the Virginia Cavaliers at Comcast Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Earlier today, news broke that the Maryland Terrapins landed a very late signing to the 2014 class, 7-footer Michal Cekovsky. Cekovsky wasn’t considered a legitimate target despite head coach Mark Turgeon and assistant Dustin Clarke traveling overseas to visit the Slovakian native at his high school numerous times. The signing came as a major surprise addition to a class that already included four players and one other big man (Trayvon Reed, Dion Wiley, Romelo Trimble, and Jared Nickens).
Now that we’ve had a couple hours to digest this news, we can start to understand the implications of such a signing. The first of which is that this definitely puts Maryland over the scholarship limit. Mark Turgeon has officially turned into an SEC football coach, because he’s oversigned for the 2014 class, and the rumblings about player attrition via transfer seem to be bearing fruit. As it stands (not including walk-ons, here’s Maryland’s scholarship situation)
1.) Dez Wells
2.) Nick Faust
3.) Evan Smotrycz
4.) Seth Allen
5.) Shaquille Cleare
6.) Charles Mitchell
7.) Jake Layman
8.) Roddy Peters
9.) Damonte Dodd
10.) Michal Cekovsky
11.) Romelo Trimble
12.) Jared Nickens
13.) Dion Wiley
14.) Trayvon Reed
The limit on scholarships is 13, and that list doesn’t include any walk-ons, so clearly the Terps have a problem. These numbers tend to work themselves out, but it’s apparent that someone (or a few someone’s) won’t be at College Park next season. With the plethora of big man options Maryland now has (Reed, Cekovsky, Smotrycz, Mitchell, and Cleare), there would presumably be a departure there to open up space.
Then again, there’s also a glut on the wing as well, as there are eight players currently on the roster capable of playing those positions. Trimble, Wiley, and Nickens coming in certainly put some pressure on the incumbent players, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see maybe a wing and a forward depart for other opportunities.
But assuming the scholarship situation gets worked out, as they tend to do, Maryland officially added a stretch four/five player who has a good amount of experience playing competitive ball abroad from a basketball factory. His high school overseas Canarias Basketball Academy, ensures that he’ll have at least some grasp of the English language before coming to Maryland, which definitely helps with the integration factor. Len had to learn English from scratch, so consider it a head start for Cekovsky coming in.
He’ll also be eligible to play right away, something that Len wasn’t capable of doing. Cekovsky was picked up by professional team Partizan Belgrade, but supposedly never signed a contract with the basketball club of former Wizards wing Jan Vesely. That in and of itself is a good thing for the Terps; no one wants to deal with an Enes Kanter situation half the season.
Regardless, the Terrapins got a stretch player who adds to the versatility of this team. While Smotrycz is more than capable of stretching defenses with his long ball, he’s also not a terribly great defender and isn’t a center. Cekovsky is a combo big, but he moves really well for his size and could defend the rim a lot better than anyone currently on the staff thanks to that length. He also provides another option offensively down low, as Trayvon Reed, Damonte Dodd, and Shaquille Cleare are still quite raw offensively.
But the best part about Cekovsky is that, based on his skill set, he plays nicely with just about every other big on the roster. Cekovsky can play alongside Charles Mitchell and the Terps can still thrive offensively without sacrificing interior defense (like they did anytime Chuck and Smotrycz played at the same time). They’ll still have a big man capable of finding open shooters and providing a little more offensively when necessary. Cekovsky can also contribute with Smotrycz to pester teams reliant upon big, slow forwards which should open things up for a team chock full of guards to slash away.
And best of all, he and Trayvon Reed should probably be able to play at the same time and not occupy the same space. Anytime you can bring in twin towers to bolster the front court in the same class, you’re in good shape. Reed is the better rim protector, but any 7-footer you bring in is a plus, especially one with a skill set as advanced as Cekovsky. That he can step out and still score only adds to how big of a land this is.
Cekovsky may only be a three star recruit, but he’s a top fifty player who just oozes potential. It’s hard to argue with Turgeon deciding to bring in an astounding five players in 2014, especially when they’re all this talented. Only Reed is pidgeon-holed into one position, because everyone else can play more than one (including Cekovsky). That gives Maryland a plethora of rotations to employ, and overall strengthens the team. Clearly you want to have a set rotation, but with how often Turgeon likes to play different lineups, this is a good thing.
Cekovsky is an unknown entity at this point, for the most part, but this is a good thing for Maryland. It’s going to shake the rotation up as well as the roster, but having a lot of options is better than having none like the Terps had in previous years. They just stole a recruit from Louisville, Florida, and Arizona; cheer up.