This past weekend, I made my way over the Kenner League at McDonough Arena on Georgetown’s campus to catch some local hoop stars and incoming freshmen play what are essentially glorified pickup games with referees. There are always a couple Maryland players in attendance each year, and this was no different; Pe’Shon Howard, James Gist, Robert Carter Jr., and Richaud Pack all played a bit at Kenner, along with plenty of guys who hail from the state.
Seeing as how a scant few Maryland fans have gotten the chance to see Pack actually play, I can imagine you’ll enjoy any and every bit of commentary on the super senior transfer from North Carolina A&T. Pack played on a team with former Terp Pe’Shon Howard and recent Maryland addition Robert Carter Jr. (formerly of Georgia Tech). I know, two guys who transferred to Maryland and one who transferred out all getting along, go figure. Regardless, take these musings with a grain of salt; it’s summer league, not a structured game.
1.) Pack’s going to have an impact, but not a huge one
The first thing you have to realize with Pack is that you don’t know a lot about him for a reason: he’s not a highlight reel player or a high-flying athlete. The contrast between someone like Tre Campbell (Dion Wiley’s former teammate) and Pack is stark. One sticks out like a sore thumb because of the speed and sheer talent inherent with some 4-star recruits; the other you have to look at a roster to realize he’s even on the court. Even a guy like Pe’Shon Howard (who looked great, by the way) will have probably outshine Pack at all times on the court.
But the understated game from Pack is expected. He’s not a 4-star recruit, nor is he a highly-coveted game changing transfer; he’s a veteran from the Sun Belt and MEAC who wasn’t rated by any service coming out of high school. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a gamer, though. By the end of the day (Sunday), Pack had 23 points and almost led his team in scoring. And yet it was Pe’Shon with the between the legs pass for a dunk on the break, and Carter Jr. with the putback jams following missed threes. Pack was just steady.
He scored almost all his points from beneath the basket on offensive rebounds or using back-to-the-basket post moves, and only knocked down (or even attempted) a few outside shots. Everything about his game screams efficiency, and looking back at his stats from last year, that 23.8 PER in conference play stands out now. Pack doesn’t beat many guys off the dribble, he’s just crafty (Pe’shon told me after the game “Not a lot of people heard of him, but he’s a good player.”). He’ll find open lanes, cut inside them, and draw contact. A lot of his points came off contact that led to free throw shots.
Another analyst friend of mine summed Pack up pretty well when he said earlier in the week that if you’re expecting Logan Aronhalt, expect differently. Aronhalt was a specialist at shooting that deep ball, which is more easily translatable in any league or conference than a combo guard coming from the MEAC to the Big Ten. That’s a major leap in competition, and Pack isn’t going to stand out like he did before. That doesn’t mean he won’t be great at relieving pressure from Trimble, Wells, or Wiley at times. I’d expect him to do a bit of everything for Maryland, and that includes bringing the ball up the court on occasion.
With Faust as your sixth man off the bench, you always had to worry about what he was going to do (good or bad). With Pack, you won’t need to. The high’s may not be as high, but the lows won’t be lows either.. There’s comfort in that.
2.) Carter should be a very good player for Maryland
On the other end of the spectrum, Carter Jr. is going to have a big impact on the Terps when he can actually play next season. I’d seen Carter play a handful of times in the past, and he’s always a tantalizing talent. Carter is a really versatile player in general, and this weekend he showed that off. He scored on the putback jams (as mentioned earlier) you’d expect from a high four-star recruit, but he also showed off a nice scoop hook and a developed back-to-the-basket game. On Sunday, Carter finished with a double-double (14 points, over 10 rebounds) and a few blocks to go along with lots of altered shots.
Carter doesn’t have a nose for rebounding like Charles Mitchell, the guy he replaced, but it’s not far behind. He’s 6’8 or 6’9, which is right on par with Smotrycz, but he’s a lot longer than that in actuality. He was constantly in the right position to grab boards on Sunday, and was even going after rebounds in a summer league game, which is complimentary.
At one point on Sunday, Carter was actually guarding Tre Campbell man-to-man at the top of the key. It was a major mismatch, but Carter managed to stay in front of Campbell and hold his own to force him into a contested jump shot (Campbell missed). Now imagine that same scenario, but replace Carter with Smotrycz and take a look at the results. Carter’s not some freak athlete for a guy his size, but he’s a capable, willing defender.
He’s efficient, and plays within himself. The shots Carter takes aren’t terrible, and he’s not going to press the issue much, but he’s a very good talent. I’m not sure if he’ll be a one-year rental for Maryland or he’ll be there for a couple seasons, but he will absolutely start day one for the Terps (barring something crazy happening). If he were eligible this year, he may start over Smotrycz. Get excited for Carter.