Maryland came into their contest against West Virginia riding the high of a heart-pounding win over Valparaiso on Friday afternoon in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. However, losing guard Melo Trimble in the second half coupled with West Virginia’s tough defensive effort, proved to be too much for the Terrapins to overcome.
While it’s hard to see a player of the caliber of guard Dez Wells leave the program, he did have a significant impact and is one of the main reasons why Maryland is currently in the position that they are.
The Terps were a high-profile program that was struggling to make the NCAA Tournament every season before Wells transferred to College Park before the start of the 2012-13 season. It was a team searching for an identity under newly-minted coach Mark Turgeon.
Wells quickly came in and displayed his winning attitude of hard work and dedication that resonated with the Maryland faithful. Just three years later, the Terps were able to finally reach the NCAA Tournament and are coming off a very successful opening season in the Big Ten.
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Yes, Maryland will lose forward Jon Graham, guard Richaud Pack, forward Evan Smotrycz, and Wells to graduation. However, there’s plenty of reasons why the future is bright.
First of all, one of the biggest reasons for Maryland’s success during the 2014-15 season was the play of Trimble. Maryland’s star freshman will return to College Park for his sophomore season and could be even more polished in year two. As a freshman, the Bishop O’Connell product averaged 16.3 points-per-game, 3.8 rebounds-per-game, and 3.1 assists-per-game in 33.6 minutes-per-game. Trimble was handed the reigns of the point guard position from day one and proved that he was essential to running the offense. Having your true point guard back in the fold is definitely a reason to remain optimistic for Maryland’s chances of repeating this year’s success.
Forward Jake Layman is another key piece that will likely be returning next year. Layman does have tremendous NBA potential, but he’s not being pegged by many NBA Draft publications to be a high draft pick. It’s likely Layman stays for his fourth season and tries to make the jump to a first round pick. Layman made significant strides as a junior and averaged 12.6 ppg to go along with 5.9 rpg. The Massachusetts native was more aggressive at times and attacked the basket quite a bit more than he had previously in his collegiate career. Layman will likely play Robin to Trimble’s Batman, but will be a huge piece in the Maryland offense once again.
Aside from Trimble, it was unclear if any other freshmen would step up and play big minutes for the Terps. While guard Dion Wiley was the next highest-rated recruit, guard/forward Jared Nickens ended up producing in a big role. The former Westtown School star averaged 6.1 ppg and was a 39.4 percent shooter from beyond the arc. Nickens was instant offense off the bench and was nearly always one of the first players that Turgeon went to when the team needed a spark. The New Jersey native will likely be a starter for the Terps as a sophomore and it’ll be interesting to see how he grows into a more complete player.
One piece that Terps fans may be forgetting about is Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter Jr. When Maryland had six players transfer from the program after the 2013-14 season, it was expected that the Terps would attempt to lure a big to College Park and boy did they. Maryland ended up reeling in the biggest fish possible as Carter and former Terp Charles Mitchell ended up swapping schools. As a sophomore with the Yellow Jackets, Carter averaged 11.4 ppg (third on the team) and 8.4 rpg (first). Carter is a very athletic big that can stretch the floor due to his decent shooting ability. With Carter and Layman on the floor at the same time, the Terps could be a match-up nightmare for opposing teams.
One of the pleasant surprises for the Terps this season was the play of center Damonte Dodd. Dodd played sparingly as a freshman, so it wasn’t quite known what kind of impact he would have during the 2014-15 season. The Eastern Shore native played an integral role in Maryland’s success, despite not having eye-popping statistics. Dodd blocked 1.4 shots per game, which is the most by a Terp since Alex Len averaged 2.1 blocks-per-game during the 2012-13 season. Dodd was a ferocious rim-protector that definitely had his moments on both ends on the floor. With the freshman success of Michal Cekovsky, there won’t be nearly as much pressure on Dodd to be an inside presence early on.
As much as the roster in its current state is impressive, Maryland will add JuCo point guard Jaylen Brantley and possibly prized center recruit Diamond Stone. Obviously, Wisconsin is still viewed as the frontrunner for Stone’s services, but Maryland’s success this season coupled with Turgeon’s success with big men can’t be overstated.
The 2014-15 season was certainly one to remember for the Maryland men’s basketball program and it could be just a building block for a successful future.
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