Maryland Basketball: Analyzing the incoming Terrapin freshmen

Mar 23, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon and special assistant Juan Dixon during practice the day before the semifinals of the South regional of the NCAA Tournament at KFC YUM!. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 23, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon and special assistant Juan Dixon during practice the day before the semifinals of the South regional of the NCAA Tournament at KFC YUM!. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports /

In the fall, the Maryland basketball team will be back with plenty of new faces.

Robert Carter, Jake Layman, Diamond Stone, and Rasheed Sulaimon are all gone. Melo Trimble has declared for the draft but hasn’t hired an agent, so his fate is still uncertain.

Still, that potentially means Maryland’s entire 2015-2016 starting lineup could turn pro, and even if Trimble stays, the Terrapins will need younger players to show up ready to make a difference on day one. The 2016 recruiting class isn’t completely settled, but Maryland has three incoming freshmen and could possibly grab at least one other transfer player on top of it.

Maryland is still in the running for 2016 five-star forward Terrance Ferguson, who is announcing on Friday. It appears to be a long shot with Arizona looking like the heavy favorite.

Let’s focus on the three guys we know for sure are going to be wearing a Maryland uniform in November:

Point guard Anthony Cowan is Maryland’s top recruit. He’s billed much like Melo Trimble was: an offensive-minded point guard who can pass, drive to the basket, and hit jump shots. He averaged 20.6 points his senior season, including a very impressive 40-point game against Bishop O’Connell (Va.). Cowan is a great ball handler, and uses his mobility with the ball to drive for layups. He also can dish to a big man, which might has served him well during his career in the WCAC. The big question is if he can pull off those maneuvers in college. He’s listed at 6’0, which means he will require extra finesse to finish around the basket.

Cowan’s smaller stature doesn’t seem to hurt him on the defensive end, though. He’s got a reputation as a strong on-ball defender.

Most scouting reports emphasize Cowan’s ability to drive on the basket as opposed to his jump shot, but the above video reveals a quick, compact, and smooth shooting motion. Those are normally good signs. Just a quick warning before you spend too much time scrutinizing this video: everyone looks like a five-star prospect in highlight reels.

Guard Kevin Huerter is Maryland’s other top recruit. It would stand to reason that only one player could be considered “top” of Maryland’s recruiting class, but that determination actually depends on which list you’re watching. On his high school team (Shenendehowa in Clifton Park, NY), Huerter mostly plays point guard, but I expect him to play more of a combo guard at Maryland, maybe even small forward in certain lineups. He’s not the ball handler that Cowan is, but he has all the skills you would expect of a guard: he can run an offense, pass, shoot from the outside, and drive to the basket.

That skill set would be formidable in someone 6’0, but Huerter has grown to 6′ 7 and barely needs to jump to shoot over the heads of most players who try to guard him. Huerter has earned the most accolades as an outside shooter, but he can make impressive moves to the basket when he wants to, using his long stride to step around defensive players for an easy layup or an effortless-looking dunk. We’ll see if he’s strong enough to take the ball into the paint at the next level.

The position Huerter will take on the team next year likely depends on whether or not Trimble gets an agent. If Trimble is out, we’ll see him more as a guard, maybe even at point. If Trimble stays, Huerter will probably be Jared Nickens’ backup on the wing, or maybe make an appearance in a three-guard lineup. The nice thing about a player with Huerter’s diverse skill set is that you can move him around as needed.

Small forward Micah Thomas is Maryland’s third and last commit as of this moment. As a less prominent recruit, it’s more difficult to get a read on him, but the general consensus is that he’s being brought in for his defensive abilities. He has more than enough foot speed to keep up with guards and a large wingspan to help make him an effective shot blocker, even against taller shooters.

Additionally, he has a reputation for being pretty good from the three point line, though his shooting style is a bit odd. Unconventional three point form isn’t always bad news, but watching the video of Thomas below shows that his shot is a little slow and a little low. That works fine when you’re 6′ 7 in high school, but try that in college and you’re liable to get the ball blocked by opposing forwards. Still, the ball goes through the hoop.

Unlike Cowan and Huerter, Thomas doesn’t have a reputation as a playmaker. He can make a move when the ball comes to him, but he relies on a functioning offense.

Maryland isn’t deep at the forward position with Carter, Layman, and Stone leaving the program. That’ll likely mean a decent amount of minutes for Thomas as a freshman.

At only 185 pounds, Thomas is not a power forward, and possibly the only true small forward on the team. That means we should expect to see a lot of three-guard lineups next year, and also means that Maryland is extremely likely to grab at least one more player in the forward position. Ideally, someone strong who won’t get pushed around defensively and can help Maryland’s rebounding game.

Next: Maryland Football: New players at key positions making strides

According to 247Sports, the 2016 Maryland recruiting class is 19th best in the country. With potentially the entire starting five leaving, coach Mark Turgeon has three scholarships to use as he sees fit. It’ll be interesting to see who else he is able to pick up this late in the process.