The Maryland basketball team didn’t get a ton of bench scoring during the 2015-16 season.
However, when there was an offensive punch from their second unit, it came from Jared Nickens.
The Terrapins forward was the primary backup to Jake Layman after a productive freshman campaign. Nickens came to College Park as part of a tremendous four-man recruiting class that also included forward Michal Cekovsky and guards Melo Trimble and Dion Wiley.
According to 247Sports, Nickens was a Top 100 recruit and a Top 25 player at the forward position.
As a freshman, Nickens averaged 6.1 points and shot 39 percent from beyond the arc. The Monmouth Junction (NJ) native was also the team’s fourth-leading scorer behind Layman, Trimble, and guard Dez Wells.
Entering his sophomore season, Nickens’ numbers were bound to take a hit due to Maryland’s loaded starting five. However, he was still expected to produce when given ample playing time.
During the first five games of the season, Nickens only scored double-digit points twice. He was able to connect on 36 percent (9-of-25) of his three-point attempts, which is just below his 36.8 percent career average.
His most productive outings were against Mount St. Mary’s (3-of-5 from three) and Rhode Island (2-of-3).
On Nov. 28 against Cleveland State, Nickens had a career-high 16 points (6-of-8) and scored 12 of those points from beyond the arc. Nickens was the beneficiary of his teammates making the extra pass and collapsing the defense before getting him the basketball for a wide-open look. When Nickens gets the basketball and doesn’t face much resistance, he can hit shots from just about anywhere on the court without even flinching.
Nickens’ two-game stretch against Cleveland State and Rhode Island was arguably his most productive stretch of the 2015-16 season. He drilled six of his nine three-point attempts during that span.
During nonconference play, Nickens shot the ball at a very high rate as he hit 43.1 percent (25-of-58) of his shots from long-range. In all but four games, he made multiple three-pointers and drilled four threes on two occasions.
Big Ten play was where things started to go south for Nickens.
Over the first five games of conference play, he only made three of his 22 attempts (13.6 percent) from beyond the arc. In games against Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin, he missed all 10 of his long-range shots.
Consistency proved to be a big issue for Nickens throughout conference play
When the Big Ten slate was all said and done, he shot 28.6 percent (22-of-77) from beyond the arc. There were 10 Big Ten games in which Nickens missed all his three-point attempts.
His worst stretch came from Feb. 6-18 when he made only one of his nine attempts from beyond the three-point line. In the NCAA Tournament, Nickens had a strong performance against South Dakota State where he made four of his eight three-pointers.
When Maryland’s run to the Sweet 16 was over, Nickens finished averaging 5.4 points and 1.9 rebounds while shooting 34.7 percent for the season. His points and three-point shooting percentage were downgrades from the numbers he put up as a freshman.
His minutes remained the same at 19.3 per contest, so playing time was certainly not an issue. Nickens just struggled to consistently find his range from beyond the arc.
It’s not like Nickens is a guy that thrives off of pick-and-rolls and needs help from his teammates to find his shot. As a freshman and even more so during his high school days, he could create his own shot even when the defense was pressing him.
Nickens will likely be Maryland’s starting small forward next season, so those numbers will definitely need to improve.
Grade: Nickens showed flashes of what we saw as a freshman. He gets a “C” from me for the season, but he did improve in some areas that were unexpected. He’ll certainly need to be a more complete player, which means putting the ball on the floor at a more consistent rate. With a starting role up for grabs due to the loss of Layman, a “C” performance just isn’t going to cut it.