The Maryland basketball program definitely didn’t have their NCAA Tournament experience end the way they would’ve liked.
However, there are still plenty of positives in the Terrapins’ future even if star guard Melo Trimble decides to leave for the NBA.
Coach Mark Turgeon put together a highly-rated recruiting class in 2016 and it definitely paid dividends this season. The trio of Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, and Justin Jackson soared above expectations and were very productive contributors for the Terps.
It’s extremely rare for a team to start three freshmen, unless it’s Duke or Kentucky.
Coming into the 2016-17 season, the only returning starter was Trimble. Entering next year, the Terps should have all this trio back in the fold.
There is NBA potential, but not enough that it warrants making the jump after only one season at the collegiate level. Each player contributed in different areas and will likely see an increase in productivity next season.
Cowan was a terrific ball-handler that did a little bit of everything. Running the offense was a huge task to undertake, but it allowed Trimble to be more of an off-the-ball scorer.
In doing so, the junior guard averaged a career-best 16.8 points and attempted the most shots of his career.
Despite being a passer first, Cowan still proved that he was a valuable offensive asset. The former St. John’s College (D.C.) standout averaged 10.3 points and really excelled at driving to the basket.
If Trimble comes back for another campaign, the same dynamic between the two players can be expected.
Huerter was also very productive at times.
The former New York Gatorade Player of the Year came to College Park as a dangerous marksman from beyond the arc. Huerter ended up having his moments and shot 37.1 percent from three on the year.
While many thought that Huerter may just be a three-point specialist, he proved to be so much more.
Huerter had great hands, which were evident in his underrated passing skills. On the season, he averaged 2.7 assists, which was third on the team.
His 4.9 rebounds were second on the team, which isn’t a huge surprise given his 6’7 frame.
Last but certainly not least, forward Justin Jackson provided a ton of stability on the interior.
Maryland’s frontcourt had its fair share of issues throughout the year. However, Jackson proved to be a solid defender and above-average rebounder (6.0 per game).
Jackson also gave the Terps a significant boost from beyond the arc. The East York, Ontario native shot a team-high 43.8 percent from three and was really impressive when he was aggressive on the floor.
Like many freshmen do, Jackson struggled at times and wasn’t able to score at a high clip. However, he did end the year on the right note as he scored 14 points (2-of-3 from three) against Xavier in Maryland’s NCAA Tournament contest.
These three extremely talented freshmen will likely be even bigger producers next season. The issue may lie in the frontcourt once again.
Damonte Dodd and LG Gill are gone, but Michal Cekovsky and Ivan Bender return. The Terps will also have four-star recruit Bruno Fernando coming in and he was a very explosive player at the high school level.
If Maryland can solve their frontcourt problem, this could be a group that goes even further next year. And that’s potentially without Trimble and his All-Big Ten scoring touch.