Maryland men’s basketball head coach Mark Turgeon has a big decision to make with the final 2018 scholarship.
On Monday 247 Sports’ Josh Stirn reported that Maryland will host local transfer target Anthony Tarke. A toolsy but unpolished athlete from Gaithersburg, Maryland, Tarke spent his first two years of college at NJIT and now seeks a transfer to a high-major program after a breakout year. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has a history of bringing in transfers to College Park, and for good reason. As he said in 2016 “[that’s] just the way college basketball is right now.”
Anthony Tarke is not the only transfer on Turgeon’s radar this spring. Turgeon has aggressively pursued Pittsburgh guard Parker Stewart (who just eliminated the Terrapins from contention yesterday), and has been linked with a number of other players. This comes as no surprise, as Maryland is losing between 5-7 players from their 2017-2018 roster. Michal Cekovsky, Jared Nickens, and Sean Obi graduated, Dion Wiley graduated and will transfer for his final year of eligibility, Justin Jackson is headed to the NBA draft, and Bruno Fernando and Kevin Huerter are considering joining him.
Turgeon has done well to fill the void left by those players by bringing in the seventh-best recruiting class in the nation according to 247 sports, but his recent activity on the transfer trail is perplexing. Could any of these potential recruits return positive value on Maryland’s final scholarship? Is there another option to fill the final scholarship that Turgeon isn’t considering?
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Last season, only ten Maryland players averaged 10 minutes or more per game, and that included Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender, who played 10 and 7 games respectively. In other words, for the bulk of the season, Maryland’s rotation ran eight players deep. Assuming the Terps are able to avoid the injury bug, Turgeon will have the flexibility to return to his prefered 10-man rotation. That said, it is unlikely that any player he adds will be able to crack the lineup.
In past years, Turgeon has brought in recruits at positions of need, such as LG Gill, Dez Wells, Robert Carter Jr., and even Varun Ram. These players all came into the team and made immediate impacts, with Gill, Wells, and Carter jumping right into the starting lineup, and Ram challenging star point guard Melo Trimble in every practice when no other player could. What is curious though, is that the players Turgeon has pursued of late are not at positions of need.
With Bruno Fernando projected to be selected near the back-end of the first round NBA draft come June, and Justin Jackson already a professional, Maryland is relying on Ivan Bender, young boy Jalen Smith, and Schnider Herard once he is eligible, to carry the frontcourt. It would be right up Turgeon’s alley to bring in a veteran center to start alongside Bender while he grooms Smith. But Turgeon whiffed on his main forward transfer targets in Trey Porter and DeSean Murray, and has been chasing vanity players in their stead. Recent transfer targets Tarke, and former DePaul guard Brandon Cyrus are projects at best, and they both play on the wing — the position of greatest depth for the Terrapins.
Parker Stewart aside, the players Turgeon has been recruiting would need to make drastic improvements to crack the Terps’ rotation, both this year and in the future. Trace Ramsey, the newest, and least heralded of Maryland’s five 2018 recruits was not recruited by any other high-major programs, and figures to start the year buried deep on the depth chart behind Huerter, Darryl Morsell, Aaron Wiggins, Joshua Tomaic, and even perhaps Serrel Smith. Given the pedigree of the remaining unsigned recruits and transfers, any new Maryland commits will probably face the same problems as Ramsey.
Turgeon needs to stay on the recruiting trail in case both Fernando and Huerter leave for the NBA, unlikely as that may be. In that case, he would need to bring in three more players, and simply for depth’s sake, it would be important to add more bodies to the roster. However, given the current situation, where there is only one remaining scholarship for 2018-2019, and no intriguing prospects on Turgeon’s radar, Turgeon should look inwards and give his final scholarship to walk-on senior Andrew Terrell.
With just 35 minutes under his belt across his three years in College Park, Terrell is hardly an impact player, but ask any of Maryland’s players from the past three years and they will tell you that Terrell has been an integral part of those teams. Maryland is 19-0 in games in which Terrell makes an appearance, and he has a season of 50 percent shooting from 3-point range under his belt.
All joking aside – Terrell’s season of 50 percent 3-point shooting was 2015-2016 and he was 1/2 on the year — Terrell has been a leader from the bench since he joined the team three years ago. He brings energy to games and practice, and is a favorite among players, coaches, and students. Terrell has tasted the cooking of Maryland’s Eastern European giants, hosted his own Maryland Basketball vlog, engaged with the student newspaper, parodied himself in a national newspaper, offered the best Melo Trimble tribute ever, and made shots previously thought to be impossible.
Offering walk-on scholarships is far more common in college football than it is in college basketball, but Andrew Terrell is as good a candidate to pioneer this practice in basketball as there ever will be. Videos of former walk-ons receiving scholarships garner good will among fans, as well as millions of views, likes, and shares on various social media. Combine this practice’s inherent clickability with Terrell’s vibrant personality and it would be a major PR win and morale booster for Maryland going into a very important season.
This move is also pragmatic. With Turgeon unlikely to bring in another impact player this year, Turgeon could use that scholarship more effectively by saving it for the 2019-2020 season. If Turgeon brings in a player like Tarke, that scholarship would be tied up in a lower level player for two years. If he gives the scholarship to Terrell, the scholarship would only be occupied for one year, and Turgeon can use it again in 2019 on prospects to fill Huerter, Anthony Cowan, and potentially Jalen Smith’s shoes.
If Turgeon is honest with himself he will admit that with Parker Stewart out of the picture there are no transfers to stash for 2019 left, and none of the 2018 transfers are worth pursuing. He should make the bold choice and award Andrew Terrell a scholarship for his senior year. This option is practical and warms the heart, a win-win for all parties involved.