2021 Maryland Preview

Key Departures: Aaron Wiggins (NBA); Darryl Morsell (–>Marquette); Galin Smith (Grad);                                        Jairus Hamilton (–>W. Kentucky)

New In Town: Ian Martinez (<–Utah); Qudus Wahab (<–Georgetown); Fatts Russell (<–Rhode Island);            Pavlo Dziuba (<–Arizona St); Julian Reese (#58); Ike Cornish (#109)

State of the Program:

                  Kind of a ho-hum year it was for Maryland a season ago, as they had a few nice wins, a few bad losses and won a game in the tournament as a 10 seed. It was a rebuilding year of sorts after losing Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith the previous year and Mark Turgeon continues to try and get over the hump. He’s entering his 11th season leading a program that made multiple Final Fours and won a National Championship 18 years ago, and he has reached 1 Sweet 16 with 1 shared Conference Championship. They’ve always been competitive but have never gotten to that level they once had under Gary Williams. Turgeon will have another tough time getting over that hump this season, as he’ll be relying on several transfers coming in to hopefully boost a returning group that lost several key contributors from last season. They do get back honorable mention All-Conference G Eric Ayala (SR), as well as starters F Donta Scott (JR) and G Hakim Hart (JR). Aside from those 3, the entire projected rotation will come from a combination of Freshmen and transfers.

What’s New:

                  The best of the incoming group is 5’10” PG Fatts Russell (SR) from Rhode Island. The 2x All-A10 and All-Defensive team selection comes to Maryland as a scoring guard who will start in the backcourt alongside Ayala. His poor shooting numbers are problematic, but ideally he lowers his volume and improves his efficiency being surrounded by a more talented group than before. 6’11” F/C Qudus Wahab (JR) also comes in as a projected starter, at the 5. He is a great athlete who excels in the paint on both ends, rebounding, blocking shots and finishing inside and provides a fill for a huge hole in this roster.  Next up G Ian Martinez (SO) out of Utah, who was a decent recruit but only had a backup role a year ago, and figures to be in the same role this season, battling with returning SO Marcus Dockery for minutes as a reserve. He’s a great athlete that will need to improve his jump shot in his development at Maryland. Lastly, 6’8” F Pavlo Dziuba (SO) who has only appeared in 8 collegiate games but does have FIBA experience where he flashed good athleticism and the ability to attack the basket off the bounce. He likely will be fighting for backup minutes at the 4/5 positions. The better of the 2 Freshmen figures to be 6’8” PF Julian Reese (#58), who is a gifted athlete that relies on that athleticism to block shots and finish well inside. He’s not as big or strong as Wahab, but he can likely fill a similar role as a smaller 5. I don’t see him pushing Scott to the 3 in the starting lineup as his skillset next to Wahab would clog the offense for the Terrapins. Lastly there’s 6’6” SF Ike Cornish (#109). Cornish, much in the mold of current Terrapin Donta Scott, can bang inside as well as step out and hit an open 3 making him a nice versatile piece for Turgeon. He will likely battle RS FR James Graham for backup F minutes this year, and could develop into a solid player down the road as he’s shown flashes of playmaking and creating his own shot at all 3 levels. If those skills continue to develop he could be an All-Conference performer in year 3 or 4.

Prediction:

                  All in all it’s a hodge-podge of nice pieces that Turgeon will be tasked with marrying together. In Ayala and Scott they have proven shot makers, but Russell will be necessary in the playmaking department. They went through scoring draughts a year ago, as they really had no guys who could breakdown a defense consistently and create for others, so they were forced to take tough contested jump shots. This was exacerbated by the fact that they had no inside presence, which also hurt them on the offensive glass and on defense with zero rim protection. The additions of Wahab and Reese will help in those areas, as Russell should be able to help create some more open looks for Ayala, Scott, and Hart. There’s a lot of promise with this group despite the challenge of cohesion and I think Wahab and Russell help elevate them on paper to a higher ceiling than last year’s group. In conference, Wahab will be especially important when dealing with the elite big men the Conference will boast this season. I don’t think they can contend to win the Conference, but nobody is going to want to go to College Park and I think they can improve on the 9-11 record from a season ago and fall in the 7-8 range in the tournament. But in the end, Turgeon simply won’t have the firepower to get this program back to the heights it was in the early to mid-2000’s this season, and frankly his best chance may have been the 2020 NCAA tournament that never was.

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