Terps Kickoff a New Season

The men's basketball team held their first practice Friday afternoon to kick off the 2011-12 season.

It was nothing more than you would expect during a Maryland Madness 10-minute scrimmage: a sloppy, turnover-filled streetball game occasionally highlighted by an alley-oop or ankle-breaking travel.

Yet Friday night was a chance for the public to finally catch a glimpse of this Maryland team that had undergone a completely unexpected makeover throughout the off-season.

For Mark Turgeon and his team however, Friday was simple day one in the long season that lies ahead. “My priority today was practice,” said Turgeon. “We had our first practice this afternoon. I told them tonight was about them, but we're going twice tomorrow.”

For those who stuck around into the late hours of Friday evening to watch the men's basketball scrimmage, there were quite a few positives on a team that many predict to be a bottom-dweller this season in the ACC.

Sophomore guard Pe'Shon Howard looked incredibly polished on the floor, weaving his way in and out of the defenders and knocking down long-range jumpers from all over the court. Howard, who played in Los Angeles' Goodman League with some NBA stars this summer, looked like a much sharper and mature point guard than the one who committed 56 turnovers during his freshman campaign.

“I like the direction the team's going in,” said Howard. “Today was the first day but it was good. We learned a lot. I think everybody's still a little anxious but everybody just wants to do everything right. There are still a lot of mistakes and a long way to go.”

One of the biggest crowd receptions of the night was for the much-heralded (and much-needed) freshman from Baltimore, Nick Faust. Faust, who re-opened his recruitment after Gary Williams' retirement, is the only one of the eight newcomers on scholarship. A lanky, athletic player with a sweet shooting touch, Faust put in a few solid minutes of work during the scrimmage, highlighted by a smooth knockdown three from the corner. “I think Nick's gonna have fun,” said Turgeon. “Both the young kids looked pretty loose out there. I think Nick has the chance to be special, especially on the defensive end.”

Of course the other “young kid” Turgeon was referring to, is 7-foot-1 freshman center Alex Len from Ukraine. Len, who has yet to be cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse, was allowed to participate in the festivities on Friday night despite reports that he would not be playing.

At media day on Wednesday, Turgeon was optimistic that he would hear from the NCAA by Friday regarding Len's eligibility. That was not the case. Len's case, which has now been under review for 46 days, is being held up by a number of documents that haven't yet been received from the Ukraine.

When asked about Len's situation shortly after the scrimmage Friday night, Turgeon expressed his frustration. “Yeah, I don't want to talk about it,” he said. “I'm just done with it. It's in their hands and I'll just leave it at that. He had a good practice today too, blocked a lot of shots. But the other stuff I'd rather not talk about.”

The practice may be the last one Len participates in for some time, for as of midnight Friday Len is ineligible to practice or play until the NCAA reaches a ruling on his case.

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