I'm not going to sit here and analyze Monday's excruciating loss to Syracuse. Mark Turgeon, and particularly Jim Boeheim, have already covered that. Boeheim came across somewhat as a "sore winner" to be honest, knocking the Terps in the process. So be it. Maryland and Syracuse will likely not cross each other's tracks anytime soon, so let's put that to rest and move on.
Maryland has a road game at Clemson Sunday, followed by Virginia Tech and Virginia at home. They have to win one game to finish the regular season above .500. A depressing thought for sure, but hey, maybe they'll make the best of it and finish on a somewhat uplifting note. I expect an ugly grinder (haven't we seen a bunch of them?) at Clemson, as the Tigers will hound you defensively. You'd think the Terps can handle Va Tech here, and then they close it out with the Hoos.
My thoughts right now are these: Win two of three, try to make some noise in the ACC tourney, and then figure out where the heck this program goes from here. Maryland, as well as every other program, will be hampered by only having one open recruiting weekend in the spring, but the Terps have to decide what pieces are still needed here to turn this thing around.
The first order of business seems to be locating a 2014 big man. Maryland assistant Dustin Clark is believed to be in Spain as we speak, checking out Canarias Basketball Academy power forward Michal Cekovsky, a 7-foot-0 mobile big with inside/outside skills. CBA also reportedly has a couple other younger prospects that Clark may take a look at.
I don't see Ruben Guererro (Kans.) as a strong possibility at the moment, since most regard him as a year away from making much of an impact. But the mere fact that the staff is still out looking for a big tells you they're not happy with the performances they've seen in the paint this year.
We've seen video of Cekovsky. He has big time offers already, and has the skills and mobility to seemingly help right away. But realistically, there's no way of knowing right now what Maryland's chances are with the native of Slovakia. With European bigs, you need an "in," and you also have to hope that he didn't have any previous professional experience either. So,it's wait and see for now.
Obviously, if you look at the numbers, the Terps are booked, so should the staff land a big this year, clearly some attrition is inevitable. It should be an interesting offseason.
Being realistic, though Maryland has been out recently to scout Diamond Stone, Carlton Bragg, and also another new name, Henry Ellenson (6-9 big from Wisconsin), I really don't see any of them being strong possibilities to wind up here.
It's pretty clear that the Terps do want a talented, versatile forward in the 2015 class. As of now, we see Esa Ahmad (Shaker Heights, Ohio) and Jordan Murphy (Brennan/San Antonio, Texas) as the two on top of the leader board. We hear Ahmad's choice could come down to West Virginia, Maryland, Clemson or Rutgers, though now Indiana and others are showing interest.
With Murphy, Maryland has to make enough of an impression to get the Texan out of state. First thing's first: Line up an official visit as soon as possible. Ahmad can do more damage inside than Murphy, while Murphy has more athleticism, and is better creating off the dribble. They're different players in a sense, but it's probably one or the other for the Terps. I don't see both of them coming here.
Adding to the intrigue is Malik Ellison (Life Center/Burlington, NJ). A year ago, he was about 6-2; he's now 6-5, and could easily top out at 6-7 or 6-8. He could wind up being the versatile forward they want. Most scouts I talk to see him as a borderline high-major guy at the moment, but acknowledge that his ceiling is very high, and if his predicted growth comes to fruition, you're talking about a 6-7 (perhaps) player with legitimate guard skills.
Moving to the swingman role, if you want a bonafide scorer, Marcus Sheffield (Chatahoochee/Alpharetta, Ga.) is probably your guy. He's 6-5, can handle, pass, and score it. And it does appear as though the Terps have a legit shot with this smooth Georgian. But there seems to be a notion that the Terps may also be looking for a "glue guy" on the wing, someone who will defend, slash and make others better.
There's a lot of logic in that as I see it. You'll have Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens all coming in next year, and all of them are wired to score. They're all excellent shooters, and that's a good thing. But at some point, you have to stop people. An athlete who can guard, make the extra pass, and do all the little things might be the way to go. Players that don't get huge numbers, but players who make winning plays.
Apparently, that's what Maryland sees in both Joshua Reaves (Paul VI/Fairfax, Va.) and Chris Clarke (Cape Henry Collegiate/Virginia Beach, Va.). Neither has an offer right now, but Reaves, in particular, is getting a lot of interest lately, and it wouldn't shock me to see him get an offer before too long.
He hadn't done much offensively lately until knocking down 19 points and leading Paul VI to the WCAC championship on Tuesday night. He's not a great shooter or ball-handler, but he's top of the line athletically, he can guard extremely well, and he's a very good passer. On his own, he won't get rated in the national Top 50, but put him with the right players around him, and he makes them better.
Clarke is the same type of player, though bigger (almost 6-6). The Cape Henry Collegiate junior is a winner, pure and simple, and has the Dolphins undefeated and nationally ranked.
They'll be playing in the VISAA Championships this week, and could wind up matched against Paul VI (if they get by an anticipated semi-final against O'Connell) in the final.
As solid as Reaves is, I actually like Clarke a tad more. This guy's a warrior, can slash with the best of them, is a big-time rebounder for his size, and has tremendous floor vision.
Can he shoot? Don't know, don't care. The Terps should have plenty of shooters. In order for the Terps to get this program where it needs to be, they need defenders and guys with sound basketball IQs.
Both Reaves and Clarke provide that. It will be interesting to see just how hard Maryland pushes for either, or both, of these fine junior prospects.
On other other hand, scorers are nice, and we did hear that Allonzo Trier's (Montrose Christian/Rockville, Md.) mom will be up this way over the summer, and will likely visit College Park with her son, who's one of the very best two-guard prospects in the nation. I don't see Trier winding up here, but yes, he's too good not to recruit.
We won't know for some time what's going on with Georgios Papagiannis (Westtown, Pa.) , so for now, we'll wait and see if Maryland has any luck securing a big in 2014. If they do, a big in '15 probably isn't needed.
I'd love to see Damonte Dodd and incoming freshman Trayvon Reed split time in the pivot, as intimidating rim protectors and rebounders. I couldn't care less if they score a lot. Rotate them and put your best four players on the floor with them and see what happens.
As for the point guard slot, I absolutely expect Trimble to get a lot of minutes there, and sincerely hope Roddy Peters comes around and makes his mark there as well. Yes, I know he's struggled mightily at times, but let's face it, first Dez Wells started there; then Varun Ram got time; then Seth Allen comes back. And all the while Peters is probably wondering exactly what his role is, and what kind of minutes would he get to show what he can do.
It's been a roller coaster ride for Peters, but it's way too early to give up on the kid. But he'll have to work on his shot every day of the offseason, get stronger and "slow down" his game a little.
As I've said for two years now, I love Seth Allen, but off the ball. Put him at the two, and let him score. That's what he does. Take the ball-handling pressure and decision making away from him, and let him do his thing.
So, there's my long-winded take on '15 recruiting. We'll see where it all leads, but we'll soon delve into '16 recruiting and see who the realistic targets might be. We can analyze it in a million different ways, but obviously the Terps need a better mix of players going forward. It's been tough, frustrating year, but I do think better days are coming soon.
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