And you thought this was going to be a quiet week? Where do we begin? Let's take every event of the past week and break it all down.
1. Nick Faust, Shaquille Cleare, and Roddy Peters all are granted releases and are leaving the program as reported here first on Tuesday. Listening to the late-night D.C. sportscasts April 8 made it sound like the program was in total collapse. I think that's a bit overstated. That said, you don't like to see players leaving in these numbers, especially a couple of local kids, although I can't say I am surprised at any of the departures.
The loss of Faust does hurt in that he has been a talented athlete, and one who's been in the program and experienced major college ball for three years. He had his moments, and was a quality defender for the most part. But you never knew what to expect on the offensive end of the court, and at times, his decision making and turnovers were truly hard to stomach. I can see Faust transferring down a level, putting up some solid numbers, and hoping to latch on in Europe.
With Cleare, it certainly was not a question of work ethic, because the young man was known to work as hard as anyone on the team. He did seem a step slow, particularly on defense, but for whatever reason it just didn't happen here.
That's unfortunate, because Cleare came to Maryland with a big rep and was viewed as a very strong "get." I'd expect Cleare to transfer to a school in a warm climate (perhaps back to Texas) and hopefully find a place where he can flourish.
I'll go on record as being a Roddy Peters fan. TT first noticed him as a sophomore playing in a tournament in West Virginia and loved his potential, in particular his ability to pass the ball. His game and his reputation grew, and he wound up at Maryland, his dream school. I do think his shoulder injury, which forced him to miss his senior year, hurt him, and there is no doubt he lost confidence in his game -- particularly his shot.
I scouted Peters extensively in high school, and, as a junior, while certainly not a pure shooter, I saw the young man nail a number of treys and look good doing it. It seems like Peters struggled with how his minutes were doled out. He was coming off the bench, then getting some solid playing time, then back to the bench when Seth Allen came back -- and you could see him lose confidence game by game.
As with Faust, you hate to see a local kid transfer out, but we really wish all three young men all the best wherever they land.
The fallout? Faust was your best wing defender, Cleare's departure, for now at least, lessens your inside depth, and Peters gave you a another ball-handler at an extremely important position. But it would not surprise me at all to see another fifth-year big man added, as well as a fifth-year point guard. Those questions should be answered in the not too distant future.
2. Associate Head Coach Scott Spinelli is leaving and off to Boston College. Spinelli had been anxious to find a head coaching gig now for some time, but at 49, perhaps he felt a trip back home (he's from Leominster, Mass.) was in his, and his family's, best interests. That's a guess, and we don't know what his contract is like from a money standpoint.
Nonetheless, Spinelli has been a strong influence on the bench, as well as on the recruiting trail. He was the lead recruiter for Jake Layman, he was key in the Evan Smotrycz transfer, he discovered Seth Allen as well as Damonte Dodd, and he also played a large role in bringing in Logan Aronhalt.
In terms of game planning and scouting, Spinelli's leaving is a major blow in my opinion. We'll hear all kinds of rumors about replacements, but from here, it seems like it has to be either a former Division I head coach, or certainly an experienced assistant who has served at a high level. In other words, a "basketball guy," not some flashy young salesman.
Spinelli was also an energetic recruiter, with very strong ties to the New England prep schools. He'll be missed, and we wish Coach "Spinner" all the best back in his home state.
3. The ladies bow out in the Final Four to Notre Dame. Folks, we have to put this all in perspective. Yes, Maryland got trounced, but they weren't exactly playing the Little Sisters of the Poor. They got beat by a much better team, and an undefeated team (until the title game).
Of course, some of the haters came out of the woodwork to denounce Brenda Frese's coaching ability. From what I observed this year, Frese actually did one of her better coaching jobs. Yes, you have a franchise player in Alyssa Thomas, but you certainly did not have a dominant inside presence, and you're playing with a talented but inexperienced point guard in Lexie Brown.
To me, taking out Tennessee and Louisville were tremendous victories. We heard some of the "Brenda can't coach" stuff of course, but it just doesn't hold weight with me. As I've stated before, I am not at practice, not in the huddle, and not in the film room. Yes, Maryland was lacking defensively at times, but it's not a particularly athletic or mobile team when you look closely.
In the end, Notre Dame blew out the Terps because they were that much better. I just don't get the negativity when a program makes the Final Four. The bottom line is that Maryland women's basketball is a very good and solid program, run by an enthusiastic and energetic coach. And we expect it to continue to be successful nationally after the move to the Big Ten.
But no, it's not an elite program. For now, UConn, Notre Dame, Stanford and a couple others hold that distinction. Kudos to Frese and the ladies for an excellent year.
4. Terps go international and land 7-0 F/C Michal Cekovsky. This was big when it happened, and even bigger when we learned of Shaq's departure. I am not going to give out a detailed scouting report based on videos, but I have been told that this kid has excellent skills, runs the floor well, and is capable of playing inside and out, although his lack of strength will limit his effectiveness in the paint initially.
Our good friend Van Johnson, who operates Game Plan Sports, and is a fixture on the Nike EYBL circuit, has seen Cekovsky in person and offered this analysis:
"The kid has some polish to his game, he gets up and down the floor, has good touch, and knows how to play. Right now he's lacking lower body strength, and gets pushed around a little. Once he gets stronger, and becomes more acclimated to the American style of play, he's going to be a problem for whoever he plays against. He's a typical Euro style big man right now though, with lots of potential."
So there you have it. We see Cekovsky as a contributor early on, but perhaps someone more likely to log 15-18 minutes as opposed to being a starter from day one. But the Slovakian is an excellent get, and Dustin Clark and Mark Turgeon deserve credit for getting this one done.
5. Lastly, Gary Williams is a Hall of Famer. We couldn't be happier for Gary, who got it done at every stop along the way: American University, Boston College, Ohio State and Maryland. The bottom line with Williams, and let's just forget about his coaching, his recruiting, and all that for a minute -- Gary Williams loves Maryland. He was true to his profession, did things the right way, and was loyal to his alma mater.
When you look back, Williams came here at the right time, and he probably left at the right time. He'd done it all, and the numbers speak for themselves.
There will always be critics of his coaching style, or perhaps his lack of love for the often "seedy" side of recruiting, but in the end, he has been a remarkable symbol of Maryland basketball. Congratulations on this tremendous achievement, and for a job well done.
Before leaving, let's look at the 14-15 roster as it now stands.....and keep in mind, this list will probably change again -- and in the near future:
Dez Wells, Senior
Evan Smotrycz, Senior
Jon Graham, Senior (scholarship?)
Seth Allen, Junior
Jake Layman, Junior
Charles Mitchell, Junior
Damonte Dodd, Sophomore
Melo Trimble, Freshman
Dion Wiley, Freshman
Jared Nickens, Freshman
Trayvon Reed, Freshman
Michal Cekovsky, Freshman
You're going to be counting on a lot of very young players next year. Wells has to take this team under his wing as the only senior I see who has demonstrated leadership in the past. And again, I'd look for at least one fifth year transfer.
TTDan's Hoops Dish
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