Whether Mark Turgeon's meeting with Team Takeover AAU president Keith Stevens last month resulted in the hiring of new Director of Basketball Operations Nima Omidvar or not, either way it was a strong local move in adding the UMD alum and former Takeover and veteran ‘DMV' prep assistant coach.
Omidvar, a Damascus native, is known as a worker and well-connected AAU alum, outgoing and seemingly knowing most everyone in the area. Hired off the staff of NC State, Omidvar worked in the past with such Takeover standouts as Victor Oladipo and Jerami Grant, among others. He was a factor in BeeJay Anja arriving at State a year ago as well. Anya came out of DeMatha, an area of weakness for the Terps of late.
And with UMD's relations sagging with DC Premier (formerly DC Assault) following the departures of both coach Dalonte Hill and player Roddy Peters, and Takeover having more top young prospects, clearly it was a boost to the staff's local relations with the top AAU power program. Turgeon missed on hiring another UMD alum, Kenny Johnson (also formerly of Takeover) to Louisville last month for his top assistant post, but Omidvar helped fill some of the void.
Omidvar had past stops at several local programs the Terps have recruits playing for, including St. John's (Anthony Cowan) and Paul VI (Joshua Reaves), while the Terps have Takeover guard Dion Wiley arriving this summer and are involved with local Takeover underclassmen like Gonzaga's Bryant Crawford and Reaves, among others. His presence will no doubt help cushion the landing of such talents as Wiley, as well as likely open some new doors.
The Terps rebounded some off the Johnson loss with the elevation of Cliff Warren to the top assistant spot. Warren not only has deep ties to the area, dating back to his playing days at Paint Branch High School in Silver Spring and his college days at Mt. St. Mary's, but he recruited such nationals as Will Bynum and Thad Young from hot-spots like Chicago and Memphis while at Georgia Tech. He also pulled Jarrett Jack from the D.C. area. All three former Yellow Jackets remain in the NBA.
Warren went on the road recruiting during the April ‘live' period while Turgeon was still solidifying his staff, and he's as capable a recruiter as he is a developmental coach, especially with guards. He was head coach at Jacksonville for nine years, where he became the school's winningest coach. In the community, he's another guy you can find nary a negative word about. By all accounts, Turgeon was looking for a former head coach to fill at least a spot or two on his staff, and Warren was a coup given the state of flux of late.
Maryland has to re-entrench locally given the state of flux of Premier/Assault and the ascendancy of Takeover, and both staff additions seem to have covered considerable local ground. Maryland had landed few Takeover (a Nike program) prospects in the past, and some of the head-scratchers were Oladipo, who the Terps never pushed for until it was too late.
The Turgeon-Stevens meeting has to be taken as a positive, and for the Terps hopefully the start of a more fruitful relationship. Throw in the fact Greek seven-footer and top Terps big-man target Georgios Papagiannis (Westtown, Pa.) was added to the Takeover program this spring, and it could make for a more encouraging future. Some had thought the Terps had become too wedded to one local AAU power, and this could open more doors.
Meanwhile, the Terps staff also needed something of a re-boot, perhaps some freshness and a ‘new set of eyes.' Warren will be someone Turgeon can lean on with his wealth of experience, while elevated assistant/former DBO Dustin Clark, who took over after Hill left last fall, has already hit the ground running as an effective recruiter, helping land Mikal Cekovsky, as well as laying a solid foundation with several top junior and sophomore prep recruits.
Meanwhile, on the floor last week's additions of fifth-year scoring guard Richaud Pack and import PF/C Michal Cekovsky were huge in terms of plugging some recent holes as well as solidifying a Top 10 national class.
Pack, at 6-3, averaged 17 points per game last season at North Carolina A&T, and brings immediate experience and offensive firepower to a dangerously young Terps backcourt. With only two guards, both freshmen, taking the floor in the fall for UM, Pack will bring a seasoned presence -- and the ability to both shoot/score -- to the green guard situation of Melo Trimble and Dion Wiley.
It was imperative Maryland added a fifth-year guard (or two) this spring, and Pack was one of the last reasonable targets on the board. He should also help steady a shaky lockerroom at times last year, while he can also handle some up top at the 'one' if needed.
Both Pack and Cekovsky's (a seven-footer with the ability to run the floor as well as play back-to-the- basket or face and shoot jumpers) additions helped soften the blow of all the attrition this spring, which stung the most when sophomore sophomore guard Seth Allen bolted last month to Virginia Tech. Charles Mitchell's loss last week will hurt the Terps' physically thin frontcourt, which has to break in the two thin freshman seven-footers (Trayvon Reed being the other), and there's no doubt his offensive rebounding was a plus given all the jumpers the Terps clanked last season.
Shaq Cleare (Texas) was a great 'team' player, though still a developmental story, while it was 'addition by subtraction' with some of the other losses. Junior guard Nick Faust has yet to find a new home. Teammates taking swipes at some of the outgoing players, like Mitchell last week on social media, tell the story of just how dysfunctional the lockerroom was.
But there's no doubt Turgeon and company have to go about assembling a better ‘team' at College Park, and that starts with the evaluation/recruiting process on up to the development aspect once the kids are on campus. Both have been lacking at times of late, and who knows what a big-man coach like former assistants Billy Hahn or Keith Booth could have done with a prospect like Cleare, whose game never advanced in two years at College Park.
Turgeon puts a huge emphasis on recruiting, which obviously is essential, but with eight transfers out and five in in the last three seasons, the pace has been dizzying, and continuity and a foundation must return to the program in short order.
While this is the second re-boot of the Turgeon era (see Terrell Stoglin, Michael Parker and Ashton Pankey departures after Year One), those were not his recruits, nor was Pe'Shon Howard who left the following year. The rest have been his, and five years on the outside looking in the NCAA Tournament (which next year will be if the Terps don't qualify) is not normal for Terrapin basketball by any rationalization.
The composition of the newly-configured roster will be awfully young next season, especially in the backcourt, while it's time for upperclassmen like Dez Wells (put two halves together more), Evan Smotrycz (free-lance less) and Jake Layman (add a more aggressive mid-range game) to take the next step in their development both on the floor as players and off it as leaders. The team was screaming for a leader all season, a 'go-to' guy to lean on in tough times, and Wells was the closest thing but not the total answer. Wells may also have to lend some assistance at the point this season, helping the youngsters early on.
Meanwhile, incoming big-man Trayvon Reed is close to qualifying, while Wiley can be as good as he wants to be, even a pro someday. But that's not always a given with the mercurial sharpshooter from Potomac, so Turgeon will have another youngster to help mold and get the most out of.
Turgeon personally took over Wiley's recruitment last year, and it will require more nurturing. Trimble qualified last month, while Wiley is expected to make it as well. Swingman/wing Jared Nickens is already qualified.
And the Terps aren't done yet with their next re-boot, what with at least two top-flight transfers set to visit College Park in June.
The Terps missed out the first time around on sharpshooting guard Terry Henderson, who announced last week he was leaving West Virginia and has two years of eligibility remaining after an NCAA sit-out year. They hope to not repeat the misstep of three years ago, when they favored Christian Sanders out of Texas and the Houston Defenders. Think Terrence Ross for something of a comparison to the silky-smooth shooter/scorer Henderson, who has family in the Baltimore area.
Another onetime Terps target, offensively gifted big-man Robert Carter (think Nene for his big body and soft touch from deep), left Georgia Tech last month and will also visit College Park after seeing St. John's last week. The 6-9 Carter, from an Under Armour AAU program, the Terps missed on the same year they took Charles Mitchell, also from Georgia. Carter had such an affinity for his UA gear he earned the nickname ‘Mr. Under Armour' from teammates and buddies.
The Terps are going full-bore for both elite talents, while each would have to sit out a year under transfer rules. Carter would lend beef and offensive skill to the Terps callow frontcourt, while Henderson wanted to be at Maryland the first time around. Carter visits on June 2, while Henderson and his father, Terry, Sr., are still lining up campus visits. Maryland, UCLA, NC State and others are heavily in the mix.
Either way, Mark Turgeon is still looking for the right ‘fit' pieces to his UM puzzle, and more questions will be answered this month when the transfers decide. Other transfer names have been bandied about this month, but we don't see serious UMD involvement at this time.
The 2015 class will be shaped in part by if more transfers arrive, and hopefully this time around Turgeon finds the chemistry he has long craved at College Park.
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