COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- We've seen a few Maryland pickup sessions this summer. Here are some quick thoughts:
Dez Wells: The definite leader of the program, Wells stays in great shape, and always played hard when we saw him. He's handling the ball a lot, and that's good, because he'll have to provide support for Trimble at the point, and he'll have to protect the ball better than he has in the past. But he's been playing very well.
Jon Graham: Nothing ever changes with Graham. He never plays "pretty," but he's the ultimate grinder. We love his grit and hustle in what some would consider meaningless pickup games. I would expect Graham to get some spot minutes this year, because he will battle and give is all, and he has some strength to hold his own in the post.
Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz seems to be much more comfortable with this year's cast of characters, and it's reflected in his body language. He also appeared a bit leaner, and again, while he'll never be much of a defender, he absolutely has to exhibit some leadership this year, and when he gets open looks, he has to knock them down, while also getting his share of boards.
Richaud Pack: There was some talk by Pack of volunteering to play some point guard, but he's a two-guard all the way. His shot has been on and off this summer, but he plays a very cerebral style of ball, very unselfish, and not forcing things. That said, when the bell rings, he's got to look for his shot. He has good size and strength, but only average athleticism.
Jake Layman: Prior to his hand injury, Layman was dominating some of the pickup games. He is noticeably bigger and stronger, and finally becoming more aggressive in attacking the rim. When we saw him play, he was reigning treys. He'll have to carry that over into the season for this year's team to win big.
Robert Carter: We only saw a little of Carter, but we're used to seeing him with Georgia Tech. Let's just say the transfer junior is a presence on the offensive end of the court, and easily the most talented of the Terps' insiders.
Damonte Dodd: Dodd also has been laid up with a foot injury, but had his moments earlier in the summer. Going against Trayvon Reed, Dodd got the better of the matchup, based on his strength and athleticism. The offense still has a long way to go, but this year, that shouldn't be a concern. Block a few shots, grab boards, and convert dunks. Anything else is gravy.
Melo Trimble: Trimble was shooting the ball just okay when we saw him, but that's not a concern. His track record as a long range sniper is well documented. While his handle still needs to be tightened a bit, we were impressed by his ability to look for, and find, open shooters. He's still not a natural pure point, but he plays within himself and is an effective distributor.
Dion Wiley: The first thing you notice with Wiley is a leaner, trimmer body, and improved quickness as a result. And while is reputation is as a deep shooter, the best part of his game may be his passing. That ability should get him some looks this year, as this year's team will hopefully move the ball well and find the open shooter. Wiley can really dish it.
Jared Nickens: I didn't expect much from Nickens this year, and yes, he's still painfully thin, but the young man continues to show an improved game off the bounce, and he rivals Trimble as a shooter. The question is, Can he defend at this level, and will he be able to withstand the pounding of Big Ten Basketball?
Trayvon Reed: Before his foot injury, my looks at Reed could be termed "feast or famine." At times, he had big time flushes and tremendous blocks, and at other times, he was physically overwhelmed and had trouble converting in traffic. This injury will obviously hamper his physical development but down the road, this long 7-1 athlete will be a force.
Michal Cekovsky: Cekovsky is playing very unselfishly, too much at times, as he seems overly bent on fitting in with new teammates and not being aggressive offensively. But we've seen glimpses of his outstanding ability to run the floor, to score with either hand, and to block an occasional shot. Like Reed, it may take some time, but this young man is very talented. That said, he's going to have to grow up fast. He will be needed to play this year.
The bottom line is that the seniors have to play well this year and lead. I like the freshmen, but Trimble in particular, will be under enormous pressure to produce from day one, and Wells will have to take some of the ball handling pressure off him. Dodd is a key as well, because as we mentioned, Cekovsky and Reed are still very thin, so he and perhaps Graham must take care of the dirty work while the freshmen develop and gain confidence.
I am also concerned by the lack of a dominating, athletic defensive presence on the wing, other than Wells, a senior. There's a lot to be excited about, but there's also plenty of questions to be answered.
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