The 2016-17 Maryland men's basketball season is right around the corner, and despite having a full 13-man roster, there are a slew of questions that will have to be answered during the pre-season and December.
The squad features five freshmen, a redshirt sophomore coming off a major knee injury, several veterans who will be thrust into major roles, and a post-grad addition who'll likely start.
It's a new look, and while the team has a good bit of top-to-bottom talent, there's simply no way to know how quickly it will gel. Practices should be more than competitive.
As we see it, two, or maybe three starting slots are likely set in stone; everything else is wide open. Let's now break down the roster, by class:
Damonte Dodd, 6-11, C
Dodd's certainly paid his dues at Maryland, patiently waiting his turn, and now gets his opportunity to be a full-time starter with Diamond Stone off to the NBA. With Dodd, he first needs to stay on the court.
The Terps desperately need Dodd to give them 25 quality minutes each game, and to somehow stay out of foul trouble. He's not going to be a double-digit scorer, however he has proven to be a quality defender and decent rebounder when he stays on the court for extended minutes.
Dodd' s performance this year for the Terps will be critical: Defend the paint, grab a fair share of rebounds, and score on put-backs and dunks.
L.G. Gill, 6-8, F
Gill's a post-grad addition from Duquesne, and most observers see him as a starter at power forward because of his strength and rebounding prowess, though he has enough touch to swing to the “3” on occasion.
We remember Gill from his days at Benedictine High School in Richmond. He's athletic, strong, and possesses solid skills and good basketball IQ/feel. It will be interesting to see if, as a newcomer here, he assumes a leadership role similar to the one displayed last year by transfer Rasheed Sulaimon.
Gill will have a lot on his table here, and our hunch is he'll be up to the challenge.
Melo Trimble, 6-3, G
A second half slump and nagging back injury prevented Trimble from making an expected jump to the NBA. He's back for his junior year, with an enormous amount of pressure on him.
Trimble just has to let the game come to him and not feel obligated to take over, which will be difficult, given the departures of Layman, Stone, and Sulaimon. It will be interesting to see if Turgeon lets Trimble play a bit off the ball, and get more open looks, as we expect to see.
Clearly this is Trimble's team, and the rest of the Terps will follow his lead. Our only advice would be to, “play your game Trimble.” If that happens, the Terps will win their fair share of games.
Jaylen Brantley, 5-11, G
Brantley's an interesting case. He had his moments last year, and yet, at other times, virtually disappeared. The junior college transfer did seem to build his confidence as the year went along, and that trend must continue, because minutes at the point will be hard to come by with Trimble, and highly regarded freshman Anthony Cowan here.
In fact, some of Brantley's better moments came off the ball, where he has proven to be a deadly open shooter. That said, 5-11 wing guards in the Big Ten don't normally have a major impact. Brantley needs to come out of the pre-season ready to ball, or else could get caught in a numbers game.
Jared Nickens, 6-6, G/F
Nickens seemed to regress a bit as a sophomore, as he shot inconsistently. That trend has to change this year, as the long range bomber's points will be critical to the team's success.
Nickens has worked hard to build up his body, and work on his floor game and defense, and now's the time for it to come together. Nickens is going to be a solid rotation player, and as a junior, his points from the perimeter will be critical. It will be interesting to see if he steps up to the challenge. He's certainly capable, as he proved to be a tremendous big game shooter as a freshman.
Michal Cekovsky, 7-0, C
While most feel like Dodd will start at center, it’s clear that Cekovsky is going to get plenty of playing time as he can bring more to the table offensively. At times, it seems as though Cekovsky can be a dominant player, and yet, his minutes have been sporadic, and it's been difficult for him to get into a flow offensively, though.
Cekovsky is bigger, stronger, and our hunch is that he's ready to really have an impact in his junior year – the kind of year the staff has been waiting for. It takes big men a big longer to get established at this level.
Dion Wiley, 6-4, G
Wiley went down with a meniscus tear last year, but is back to 100 percent now, seemingly in good shape, and ready to roll.
With Wiley, the talent has always been there, but at times, his defense and effort have been lacking. The two-guard slot is his for the taking, and his performance this year will possibly be the key to the team's success.
Wiley's ability to make shots, and create for others will be critical in relieving some of the pressure off Trimble. If Wiley stays healthy and focused, the Terps will have one of the best backcourt tandems in the Big Ten.
Ivan Bender, 6-9, F
We simply don't know a lot about Bender, who's had very little playing time to date. He appears to run the court well, has a decent touch, and passes well/good ‘feel.’ It's taken some time, but Ivan is now healthy after suffering a serious knee injury two years ago.
On the surface, it looks like playing time will be hard to come by, but we have a very small sample size to go by. With Bender, it's "wait and see" for now.
Anthony Cowan, 5-11, G
Cowan's a bolt of energy, confidence, and talent. He's played in many big game situations at St. John's College HS, and we don't see the Big Ten stage as being too big for him.
Cowam will need to get stronger, and he'll be challenged defensively, but he handles well, finds opens shooters, and can get past you. He's an "edgy" type player, and this program needs that. We see Cowan contributing immediately.
Kevin Huerter, 6-6, G
Huerter has a long way to go physically, and his time in the weight room will be well spent, but we love his vision, shooting ability and overall feel for the game. Huerter’s versatility will allow him to play several spots for Turgeon, but he likely spends most of his time at the two-guard, behind Wiley. The overall rigors of Big Ten basketball may be an early challenge for Huerter, but he's an outstanding young prospect with a bright future.
Micah Thomas, 6-7, F
When Huerter's in the weight room, I'd expect Thomas to be there with him, as he's still extremely thin, but with a frame that should fill out in time.
Physical development, and ball handling are two areas where Thomas needs to concentrate on. Thomas has a fine long-range stroke, runs the floor beautifully, and has extreme length, which should make him a valuable defender in time.
We don't see Thomas as a major factor as a freshman, but his long range potential is excellent.
Justin Jackson, 6-7, F
Jackson was a late addition, and a potentially crucial one. This hard-nosed Canadian is an athletic combo forward, who has solid mid-range skills, is an excellent passer, and does good work on the boards.
He's physically developed, and ready to play at a big time level. It's not out of the question that he could start, possibly alongside Gill at small forward. He'll be a rotation player at the very least, and should be ready to help from day one.
Joshua Tomaic, 6-9, F
To say we know much about Tomaic would be a stretch, and evaluating off videos is a dangerous practice. It appears he'll be more of a long range prospect, someone whose length, shooting skills and athleticism can help down the road a bit.
Clearly, the staff saw something in him to bring him on board as a late spring signee. We see Tomaic and Thomas being brought along slowly, and given the 13 man roster, it’s possible, one, or both could be redshirted.
Questions, questions, and more questions. While this team lacks the stars from last year, it does have more options, and potentially more depth. Given the youth, and the number of new faces, we're expecting some learning curves and some ups and downs along the way, especially at the defensive end. But a nice foundation is being built for the future, and there's still some solid talent on board.
Terps fans will have to hope everyone stays healthy, and all the new faces gel quickly.