Now that the 2016-17 campaign is in the books for the Terps, here are some reflections on the season and where Maryland goes from here:
My take on the season?
The Terps finished 24-7 in the regular season and third in the Big Ten. Maryland was picked by most to finish 8th to 10th. Clearly it was a successful campaign. What fans remember though is the finish -- and it was not pretty. That's understandable, but, again, I considered this a "bridge" or rebuilding year, so I will take the overall 24-9 and be satisfied. I think the team overachieved, but, in any event, it's history now, and the program must not take a step back.
Certainly the freshmen. I thought all would contribute, but Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, and Justin Jackson all had their shining moments. Those three are the key components for the immediate future.
The Maryland frontcourt simply was non-existent for much of the year. Yes, injuries played a major role in that, but the Terps got out-rebounded and "out-toughed" game after game. It's not like Michal Cekovsky, Damonte Dodd and Ivan Bender lacked size, but there's really no excuse for the way this trio got manhandled. For the program to step up, this has to be addressed.
Players needing to step up?
I could say Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley, but, for various reasons, it just seems like those situations are what they are. I feel confident the three freshmen will step up, but if there is one returning player who must step up, it's Cekovsky. Get healthy, stay healthy, and dominate for stretches. Without a consistent low-post presence, the program will stagnate.
My thoughts on Melo Trimble?
I don't see him back for his senior year, and, again, I also see some "fans" thinking we'll be better off with him not in the lineup. Yes, he shot inconsistently, and, yes, he dominated the ball a bit too much, but he had enormous pressure on him to carry this team. How many wins do the Terps have without him? Maybe 15? All those close games the Terps pulled out were normally because of Trimble's contributions. Who takes game-ending shots next year? We shall see. Trimble has been one of the more notable figures in Maryland Basketball in recent years. He's going to be sorely missed.
Keys for next year?
As I said, find a low-post presence. You hope all three freshmen continue developing, and also hope that guys like Josh Tomaic and Micah Thomas become factors. With Nickens, Wiley, Jaylen Brantley and Bender, we pretty much know what the Terps have. Tomaic and Thomas are unknowns; having one or both of them coming off the bench and making some noise will be key. And the entire team must show a whole lot more toughness and aggressiveness -- if that's in their DNA.
Assuming Trimble is gone, head coach Mark Turgeon would have one scholarship to give. I am hoping it's used for a low post banger, preferably a fifth-year guy, so it would not tie up scholarships for the 2018 class. Find a 6-8 Boom Osby somewhere -- anyone who will knock people around, grab rebounds in traffic, and defend like his life depended on it. If he can score on occasion, that's gravy.
Should a second ship materialize, a solid fifth-year point guard would be nice. Someone has to give Anthony Cowan a break, or fill in should an injury occur.
Does it have to be a fifth-year guy?
I think so. How many high school kids are still available at this time of year who can come in from day one and get the job done? I am hoping someone can be added who has a track record.
What about a transfer?
Anyone having to sit out a year makes no sense, unless for some strange reason it's a dominant player who simply wants to come back home. The Terps need help next year.
2018 Recruiting needs?
Combo guard, wing, combo forward, and a true low-post big man. I would expect a four-man class, and 2018 is probably the most important class of Turgeon's time at Maryland. He has to nail it.
Who is the No. 1 target?
Tough to say, but I'd probably go with Moses Brown, since 7-0 centers don't grow on trees, and despite needing more time to develop physically, Brown has a world of potential. But, clearly, Jalen Smith, Brandon Slater and Prentiss Hubb are local kids very high on the Maryland radar as well.
Others to monitor?
Hubb: Looks like Villanova may lead Maryland at this time.
Slater: Maryland, Nova, Syracuse, Louisville, UVA, Miami, South Carolina
Smith: Probably a Maryland/Villanova battle, with Syracuse and others in the mix
Eric Ayala: Still deciding on coming out in '17 or '18, but the Terps are in the mix either way.
Silvio DeSousa: Powerful 6-8 athlete, friends with Bruno Fernando, and has Maryland, Louisville, UNC, Florida and others
David McCormack. Huge low-post operative. Looking at Maryland, Kansas, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Louisville, South Carolina, Georgetown
Immanuel Quickley: Big-time local combo guard. Duke, Kentucky, Maryland, Miami, Providence, UVA, Kansas
Aaron Wiggins: 6-6 under the radar wing. Wake, NC State, Maryland, Arizona, Virginia Tech and others
Jaylen Hoard: 6-8 teammate of Wiggins. Arizona, Wake, Louisville, Maryland, Kansas, UNC and others
Jairus Hamilton: 6-8 small forward, formerly from Hyattsville, Md. UNC leads, Kansas, Louisville, Maryland, Wake and Arizona
Possible starting lineup in 2018?
Cowan, Huerter, Jackson, Fernando, Cekovsky (the way it stands now). You have to develop the 6-9 spots coming off the bench. I do think Darryl Morsell will be a factor. He is tough as nails and plays with an edge. This program needs that desperately.
I don't see any movement at this time....but there's already been numerous moves nationally, and we've not even reached the Final Four yet, when those moves typically occur.
Overall state of the program?
You have three Dances in a row, so that's a good thing. I do think it's an important spring. Adding another player or two who can contribute immediately is critical in order to dance next year. Polishing off a big-time recruiting year in 2018 can take the program to the next level. I understand the negativity with the way the year finished, but, again, the talent level at the moment isn't elite, so I consider it a successful year, and am reasonably optimistic the Terps are headed in the right direction.