Breaking Bad: Terps Roster Implications Following Mitchell Departure

cdn.mse.psddev.comIf you looked up chaos in the dictionary, you might find the Maryland Terrapins basketball team’s 2014 offseason as a shining example of the term. The Terps have officially jumped the shark when it comes to mass exoduses from the program; in a sense, they’re even giving the 2011 football team a run for their money.

(Thoughts on the transfer and its implications? Discuss on the BSL Board here.)

After news broke that Charles Mitchell would be leaving the program to tend for his elderly grandmother, the Terps forward marked the sixth player to transfer out this offseason. This wasn’t just a hit, though; this officially meant Maryland has lost 45% of their roster from the season prior (only counting those who played 100 or more minutes). I challenge you to find a program that even comes close to rivaling that.

As my colleague Zack Kiesel has already broken down, the four transfers prior to Charles Mitchell were most definitely hard to swallow and took away quite a bit from the team. But losing Chuck, that’s like injecting mayonnaise into a Boston Creme doughnut and giving it to your recent ex-girlfriend; it’s already hard enough, why make things worse? Mitchell was one of the Terps hustle guys, and while his defensive efforts lacked sometimes, he was a great rebounder. How great? Let’s give some examples:

  • Only 21 players in all of college basketball grabbed more offensive rebounds per minute than Mitchell (.13)
  • Mitchell was top 35 in total rebounds per minute (.33)
  • His total rebounding percentage (percentage of rebounds grabbed while Mitchell was on the court) was fourth all-time among ACC players over the last five years (18.98). Side note: Jordan Williams is third.
  • Mitchell’s offensive rebounding percentage was 21st nationally over the past five years, among all players.

You get the picture, more or less. Mitchell didn’t do a ton of things correctly on the basketball court but the one he did do well was extremely impressive. Losing that, much like when the Terps lost Alex Len the year prior, doesn’t make your team better. And when you losing your best rebounder (Mitchell), defender (Faust), passer (Peters), and scorer (Allen), things start to really look bleak.


One thing that sports fans always lack is this: perspective. Maryland won 17 games last season; they weren’t a couple steps away from a Final Four appearance here. The Terps lost the best players on a bad team, and that isn’t on the same level as if, say, a team like Kentucky lost 45% of their roster. It’s not even in the same galaxy, as much as fans would like to be compared to those schools.

The team underachieved, and Mitchell was a prime candidate for blame a lot of times. Horrendous free throw shooting and foul trouble were two things that, heading into the end of Chuck’s sophomore season, he should have figured out by now. It pummeled his shooting efficiency and effectiveness on the court. Mitchell should have been a double-double every single night because of how well he can read rebounds, but instead he put up mediocre numbers. Had he hit free throws like a big who has practiced at all should have, Mitchell would have been absolutely dominant. But he couldn’t stay on the court, and now he isn’t in the program anymore.

So What’s The Roster Look Like Now?

Here’s the coolest part about all these departures: the roster is almost a completely blank slate now, one that’s also rife with potential. Let’s look at what we have positionally:

Guards: Dezmine Wells (SR), Richaud Pack (SR) Romelo Trimble (FR), Dion Wiley (FR)

Forwards: Evan Smotrycz (SR), Jonathan Graham (SR), Jake Layman (JR), Jared Nickens (FR), Mikhail Cekovsky (FR)

Centers: Damonte Dodd (SO), Trayvon Reed (FR)

Here’s one thing this roster has that it hasn’t in an incredibly long time: definition. I’m of the belief that the Terrapins (and Mark Turgeon in general) have been forced to use a hodge-podge of pieces for a large part of his tenure. That is to say, a secondary-break offense because of no real point guard or big. It’s a departure from his days at Texas A&M as well as Witchita State.

Turgeon likes more defined roles, and it seems like he’s going to get that now. The roster has players who only, really, play one or two positions. Dez Wells is a guard, period. Jake Layman is a wing, period. Melo Trimble is the starting point guard, period. Smotrycz is the undisputed stretch four, period. And every single big man on the roster is just that, big.

Maryland has an inexperienced front court, but they’ve got more size than most college rosters could dream of fielding. If you go back to Turgeon’s first year with the Aggies, this is exactly what he likes. Turgeon works well with big men, and this should really be no different.

The wings are also certain. Layman is the corner shooter, while Wells is the shooting guard expected to exact the brunt of the scoring. Layman isn’t going to be asked to do a ton more than swing the ball around and knock down threes. He won’t have to play power forward nor will he have to guard athletic shooting guards. Layman will be a small forward, and have a size advantage in almost every game he plays. That’s huge.

Finally, there’s a point guard now. Melo Trimble is going to take over from day one with the task of being a facilitator and a shooter to keep defenses honest. Between Smotrycz, Layman and Wells, Maryland has a lot of points already. If Roddy Peters can average around ten points as a starter without being able to shoot, just imagine what Trimble is capable of.

So What’s The Day One Rotation Look Like?

PG: Trimble

SG: Wells

SF: Layman

PF: Smotrycz

C: Dodd

6th: Pack

What jumps out at you right away? That five is balanced as hell, inexperienced as hell, but also really big. Maryland is going to have a size advantage in most matchups, which is really big if they want to continue their solid rebounding against everyone. You can be competitive against anyone by hitting the glass hard, and Maryland will do that.

Having Layman at that small forward position is very important, too, because he’s the best help defender on the team. Layman knows when to slide having been in the system for two years now, and pairing with a slower Smotrycz and an occasionally clueless Dodd in the frontcourt should alleviate some defensive woes.

Here’s another big kicker: foul trouble is less of an issue now. There’s a reason why I listed Cekovsky as a forward, because there’s a good chance he is going to spell Smotrycz a lot as the stretch four in this offense. Cekovsky isn’t a center at this juncture in his career but can hit the outside shot, and Smotrycz fouls at an incredibly high clip (he was in the top 180 players in all of college basketball in fouls per game). Those two go hand in hand, and look for Cekovsky to get quality minutes as a stretch four.

The same goes for Damonte Dodd, Trayvon Reed, and to an extent Jonathan Graham. Ideally, you don’t want Graham playing too many minutes (because he is woefully deficient offensively), but he might play a few minutes. All three would foul out if they had starters minutes, but right now Maryland has three very similar players who can spell one another should either get into foul trouble. This team is almost guaranteed to have a ‘next man up’ mentality because of how many waves they have to offer in terms of front court size.

Finally, the bench might turn out to be surprisingly deep. Pack should be a pretty reliable scorer, Nickens can shoot anytime, anywhere, and Dion Wiley is sort of an x-factor player. When Wiley decides to show up, he can start for Maryland eventually.

The rotation isn’t as terrible as it seems if you’re an optimist, but it will have question mark after question mark if you’re a realist.

Does Maryland Have Any More Roster Turmoil?

It’s hard to say, but likely no. Maryland has open spots they could most certainly fill, but I don’t know that the players available will fit the team.

There are rumors that the Terrapins want to go after Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter, and he has certainly showed some interest in the Terps as well, but he would not play a minute for Maryland until 2015. Then there’s Antoine Mason, the nation’s second-leading scorer in 2014, who played for Niagara. He has stated that he has heard from Maryland, but Maryland will be competing with a very, very long list of suitors for his services and it’s a guarantee he’ll want to go to a program with NCAA tourney certainty.

More likely is that Maryland will want to bolster the backcourt in 2015 through recruiting. Locally, the Terps have some pretty great options for 2015 and 2016 to rely on, namely Kevin Dorsey of Paul VI (VA) and Justin Robinson of St. James (VA). Those two guards project to be backups at the next level and would be a great help to Maryland if they went with a ‘wait it out’ approach.

That would make the most sense, since in 2016 the Terrapins are really interested in PG Anthony Cowan Jr., who happens to be one of the best point guards in the nation and loves the Terps. While it may not seem like the smartest short-term move, creating an environment that Cowan would find desirable in 2016 might be the best decision, since he is a legitimate facilitator and game-changer for the program.

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Written by Michael Willis
4 years ago
Terps Basketball, ,

Michael Willis

D.C. resident. Graduated from Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia (four year letterman in hockey) and University of Maryland, College Park. Played three years of ice hockey at Maryland. Former writer for Washington Wizards blog (, current hockey coach at Gonzaga College Preparatory School. Terrapin nut. Editor of Terrapin Station.


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