The Maryland Terrapins will enter the 2015-16 season with much different expectations than they entered 2014-15. On Friday night, the Terps picked up the biggest commitment of Head Coach Mark Turgeon’s tenure when 5-star center Diamond Stone announced he was going to Maryland via Twitter. With the addition of Stone, the Terps will likely be a preseason top 10 team for next season.
Stone, the No. 5 overall player in the 2015 recruiting class and the No. 2 center, gives the Terps the scoring center they lacked this past season. The Maryland starters now project to be point guard Melo Trimble, shooting guard Jared Nickens, small forward Jake Layman, power forward Robert Carter Jr., and Stone at center. This will be one of the top starting lineups in the Big Ten next season.
Wisconsin was believed by many to be the favorite to land Stone, thinking he would stay close to home. Now he will get a chance to face the Badgers twice next season and try to lead Maryland to their first Big Ten title.
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What Stone Brings to the Terps
Stone will join Carter Jr. in the Terps’ revamped front court, turning the team’s biggest weakness from last season into one of their strengths next season. Damonte Dodd and Michael Cekovsky will now be added depth down low and will no longer be relied on to carry the workload in the paint. Ivan Bender rounds out the Terps big men and will give the team plenty of bodies to put on the floor against the gritty Big Ten schedule.
The addition of Stone will have a major impact on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. The lack of a consistent post player that can score, limited Trimble in the offense last season. Having big men like Carter Jr. and Stone that can play in the pick and roll game with Trimble will add a new element to the Terp’s offense. Trimble can now dribble off screens and attack the basket, hit the rolling big man going to the basket, or kick to an open shooter like Layman or Nickens. That triple-threat offense will make things difficult for opposing defenses and they’ll essentially have to pick their own poison.
If Stone and Carter Jr. can be dominant offensive players in the post, it will open up the offense for the surrounding shooters. With a pure shooter like Nickens on the perimeter to go along with Trimble and Layman, opposing defenses will face a tough decision when guarding the Terps. They can either double-team in the post and run the risk of allowing open looks for the shooters or play the skilled bigs one-on-one.
On defense, Dodd and Cekovsky are athletic rim protectors, but they do not fill the lane like Stone. The wide frame of Stone will take up space in the paint and make it more difficult for opposing offenses to penetrate the Maryland defense.
Depth at Guard Remains a Concern
The biggest question heading into next season for the Terps will be their depth at the guard positions. Coming off the bench, Turgeon will have Dion Wiley and JUCO transfer Jaylen Brantley. Wiley had a serviceable freshman season for the Terps, but he’ll be relied on to take a significant step forward next season. He will need to bring a scoring punch off of the bench and continue to improve as a shooter. Brantley will allow Trimble to play at shooting guard in stretches and focus primarily on scoring. Another ball handler will be a huge addition for this team, something they could have used in the NCAA tournament loss to West Virginia.
Another concern for the Terps’ guards will be their perimeter defense. Dez Wells and Richaud Pack were the team’s primary defenders on the perimeter, but now the team will need a new player to step as its lockdown defender on the outside. Wiley and Nickens have the size and athleticism to do so, but it remains to be seen if they can answer that call.
What’s Next for Turgeon’s 2015 Recruiting Class?
It is no coincidence that Stone committed to Maryland just days after Trimble announced he would return for his sophomore season. Being able to play with a talented guard like Trimble will help any skilled post player and it is hard to imagine Stone still committing if Trimble had announced he would be leaving for the NBA.
It was originally expected that Stone would drag out his decision a little longer, but now Turgeon will have more time to fill out his roster for next season. Having Stone makes the program an even more desirable destination for any potential high school recruit or collegiate transfer.
A name to keep an eye out for is Malik Newman, 5-star shooting guard out of Mississippi. Newman is the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2015 recruiting class and the Terps could now be a potential dark horse with Stone on board. NBC Sports previously reported that Stone and Newman could be a package deal, similar to the way Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones were for Duke last year. There hasn’t been any recent buzz surrounding Newman and the Terps, but that could now pick up with the help of Stone.
The Difference a Year Makes
The Terps men’s basketball program has gone through a major transition since leaving the ACC last year. Entering the Big Ten, the program appeared to be in shambles. Turgeon lost five players to transfer and the Terps were going into unfamiliar territory in the Big Ten. The success of last season helped revive the program in a variety of ways. It re-energized the fan base and turned down the heat on Turgeon’s hot seat. Now with Stone on board, it would take a major downfall over the next two seasons for Turgeon to get back on the hot seat.
The season came to a bitter end less than seven day ago, but the loss to West Virginia is now an afterthought and the Terps fan base is buzzing around the team’s potential for next season. Several top high school recruits have still yet to commit, so other programs will certainly emerge, but the Terps currently on paper should be a national championship contender next season.