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Q&A: Breaking Down the Terps’ 2015-16 Forwards and Centers

In the second piece breaking down the Terps’ roster for the 2015-16 season, we’re going to look at the forwards and centers. What was viewed as a weakness last season, could be a strength next season with some key additions through transfer and recruiting.

(Discuss on the BSL board here)

For additional insight, here are some thoughts from Don Markus from the Baltimore Sun and Mike DeCourcy from Sporting News.

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Q: Jake Layman has made improvements and adjustments to his game through his first three years, how do you see him next year at the small forward position? What changes will he need to make to adapt?

Markus: Small forward is the position Jake Layman will have to play if he gets to the NBA, and it’s still something he needs to show NBA scouts he is capable of playing. Because of his athleticism and length, Layman was very effective when he was forced to play more inside last season. Layman still has to show more consistency in creating his own shot, and scoring “off the bounce”, as former Terp Len Elmore likes to say. With the addition of Carter and Stone, Layman will have to be more assertive when looking to make plays, especially if opposing teams go to a zone defense. I actually think Layman has to become a little more selfish – in a good way – to get more shots and show what he is capable of doing.

DeCourcy: He’s a guy who you want to be able to use as your primary scorer. That doesn’t mean that he scores more points than Melo, but most teams don’t run plays for their point guard, they run plays from their point guard. The plays you would normally run would be to a guy like Jake. When he had to do that a year ago, he did it really well and he didn’t find a way to be as productive in some parts of the season when they had Dez and he was the main guy. I always thought Maryland needed both of those guys to score, Dez to lead the team and Jake be fairly close, but that didn’t always happen. He really flourished when Dez was out and played really well in the circumstances where he was the guy. The most important thing is him being comfortable being “the guy,” even though he’s not going to be the only guy.

Garman: Layman has consistently adapted to the team’s needs. Last year, he was needed as a rebounder and responded by leading the team in the category. Now he will take that rebounding ability to the wing and play what seems like a more natural position at the next level. He can attack the basket off the dribble and shoot from the outside, that along with his height should be an asset for the Terps next season. His confidence remains an issue, but entering his senior season, I expect that to be the final hurdle he overcomes and helping this team reach its potential.

Q: When Layman is off the court, who else could see time at small forward?

Markus: The obvious answer is Nickens, and possibly Wiley. There’s not much a difference between shooting guard and small forward in Maryland’s offense. Dez Wells played mostly at the three last season, and was really Maryland’s only consistent low-post threat. That obviously changes this season. Depending on the matchups, I can also see Carter being used there because he has really improved his 3-point shot since coming from Georgia Tech. Can you imagine a frontline of the 6-9, 240-pound Carter, the 6-10, 250-pound Stone and either 7-1 Michael Cekovsky or 6-11 Damonte Dodd up front?

DeCourcy: If it’s not Jake, then I think it has to be Dion. If it’s not Dion, I suppose you could play Brantley and have two small guards then move Jared to the three. I think the ideal would be that you play Dion there and he would flourish. That doesn’t mean he needs to be a great scorer, but you would want him to be a very good defender, a good rebounder and I think he showed last year he could make a shot. He’s going to have to grow in terms of putting the ball on the floor and attacking, but I think he could eventually become that. I liked him in high school a lot and when Dez was hurt, I thought there were flashes where he showed real ability and showed what I thought I saw when he was a high school kid. I’d be pretty optimistic that if you gave him a shot at that spot he could do well there.  

Garman: The most likely option will be Wiley. Nickens can play there as well, but Wiley’s came transitions to the position better. Wiley is a better defender than Nickens and is better suited to guard opposing small forwards. Due to the improved inside play, the small forward position’s role in the Terps offense is likely to change. Dez Wells played was a versatile player for Turgeon last year, but was primarily a perimeter player and a prime piece to the offense. Next year, if Layman is not in the game, if Wiley or Nickens is at small forward, they won’t be a prime focus for the offense.

Q: What will Carter Jr. give the Terps that they didn’t have last season?

Markus: It’s not just last season. Maryland hasn’t had a player with his size and skill set since Chris Wilcox – and possibly since Tom McMillen. From what I saw of Carter in workouts and pickup games last summer – and he apparently has improved a lot since then – you have a player who can score inside and outside.  He has an NBA body and NBA range. He is also the strongest player on the team. I don’t think there are too many players in the Big Ten (or the country) who are going to be able to rip potential rebounds out of Carter’s hands, as happened with Maryland’s big men a lot last season. Considering the numbers he put up in his first two years at Georgia Tech – around 10 points and eight rebounds a game – I think he gives Maryland a player capable of getting close to a double-double every night.  

DeCourcy: He gives them a reliable big body that can step away from the basket. He’s very skilled and certainly capable of double-digit rebounding on a lot of nights. I think the question is, where do you play him and how do you play him? A year ago when you took him before Stone entered the picture, you had the opportunity to get him on the floor as a four or five and more at the five and you’d have a difficult team to defend. A team that could score from all five spots and shoot from all five spots. I think there will be a lot of times they will play it that way, but you also have Stone now and how much do you play him? Where do you play him? How ready is he? Those are all factors that will have to play out and Carter comes in already knowing how to play and very capable.

Garman: The Terps haven’t had a player like this in a very long time. Carter has the size to be a dominant post player and has the athleticism to work on the perimeter as well. He can step out and hit the occasional outside shot and will cause several matchup issues for opposing issues because of his versatility. He’s had over a year to improve his game since last playing at Georgia Tech and should be a major part of the Terps offense. The Terps’ offense has been very perimeter oriented in recent years, but now with Carter and Stone will add an inside element to the offense. Turgeon hasn’t had much of that, aside for Alex Len so it will be interesting to see how Turgeon works the post play into his offense.

Q: How big was the Stone pickup for Maryland and how important is it for the Terps to have a reliable center?

Markus: Getting Diamond Stone was not just important for next season; it was a huge coup for Turgeon to close the deal on a top 10 prospect after coming close to signing the Harrison twins a couple of years earlier. If Stone has a big year and becomes a one-and-done, which many expect, it wouldn’t be surprising for Maryland to start getting those type of players on a regular basis, particularly big men. Stone said he was impressed at what the Terps did in preparing Alex Len for the NBA. I’m sure there’s another five-star big man out there watching how Stone plays this season. As for having a reliable center, the Terps now have two in Stone and Carter, and will be able to play as Turgeon prefers, meaning inside-out.

DeCourcy: It moves them from Big Ten Conference contender, to national championship contender. Now you have a guy that can give you a foundation at the back. You had a very good front court before and now you have a chance at a great front court. Also, I talk about Maryland’s value as a job because of the strength of the talent in the corridor from Baltimore to DC to Virginia. That’s one of the reason I think Maryland is a top 10 college basketball coaching jobs. When you can backup the Dion Wileys and the Melo Trimbles by going out and getting one of the best players from another region, that’s a huge advantage and says you’re arriving as a program. So it’s not only a value to this team, but to the advancement as a basketball program to reestablish it as a national power.

Garman: Aside from his impact on the court, getting Stone puts the Terps on the radar of other top prospects. Seeing a top player like Stone commit to Maryland will put the program in other top prospects minds and the Terps will be under the microscope this year. They’ll undoubtedly be a top team and if they can cash in on that success, it could help attract other top prospects in the future, especially if Stone has personal success along with the team’s overall success.  On the court, Stone should provide a scorer in the paint and a rim protector, something they haven’t had much of since Alex Len. Stone will provide offense for the Terps, but with all of the player capable of scoring on the roster, I will look for Stone’s biggest impact to be on defense. He showed in the McDonald’s All American game that he is a shot blocker and with a guard like Trimble, Stone’s defense can transition to quick offense.

Q: What is needed from guys like Dodd, Cekovsky, and Bender for the Terps to be successful next season?

Markus: I think next season is huge for all three because they might be Maryland’s frontcourt in 2016 if Carter and Stone both leave for the NBA. Cekovsky has shown a bigger upside than Dodd, and will use this summer to get stronger and more comfortable with the college game. Dodd is limited offensively, and needs to become a more consistent rebounder and shot blocker while cutting down on his fouls. Bender, who joined the team last January but never got cleared to play medically, has to continue gaining strength and confidence after undergoing knee surgery a couple of years ago. I also think Turgeon needs to use these three on a regular basis and should have the opportunity given how good the Terps are expected to be next season.

DeCourcy: I think only one of them is going to need to be a major player if there are no injuries. Cekovsky has really good ability, he needs to get stronger and get more confident, but he’s got great feet and great length and skill. He really has a chance to be an impact player. I don’t know how much he’s going to have to play, but I think he can make a huge impact on a Final Four or national championship contender.

Garman: The front court depth will be relied on to execute their roles next year and make the most of their minutes on the floor. Cekovsky will be more important for the Terps’ moving forward, but Dodd is a high energy that could be valuable off the bench. When starting games last season, Dodd always seemed like his value would be great as a guy off the bench. The battle for minutes between the two will be interesting next season and could go on a game by game basis. Both will need to play defense and “do the little things” while they are on the floor to help the team find success. Bender is a wild card for next season. Unless he can surprise a lot of people and make a major impact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wears a red shirt next year.

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