Perimeter Depth a Concern for Maryland
The biggest question facing the Maryland basketball program at the end of the 2016-17 season was the status of junior point guard Melo Trimble. Having already gone through the NBA pre-draft process once and currently being 22 years of age, would Trimble entertain any thought of returning to College Park for his senior season? The general expectation was that he would move on to the professional ranks, and sure enough that’s how things played out.
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With that decision Anthony Cowan, who put forth a productive freshman season playing alongside Trimble, will have even more on his plate next year as Maryland looks to earn a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament bid. While the loss of Trimble is a big deal, it’s a move that head coach Mark Turgeon and his staff likely planned for well before the conclusion of this past season. But when you add in the departure of Jaylen Brantley, who will look for a bigger role at another program as a grad transfer, the Terps find themselves in need of another body (or more) so as to avoid asking too much of Cowan.
Of course the addition of Darryl Morsell, a 6-foot-4 combo guard out of Mount Saint Joseph in Baltimore, will help the Terps account for the personnel losses on the perimeter. But with a total of ten scholarships used for the 2017-18 season, counting Morsell and power forward Bruno Fernando, there’s certainly room to fill a need for Turgeon and his staff. The question is where will they turn, with unsigned 2017 prospects and transfer options among those meriting consideration.
The biggest “domino” has to be uncommitted shooting guard M.J. Walker, a five-star prospect out of Georgia whose recruitment doesn’t lack for options. Florida State, which also has some holes to fill on its perimeter with the departures of Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Dwayne Bacon, and Georgia Tech are among the other programs looking to land Walker. He’s got good size at 6-foot-5 and the athleticism to match, and Walker can be an immediate impact player for whichever program reels him in. With Maryland losing its leading scorer in Trimble, the addition of Walker would help the Terps account for that loss with Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson setting up as the top scoring options for next season.
As for transfers, Maryland’s reeled in grad students in the past with Rasheed Sulaimon being a key contributor on the 2016 Sweet 16 squad and L.G. Gill being part of last season’s front court rotation (but not a major contributor). Players such as former Duke forward Sean Obi and former Wright State guard Mark Alstork have shown up on Maryland’s radar this spring, and a guard like a Kassius Robertson (Canisius) or Malcolm Duvivier (Oregon State) could also provide a helping hand for the Terps next season.
While Alstork and Robertson provided scoring at their previous stops, Duvivier was used more in the role of initiating the offense at Oregon State. Cowan’s going to log heavy minutes regardless of who else may be brought into the fold; the key is to ensure that there’s another player capable of shouldering the load for short stretches of time.
While it’s clear that the growth of Cowan, Huerter and Jackson will be the biggest key for Maryland next season, the front court and how the staff can improve the team’s depth this spring will be important as well. In the coming weeks transfers and uncommitted recruits will make their college decisions, and there will likely be other moves as well. And with that being the case, the Maryland team we envision now may not match up with the one that begins summer workouts.
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