Taking its cue from the neighboring Landover Redskins, the University of Maryland men’s basketball program continues to make more offseason news than inseason news. The difference being the Redskins usually win the offseason, while the offseason losses keep mounting for the Terrapins.
Make it four now that junior guard Seth Allen, Coach Mark Turgeon’s first committed recruit at Maryland, has announced his plans to transfer, with No. 5 possibly on its way as whispers persist junior forward Charles Mitchell might leave as well.
Already gone this offseason are transfers Nick Faust (Oregon State), a senior guard Turgeon practically begged three years ago to keep the commitment he made to Maryland and to Gary Williams, junior center Shaquille Cleare (Texas), at the time Turgeon’s most heralded recruit, and sophomore guard Roddy Peters (undecided). And, oh yes, assistant coach Scott Spinelli also left, making a lateral move closer to home in taking an assistant’s job at Boston College.
The departures of Faust, Cleare and Peters, while brow raising, did not come as a complete surprise. Allen’s departure, however, new to the whisper mill last Wednesday, seemingly came out of nowhere for the Maryland program, supporters and alumni.
“It's time for me to say it ... What is going on with the #Terps program!?!?,” tweeted Drew Nicholas, a guard on the 2002 national championship team. “When was the last time ANY school had 4 kids leave the program!?”
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas told the Baltimore Sun on Friday that the wave of transfers is not exclusive to Maryland.
“There are more transfers than ever,” he said. “The reasons don’t always seem to make sense to us who think we know the reasons why kids should stay in school, stick it out, work through things.
“Years ago, this wouldn’t have seemed like an issue. If you don’t play in a position, if you have to make a sacrifice, if you have the ball in your hands or don’t have the ball, now it’s more acceptable to transfer. You don’t want to overuse the word culture, (but) even players in AAU jump from one team to another with no rhyme or reason.”
If it concerns college basketball and Jay Bilas says it, I put it in stone, but even players in AAU jump from one team to another with no rhyme or reason? Isn’t it more like particularly players in AAU jump from one team to another with no rhyme or reason?
For a number of reasons Gary Williams did not play the AAU game when he was at Maryland. Did he take AAU players? Of course. But he understandably wasn’t up to putting himself and Maryland at the mercy of the players, who not only play AAU, but who coach and direct the AAU programs and wave their players under the noses of hungry coaches the way a fisherman does bait. Toward the end of his career in College Park, Williams was criticized for this (and didn’t care a lick), not surprisingly by AAU coaches and supporters who don’t understand just how sleazy the AAU meat market can be.
Turgeon, on the other hand, recruits the AAU both feet in, and there is not a thing wrong
with that. In this day and age in college basketball it’s an act of survival. It’s a necessity, and Turgeon has come away with highly-ranked recruiting classes, including the incoming class that is ranked eighth nationally by ESPN.com, and his first Maryland class of 2012, of which only forward Jake Layman and Mitchell (for now) remain.
Is Allen’s transfer a matter of his running from the incoming class that includes McDonald’s All-American point guard Melo Trimble and wing Dion Wiley? Allen’s AAU coach Craig Boothe told the Sun, no way. And it wouldn’t make sense for that to be the case because with Trimble at the point, Allen would have been free to return to his natural position of scoring guard.
Yet if that is the case, it says so, so much about the pee wee sports/participation trophy/AAU culture of entitlement we have created in spoiling our children through the process of marketing them for the free ride and the dreamy NBA riches at the end of the rainbow. That’s right, when it comes to all things participation trophy, which pee wee sports and, to a degree, the AAU are, I am the mean old man in the neighborhood screaming, “Get the hell off my lawn!”
For his part, Turgeon is not playing the part of the emperor wearing no clothes through this exodus, telling the Sun he must “take total blame” for these transfers.
“You don’t lose four guys and say, ‘Oh, it can’t be me,’ “ he said. “This is new territory for me. This has never happened” during his career as a head coach.
People who love the University of Maryland have not really liked the Maryland basketball team the past couple of years. Not the players personally, mind you, but the team — the way it has been constituted and, most importantly, the way it has played. Maybe the people who are leaving are responsible for that. Or maybe somebody who is staying is.
This we will discover in time. But until then, Drew Nicholas is right. It really is time to say it ... What is going on with the Terps program!?!?
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org