You’ll forgive Maryland basketball coach Mark Turgeon if he’s feeling like Pop Fisher these days — New York Knights manager Pop Fisher before Roy Hobbs showed up, that is.
Let’s forget for just a sliver of a moment that there is no serviceable point guard on the Terrapin roster — there is no leader on this team of any kind. To wit, the Terps are 2-6 on the road this season; 1-6 in the ACC, which means they lose road games ... in EMPTY GYMS! They’re losing games to teams that aren’t good enough to warrant their own fans getting out to see them play.
Lose at Duke, lose at Carolina? Sure, who doesn’t? But losing at Boston College and Georgia Tech in front of crowds that wouldn’t outdraw an AAU game is tough to take. Then again, with a lack of bodies in the stands, there is also a lack of energy in the building, and this is a Maryland team that doesn’t seem capable of generating its own energy. Frankly, they look as though the long schedule has gotten the better of them.
Early in the season, Maryland’s troubles seemed to stem from a lack of continuity and the players not knowing their roles. Granted, this is a very young basketball team, as four freshmen and three sophomores make up the 10-man rotation, which may be one or two men too many. But Maryland is not exclusive to this as most teams in the country are pretty young. Problem was, it didn’t appear Turgeon was able to get a read for what his young players could do through the first-half cupcake portion of the schedule.
Most notably in the first loss to Florida State (at home), Turgeon admitted he substituted too freely and didn’t allow his players to find any rhythm or familiarity with one another on the court. The waves with which Turgeon ran players in and out of that game brought to mind the kid who finds so many toys under the Christmas tree he doesn’t know which ones to play with. In the end, the nicest ones are under utilized.
Even though they were horrible defensively in Wednesday night’s loss at Georgia Tech, through most of the year the Terps have been a good defensive team and a good rebounding team. Recently, though, they have seemed to lose their assertiveness, particulary on the blocks on the offensive end. They don’t go to the rim and, for some unknown reason, they don’t dunk, just as many of Gary Williams’ teams seemed not to. In turn, Maryland shot just 14 free throws Wednesday night to Georgia Tech’s 27.
That and all things offensively, of course, go through the point guard, and that is something Maryland does not yet have. Suitland four-star Roddy Peters, the son of the former Allegany College player of the same name, and Bishop O’Connell four-star Melo Trimble, no relation to Cumberland’s Trimbles and who will be here in two weeks for the ACIT, have committed to Maryland — Peters, class of 2013, Trimble class of 2014 — so it’s not as though Turgeon is unaware of this shortcoming. In the meantime, the Terps are forced to turn to shooting guards Nick Faust and Seth Allen to run the point, as the mystery of the missing Pe’Shon enters yet another month.
(As my friend Dave pointed out, “Pe’Shon Howard is like a field goal kicker. He’s just lost it.”)
Every time I see Faust I think of Sean Mosley and I hope — I hope Faust’s time at Maryland doesn’t come up short of what it could be because the circumstances dictate he play roles he’s not suited to play. Allen, Turgeon’s first Maryland commitment, can thrill you one moment, then drive you up the wall the next three with the decisions he makes with the basketball.
Maryland’s 7-foot center Alex Len has also become an international man of mystery. At least he has since the win over Duke, which has since been expunged with the woeful losses at BC and Tech. Recently, Len has had some success when the Terps’ guards are able to get the ball over halfcourt, which has been no guarantee, and a play is run through him. Off the ball, however, Len gets pushed around entirely too much for a 7-foot, 255-pound center. Still, his size and athleticism are intriguing to NBA scouts and, currently, nbadraft.net has him as the third-highest rated center in this summer’s NBA draft, projecting him to go to Minnesota as the No. 8 overall pick should he make himself eligible.
Then there is Dez Wells, last year’s Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year while at Xavier. Have you ever seen a player leave his feet with the ball the way Wells does, then have nowhere to go with it once he gets up there? Me neither.
Wells, like so many other of the young Terps, can excite you when he exhibits flashes of what can be. Then the reality of what is strikes and you appreciate that this developing adventure is still going to take some time. It just has to start developing, somewhere and with somebody.
A leader, a leader, Mark Turgeon’s radio and TV fees for a leader!
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org