You may have heard about Maryland's offseason. It, uh, didn't go exactly as planned for Mark Turgeon's squad. He lost five players from last year's team due to transfers and also lost four star recruit Trayvon Reed before he even enrolled. But much like Mark McGwire (topical reference, Drew!), we are not here to talk about the past. Maryland has a distinct lack of depth up front but they do have a few intriguing possibilities to play down low so let's take a look at who will be doing battle with the A.J. Hammons' and Frank Kaminskys' of the B1G world.
You may remember from last season's intrepid journey following Maryland and Rutgers as they finished their last seasons in their respective old conferences, that Rebounding Machine Charles Mitchell was a favorite of mine. Had he not transferred to Georgia Tech, he probably would be manning the power forward spot for the Terps this year. Prior to Maryland's first scrimmage this past weekend, there was much consternation about the starting lineup for the Terps. Evan Smotrycz is hurt, and since he was going to start as a stretch four, there is now a hole in Maryland's starting lineup. One option is Slovakian freshman seven footer Michal Cekovsky, a four star recruit. He isn't a prototypical power forward, because he won't really be "under the basket" per se, but he could fill Smotrycz's role nicely as a guy that can step out and nail a three. He's also a superior passer for a big man.
This scenario is unlikely however, due to Cekovsky being a freshman and not being 100% ready for big time college basketball on defense. He'll get some minutes this year (he played 18 minutes in Maryland's exhibition against San Francisco State) but won't be filling the stat sheet nightly, yet. The only solidified front court starting spot is Damonte Dodd at the center position. The 6'11" sophomore played sparingly last year, but his offensive rebounding percentage and block percentage were promising. Dodd had five blocks against San Francisco State in only 17 minutes of action. If Maryland could find a way to blend Dodd's defensive timing with Cekovksy's innate offensive ability they would have themselves quite the player in the post. Unfortunately, we don't have that technology yet, so Turgeon is left with a tough decision. Based on the starting lineup for the first exhibition game, the Terps are going to go small and slide Dez Wells into a G/F role while they wait for Smotrycz to return.
Cekovksy will most likely be coming off the bench to spell Dodd, and beyond that Maryland only has one other option in the post. That option is Jon Graham, who transferred from Penn State two years ago and started a handful of games last year for Maryland. He only averaged 10 minutes per game, so this senior is going to be looking to up his production in his last year. Graham hit the glass hard in their exhibition game, leading the team with six boards, and will be looked at to provide leadership and energy this year. Beyond Graham, there is a whole lot of nothing.
Final Grade: C+
There is certainly some potential with this group, but there is almost no on court success to call on. Maryland is going to be a guard heavy team that shoots well (they went 14-for-27 from three in their exhibition game, although they were playing against a zone most of the night), and the bigs are going to have to provide defense and rebounding. If Cekovsky is a fast learner on defense, this grade goes up to a "B." I hope this scathing assessment scares you straight, Maryland front court.