The Maryland Terrapins haven't had it this good in terms of frontcourt talent since 2002, when they won the NCAA National Championship. Back then, Maryland had a rotation of four big men with Lonny Baxter, Chris Wilcox, Tahj Holden and Ryan Randle. It was that deep rotation that helped Maryland earn their first-ever NCAA Tournament that year.
With Diamond Stone, Damonte Dodd, Robert Carter and Michal Cekovsky do the Terps have something similar in the making? Yes, and possibly even more dangerous.
Dodd is in some ways the emotional leader of the Terps. His aggressiveness on defensive side of the ball makes him one of the best defenders in the country. While his defensive game is well known, Dodd is also trying to become a better offensive player in the paint at the center position.
"If I know I can do that, it will just make the team better. But if I just do what I gotta do defensively, I know my offensive touches are going to come. I really don't worry about offense. That's really the last thing on my mind," Dodd noted via Washington Post.
As a junior, Dodd is a guy who over the last couple of years has grown up fast not only because of his talent, but out of necessity. Dodd went from a freshman who averaged under eight minutes a game to a sophomore who played in critical stretches and for at least 15 minutes a game as the Terps made the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Dodd averaged 1.5 blocks a game in those 15 minutes per game.
Think about that.
Right now, Dodd will probably be penciled in as the starter at center to begin the season but that is certainly a situation that will be fluid as the season progresses.
Stone is the first five star recruit that the Terps have landed in quite some time and the addition of a player of his caliber is well overdue. Even as a top recruit, Stone has a lot of untapped potential. After committing to Maryland earlier in the spring, he was known for being a bully in the lane. He is someone who get rebounds and also has a well refined offensive game inside the paint, to go along with a nice mid range jumper.
This past summer, Stone apparently figured that just playing in the paint isn't good enough. He has recently developed a perimeter jumper, something which is becoming more of the norm in this era of basketball across all levels. To say that Stone developing a perimeter jumper makes him dangerous, is an understatement. Add in the fact that Stone was a very good free throw shooter in high school shooting well over 70 percent in his senior year, and you have a lethal frontcourt prospect.
Entering this year as a freshman, a lot will be expected out of Diamond, but he isn't going to be thrown to the wolves immediately with Dodd around helping to mentor him. It is pretty safe to say that even though Stone still has some room for improvement, he will be able to play both the power forward and center positions effectively as the season goes on.
Out of the four players in the Maryland frontcourt, Cekovsky is the one guy who is the biggest wild card. Last season, as a freshman, Cekovsky was a bit raw as he came to the U.S. out of Slovakia and was new to the pace of the game in college basketball, and the talent level.
There were times where Cekovksy played well in his limited minutes and held his own, especially during non-conference competition. However, as the season progressed, especially in Big Ten play, Cekovsky struggled a bit keeping pace in terms of his technique and showing good hands inside the paint. Cekovsky did have his best outing in Big Ten play against the Wisconsin Badgers which led to a crucial Maryland victory.
This season, Cekovsky is expected to have a more refined game. particularly offensively, at power forward and center. Cekovsky should be a able to turn his back to the basket on post up a bit more with his length at 7'1.
As of right now, Carter is the most established big man on the Terrapin roster entering his junior season. Carter had to sit out the 2014-2015 season as a transfer from Georgia Tech. His addition was somewhat of an under the radar move with all of the pieces Maryland has put in place over the last couple of years.
Carter is a power forward who brings veteran experience to the game. He can shoot the three, he has a mid-range jumper, and he can run on the fast break. Carter, in his only season with the Yellow Jackets, averaged 11.4 points per game. Pairing Carter with Dodd early could be a complementary combination, as Carter is a power forward who can stretch the defense and Dodd is a quality rim protector. It could certainly help both players out as Dodd will get easier looks to the basket without the double teams.
Carter will be spending a lot of minutes as a power forward as opposed to the center position.
Maryland's frontcourt will be one of the deepest, and arguably the most flexible, frontcourts in the country. There is nothing small about these group of players in terms of height, all four players are at least 6'9". If every player plays to the level of their capability, its going to be hard for opposing defenses to focus on just one player. Maryland isn't unbeatable, but opposing defenses will struggle to play man-to-man or zone defense with what this frontcourt brings.
There were a lot of times during the 2014-2015 season where the Terps went through scoring droughts, especially on the road. They kept settling for jump shots as they often didn't really have a threat inside the lane to go . In the 2015-2016 season, that shouldn't be a problem at all.