It’s a pretty good time to be a Maryland basketball fan. Not only are the Terrapins coming off a 28 win season that included a trip to the NCAA Tournament, they are poised to be even better next season. With standouts Melo Trimble and Jake Layman returning at point guard and small forward respectively, coach Mark Turgeon’s crew could potentially be one of the best teams in the country in 2015-16.
While they have three returning starters and a host of bench players coming back, the Terrapins will still benefit from some new blood. Part of that is from class of 2015 members Diamond Stone and Jaylen Brantley, as well as transfers Rasheed Sulaimon and Robert Carter Jr. Although all four new players could play a role for Maryland this season, we take a look at each one and determine who will make the biggest immediate contribution.
This one doesn’t seem fair at first, since Sulaimon brings much more college experience to the table than Stone and Brantley combined. In three seasons at Duke, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard showed plenty of ability but lacked consistency and struggled to fit within the confines of the team. As a result, his minutes and points-per-game dropped from 29.2 and 11.6 as a freshman to 19.3 and 7.5 last season before he was dismissed from the program. It’s unclear how well he’ll fit in Maryland, but the former Blue Devil can both get to the rim and knock down jumpers, making him an excellent candidate to replace Dez Wells if he can keep his head on straight. While he’ll be challenged for playing time by sophomores Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley, Sulaimon is the favorite to start alongside Trimble in the backcourt.
Robert Carter Jr.
A former starter at Georgia Tech, Carter will finally be able to showcase himself in the Big Ten after sitting out last season due to the terms of his transfer. At 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, the junior has not only size but also a rebounding prowess that the Terrapins lacked last season when they often played Layman at the four. If Carter, who averaged 8.4 boards in 2013-14, slides into the starting four spot as expected, Layman will be able to move back to the three and the Terrapins won't have to play as much small ball. Carter can score too (11.4 points-per-game in '14), but his main focus with Maryland will likely be rebounding and defense.
While Sulaimon and Carter are much more seasoned, Stone may actually have a bigger role for the Terrapins next season. Simply put, the Wisconsin native isn’t your typical freshman big. At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, Stone has very good size but also an already polished post-game that project him to be an immediate force on the block next season. Although Maryland is returning last season’s starting center, junior Damonte Dodd, it shouldn’t take long for Stone to win the job. In fact, if the McDonald’s All-American plays up to his full potential, he could be a top-ten pick in next year’s NBA draft should he decide to leave school. Bottom line, there’s a reason why nearly every major program in the country recruited Stone. He’s a potentially special player, and he could take the Terrapins to the next level.
A 5-foot-10 point guard and junior college transfer, Brantley is the only newcomer not expected to be a starter. Still, he should have the opportunity to earn playing time in the Terrapins' backcourt. Trimble is the obvious starter, but the rest of the notable guards on Maryland’s roster (Sulaimon, Nickens, Wiley) are shooting guards, making Brantley the favorite for the backup point guard spot. Turgeon will likely monitor Trimble’s minutes a little more this season (the guard averaged 33.5 in 2014-15) so Brantley’s presence should benefit the Terrapins.
Right now, it's hard to predict whether Sulaimon, Carter or Stone will ultimately have a bigger impact next season. We'll give Sulaimon the slight edge right now, but both Carter and Stone could play big roles in transforming Maryland into a more physical team. All three players will have to adjust to new teammates and a new system, but the senior guard has the experience factor on his side. Look for all of them (Brantley as well) to play significant minutes next season.