Before entering the 2015-16 season with lofty expectations, the Maryland Terrapins were entering the 2014-15 season with an unproven freshman point guard and a program looking to right the ship after a wave of transfers hit the program. The hope amongst Maryland fans was for head coach Mark Turgeon to begin a Maryland basketball renaissance and creep towards the NCAA tournament.
With the emergence of point guard Melo Trimble, all bets were off in regards to what the team could accomplish compared to what the expectations were at the beginning of the season.
After suffering a 69-59 defeat to West Virginia in the third round, the goals and expectations catapulted to an unprecedented level for Mark Turgeon and his Terrapins. With Trimble buying in for another season, Maryland is in good position to trump last year's surprise season. With a solid nucleus of talent coming back to College Park, there is a need for frontcourt help. Five-star freshman center Diamond Stone could be the missing piece that gets Maryland a ticket to Houston in April.
The 6'11, 255-pound freshman enters College Park as one of highest rated recruits to ever step foot on campus. Stone brings an intriguing skill set to the low block, as well as a capable jump shot from 18 feet out.
In a matchup against fellow Wisconsin 2015 big man Henry Ellenson (Marquette), Stone displayed good strength in posting up Ellenson and mechanically sound jump shot ranging out close to the three point line. Stone possesses a quality hook shot when going over the left shoulder, and when properly positioned on the low block, he is a very efficient scorer.
Stone can be a major cog in Maryland's offense with point guard Melo Trimble operating through a high screen offense. With his shooting capabilities, Stone can stretch out for pick and pop opportunities if called upon. Having this luxury could cause opposing big men to stay out on Stone and allow Trimble easier access to the rim to create opportunities for himself or others. An already potent Maryland offense will be even harder to contain with Stone's shooting, exceptional footwork and wide array of post moves.
Areas for Improvement
The Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Dominican HS) product will need to tighten up his conditioning and body type in order to live up to the hype in year one. Stone benefited from being the biggest player on the court in high school, but will need to revamp his physique in order to compete at a high level, especially on defense.
Stone has a tendency to lose focus on defense, which leads to broken communication when defending the pick and roll. Although Stone displayed a solid defensive performance against the nations best in the 2015 McDonald's All-American game earlier this year, he is very inconsistent on this side of the court. When engaged, he can recover quickly and properly hedge on screen and rolls, but there needs to be a bigger effort to communicate and anchor the defense.
The modern day NBA isn't clamoring for a guy like Stone. With the influx of big, mobile forwards and centers suited for an up-and-down tempo, the "back-to-the basket" big man is slowly becoming less common. The ability to shoot is intriguing for Stone, as he complements his low post moves with range of about 18-20 feet.
With the need of transforming his body, Stone will be closely scoped by NBA personnel to see what he looks like at the end of his freshman season. There are signs of quick results, as he has changed from the time of the McDonald's game in April, to when he arrived at Maryland for his jersey number announcement in June.
Starting right away shouldn't be a given for Stone. Junior Damonte Dodd has been impressing the Maryland coaching staff this summer, according to those close to the program. Dodd has bulked up as well and is challenging for starters minutes. Regardless of if he starts the season or not, Stone will prove to play a worthy role in 2015 and will project as a first round pick whenever he declares.