In the weeks leading up to the 2016-’17 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its topic in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.
'BTPowerhouse Preview' - Maryland Frontcourt:
2015-16 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: Diamond Stone, Third Team, All-Freshman Team. Robert Carter Jr., Honorable mention. Jake Layman, Honorable mention.
Key Departures: Robert Carter Jr., Jake Layman, Diamond Stone
Key Additions: L.G. Gill, Justin Jackson, Micah Thomas, Joshua Tomaic
The Maryland frontcourt — like the Terrapins as a whole — will likely take some time to develop after losing four starters from last season’s Sweet 16 team. The Terrapins don’t appear to have much depth in the frontcourt after losing three all-conference honorees. However, Damonte Dodd and Michael Cekovsky have played plenty of games in Maryland uniforms, while graduate transfer L.G. Gill also has enough experience to contribute in the Big Ten.
Dodd is the most experienced returner in the Maryland frontcourt. The 6’11”, 250-pound Dodd played in all 36 games last season, including making 13 starts. The senior provides a stable presence down low, but has never shown the potential to be a go-to player on the offensive end. It’s defense and rebounding where Dodd really makes his mark.
The Centreville, Md. native averaged 2.9 points and 2.7 rebounds per game on 63.1-percent shooting last season. Dodd collected 30 blocked shots on the season, including a career-high six blocks at Minnesota in February and five blocks in Maryland’s NCAA tournament win over Hawaii.
Dodd is expected to return to the starting lineup after Stone made the jump to the professional ranks. Before Stone arrived on campus, Dodd was a regular starter who averaged 4.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in 31 starts as a sophomore.
The 7’1”, 250-pound Cekovsky is the tallest player on the roster. The junior from Slovakia saw fairly consistent action the past two years, but he will get a huge boost in playing time this winter. Cekovsky appeared in all 30 games as a freshman in 2014-15, then saw playing time in 29 games last season — including one start. He played 8.6 minutes per game last year, averaging 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds on 55.8 percent shooting.
Cekovsky, who entered college with fairly high expectations, will get a chance to sink or swim this season.
Gill may also get a chance to start alongside Dodd or Cekovsky. The graduate transfer from Duquesne averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season.
At 6’8”, 230 pounds, Gill projects as a stretch power forward. He has the size and athleticism to compete under the basket, while he also shot 34.4 percent (53-154) from the 3-point line last season.
Jackson isn’t a prototypical frontcourt player, but he deserves mention here due to his length and the hype he brings with him to Maryland.
The 6’7” freshman from Ontario, Canada enters the program as a four-star recruit who may get a chance to start at small forward from the get-go.
Jackson, a former UNLV commit, boasts a 7’3” wingspan and athleticism that should allow him to compete as a freshman. How much playing time he warrants, and how much he produces, will depend on his ability to develop his skill-set.
Like Jackson, Micah Thomas is a rangy freshman who may be able to carve out some minutes. At 6’7” with a 7’1” wingspan, Thomas has the ability to help defensively and will likely grow into a solid player as his college career progresses.
Ivan Bender, a 6’9” sophomore from Bosnia and Herzegovina, returns after seeing action in 10 games last season. Bender is the brother of Phoenix Suns rookie Dragan Bender, the fourth pick of the 2016 NBA Draft.
The Terrapins added one more freshman to the frontcourt, however Joshua Tomaic, a 6’9”, 220-pound forward from the Canary Islands, likely won’t see much action this season.
It won’t be easy to adjust after losing three All-Big Ten players in the frontcourt. Luckily, Melo Trimble leads a talented Maryland backcourt that should be able to carry the Terrapins while the big men find their footing and coach Mark Turgeon searches for lineups that work. If the Terrapins find those lineups and a couple of players flourish with increased playing time, Maryland should have no problem competing in the Big Ten.