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 top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.
Today’s edition of the ‘BTPowerhouse Preview Series’ will focus on the wings for Maryland.
BTPowerhouse Preview - Maryland Wings:
Key Departures: Jake Layman, Rasheed Sulaimon
Additions: L.G. Gill, Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson, Micah Thomas
Top Player: Jared Nickens
Heading into the season the Terrapins will likely turn to Jared Nickens at the starting small forward spot. The 6’7” junior will have some big shoes to fill as his spot here sees him replacing Jake Layman, who averaged 11.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Terrapins. Also, Rasheed Sulaimon saw some time out at the wing, though he was more of a mainstay in the backcourt at the two spot.
While inexperience and fresh faces are littered across Maryland’s depth chart this season, Nickens at least has plenty of playing time under his belt. The junior hasn’t been a starter for Maryland, but he has averaged just under 20 minutes a game in his first two seasons with the program, recording 5.4 points and 1.9 rebounds per game this past season. Unfortunately his shooting numbers took a slight dip last season, with his field goal percentage falling from 37.8% to 36.7% and his three point percentage dropping from 39% to 34.7%. The Terrapins will need Nickens to improve his shooting with the guard/forward set to see a bigger role heading forward.
Heading into the 2016-17 season his head coach has plenty of confidence that Nickens can make that leap.
“He’s improved defensively, he’s improved his handle. His confidence seems to be up and he’s really shooting the ball well in practice,” said Mark Turgeron. “I’m expecting him to be a better player than he was last year...and help us in more ways.”
The Terrapins lost a ton of production from last season and that leaves the team decisively less experienced, with plenty of fresh faces set to fill the roster. When it comes to the bench for the “wing” spot the reality is most of the potential options could just as easily be placed in the backcourt or frontcourt instead.
Freshman Kevin Huerter was a four-star guard and at 6’7” he is capable of playing either the shooting guard or small forward spot. He’s a bit raw and his inexperience means he has some work to surpass Nickens if he wants to end up starting, but the potential is there for Huerter, especially if he’s as good of a shooter as Turgeon has suggested.
“Kevin Hurter is one of the best shooters I have ever been around consistently. He’s really improved since USA basketball,” mentioned Turgeon.
Also potentially in the mix are freshmen Justin Jackson, Micah Thomas and Joshua Tomaic, as well grad transfer L.G. Gill. Both Gill and Tomaic are more likely to see playing time in the frontcourt, but each player has shown the tendency to shoot the ball from outside. While Tomaic is raw and a project for Turgeon, Gill is a grad transfer that averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season for Duquesne, shooting 34.4% from three on 4.5 attempts per game.
Thomas and Jackson both could potentially have bright futures for the Terrapins as well.
“Micah is an athletic wing player who has been successful playing at a high level in high school and in AAU. He is a good shooter, athletic rebounder, and can defend multiple positions,” said Turgeon.
As for Justin Jackson, Turgeon envisions the freshmen to help out Maryland at both the three and four. While trying to stray from a Jake Layman comparison, Turgeon does envision Jackson to eventually fill a similar role.
“Justin Jackson is another young man as a freshman that's ready to help us in a big way. Don't want to compare him to Jake Layman, but he's going to play that same type of role for us, the three and the four,” Turgeon mentioned at the Big Ten’s media day earlier in October.
The reality is Maryland is going to take a hit here with the loss of Jake Layman, as well as all of the other roster turnover. That being said, though, there’s a ton of potential heading forward. Jared Nickens hasn’t been great in his first two seasons, but he hasn’t been bad and he’s shown enough potential that he could have a very productive junior season in his first as a starter. At the very least he has plenty of playing time in his first two seasons.
Past Nickens the Terrapins boast a ton of potential freshman that could see minutes here and could eventually blossom into some highly talented players for Maryland. The theme is Turgeon has recruited guys that feature long wingspans, can pass the ball and have proven to be capable shooters from the perimeter. That mix of size, shooting and passing can be a deadly mix, the only question is how fast these guys can get up and running.
Maryland’s inexperience could lead to growing pains, but there’s more than enough here that the Terrapins should see a bright future soon enough.