The Maryland Terrapins frontcourt lost three big-time college players in Robert Carter, Diamond Stone, and Jake Layman from last season.
While Melo Trimble is having a great year as the team’s lead guard, a big man to compliment him is essential to the team’s success.
Enter 7-foot-1 Slovakian, Michal Cekovsky.
Cekovsky, junior, averaged only 2.3 points per game as a sophomore and 2.6 per game as a freshman. But now that the logjam in the frontcourt has cleared out, he is taking advantage of his opportunity to shine.
While he still has not gotten a full load of minutes—or at least minutes that a major contributor would get—he is making the most of those chances and has been incredibly efficient on the offensive end.
In only 16.7 minutes per game, Cekovsky is averaging 9.3 points per contest and is shooting 70% from the floor. SEVENTY PERCENT. Yes, he is only shooting from inside the perimeter and is gigantic, but that is still an impressive figure. That places him first on the team, and is only one of two major contributors that shoots above 50% (the other being Damonte Dodd).
His efficiency on the inside is sorely needed, and should, as the season progresses, push coach Mark Turgeon to up his minutes. Cekovsky is the team’s primary inside scorer and is a very good frontcourt compliment to freshman Justin Jackson, who has a more well-rounded offensive game due to his ability to stretch the floor.
But if Cekovsky wants more minutes, he will have to improve on two areas of his game: rebounding and foul shooting.
Despite his great size, the Slovakian is averaging a measly 3.4 boards per game. That is not gonna cut it for someone that stands 7-foot-1. He needs to increase his physicality on the inside and engage opposing big men to avoid getting pushed around.
He is able to use his strength on the offensive end to make that happen, but seems hesitant on the glass. Perhaps that lack of effort is what enables Turgeon to play him less minutes than he presumably deserves.
His deficiencies at the foul line also make it difficult to play him in late game situations. Cekovsky is shooting only 46% from the charity stripe, that makes him a big draw-foul candidate and someone you, simply, cannot trust to be on the floor late in games. And it is hard to trust the current late-game strategy of Turgeon given that his team has won three one-point games thus far.
Also, the better teams may catch on to this as the season goes on and be more inclined to foul him, instead of allowing him to hit inside shots at the high clip that he currently is.
Right now, Cekovsky is a great inside scoring punch for the Terps, but not much else. If he puts in the time to improve his foul shooting, then he can get an opportunity to stay in the game in the final minutes and be a big difference down the stretch when his team needs a basket.
But if he can improve his intensity on the glass and inside defensively also, then Cekovsky could be a star.
Either way, the big Slovakian is the X-Factor for Turgeon, Trimble, and the 10-1 Terps. If he can stay on his current trajectory, perhaps Maryland can once again perform as one of the Big Ten’s best teams this season.