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Maryland Basketball’s Freshmen Class Gives Team A Spark

The 2017 class is more advanced than most thought

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Maryland vs Xavier Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The conventional wisdom this season was that Maryland’s season was going to be decided on the back’s of their talented sophomore class. The trio of Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan were going to take Maryland wherever it was going to go.

After five unbeaten games, this is still not far off. Cowan has been spectacular averaging 14.6 points per game, Huerter is shooting nearly 40 percent from three and Jackson has struggled a bit, but is still averaging nearly 10 rebounds per game.

The surprise for the Terps so far has been the play of its 2017 class. Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell have jumped right into the rotation and contributed quality minutes. In Morsell’s case, you could make the argument that Maryland doesn’t get by Bucknell last Sunday without his 12 second half points. Fernando exploded for 18 points in a blowout win against Jacksonville St. last night.

Let’s take a look at this talented tandem and break down what they’ve brought to Mark Turgeon’s team so far this season.

2017 Class Overview

The 2017 class was a small, but good one for coach Turgeon’s program. Fernando and Morsell were consensus four-star recruits and Maryland’s class ranking came in at no. 35 according to Rivals.

Still, the expectation was that the fruits from this class wouldn’t become apparent until next season. Fernando, a top 60 overall player, had the best chance to make the most immediate impact due to Maryland’s depth in the frontcourt, but big men take time to develop.

For Morsell, it was hard to gauge the minutes he would earn this season in a rotation of Cowan, Huerter and Dion Wiley.

Both have exceeded expectations and won games for Maryland so far. Let’s next take a look at what these players have brought to the Terrapins this season.

Bruno Fernando

The first word you might think of when watching Fernando this season is “energy”. The Angolan native averages 18.8 minutes a game, but averages an efficient 11.2 points per game along with two blocks. Other than the Butler game, Fernando has kept his turnover numbers low and is slowly increasing his rebounding numbers. Fernando made his first start against Bucknell on Saturday, and it looks like he isn’t turning back.

Take a look at one of Fernando’s already patented thunder dunks against Butler. Video courtesy of BTN.

Darryl Morsell

The tough Baltimore guard has been the pleasant surprise of Maryland’s season. As mentioned, the rotation this season didn’t seem to suggest Morsell would earn a ton of minutes, but his play has been so sound that Turgeon has been forced to play him 20 minutes a game.

Morsell’s play against Bucknell was particularly impressive. The Terps fell behind the Bison by 15 at the break. Morsell scored eight of Maryland’s first 10 points of the second half to cut the lead to eight. Later in the half, Morsell scored a key three-point play to pull Maryland within four with just over 12 minutes remaining. From there, his team mates took over and Maryland escaped with a 80-78 victory. Morsell finished with 15 points and was a key catalyst for the Terps to avoid an embarrassing mid-November loss.

For his efforts against Bucknell and Butler last week, Morsell was named the Big Ten’s freshman of the week on Monday.

During last night’s game against Jacksonville St, Morsell strained a hamstring just minutes into the game. Morsell didn’t return, but is considered day-to-day. Here’s hoping his scoring and energy will return to action Friday against St. Bonaventure.

Take a look at a Morsell steal and dunk against Butler last week. Video courtesy of BTN.

Overall

Maryland is a young team trying to figure it out early on this season. One of the nice surprises that has driven their undefeated record has been the play of Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell. Both young players provide energy, production and depth to an impressive core that is building in College Park. The schedule gets more difficult with a potential matchup against TCU waiting in the Emerald Coast Classic, a road game at Syracuse and its Big Ten opener against Purdue on December 1st. Getting these young players reps and confidence will be vital to a tournament run for the Terps this season.