Rising sophomore Haukur Palsson’s decision to leave Maryland to play professional basketball overseas has clouded what already was a murky situation for Coach Mark Turgeon in his first season with the Terrapins.
Now down to eight scholarship athletes, Maryland returns only three players who have started a game for the Terrapins. All three are guards: senior Sean Mosley and sophomores Terrell Stoglin and Pe’Shon Howard.
“I’m not saying we’re going to lose next year, because we’re going to try to win every game,” Turgeon said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I don’t know what lies ahead. I don’t know how good our players are.”
Asked if he viewed the task ahead as a complete overhaul of the Terrapins, Turgeon said: “I don’t think it is. We have some good guards in the program. We just don’t have the depth we need.”
That lack of depth — along with a particularly thin supply of big men — will almost certainly prove to be Maryland’s biggest challenge in the upcoming season.
Maryland finished last season 19-14 overall, 7-9 in ACC play, with 6-foot-10, 260-pound sophomore center Jordan Williams leading the scoring (16.9 points per game) and rebounding (11.8 per game).
Williams’s decision to enter the NBA draft left a considerable hole in the Terrapins’ front court in terms of heft and offensive productivity.
Then, within days of Jordan Williams’s announcement, Coach Gary Williams abruptly said he was retiring.
And since Turgeon was named his successor in early May, the incoming coach’s chief challenge has been keeping the roster intact. Turgeon scored a significant victory in retaining freshman guard Nick Faust of Baltimore, but lost guard Sterling Gibbs and forward Martin Breunig, who asked to be released from their commitments amid the upheaval.
“The place just wasn’t stable,” Turgeon said, referring to the changeover in coaching staffs. “And when it’s not stable, things happen the way it happened. That happens with change.”
Moreover, it has proven exceedingly difficult at such a late date to find prospects worthy of the available scholarships on hand.
“It’d be really hard to use [the scholarships] for next year,” said Turgeon, who launched into building relationships with Washington area high school coaches his first week on the job. “There’s always [a prospect] floating around. Trust me, we’ve tried [to find deserving scholarship players]. But we’re not going to add a piece just to add a piece. We want to make sure we bring in the right guys, so we’re being selective.
Having just eight scholarship players, Turgeon conceded, “is not ideal.”
The roster now consists of four guards (Mosley, Stoglin, Howard and Faust), three forwards (junior James Padgett, sophomore Mychal Parker and redshirt freshman Ashton Pankey) and one center (senior Berend Weijs).
Palsson, a versatile swingman, would have been particularly valuable in the lineup. The 6-6 native of Iceland played in all but one of Maryland’s 33 games last season, staring three. And he got stronger and more assertive down the stretch, hitting 41.4 percent from three-point range while adding a scrappy toughness to the team’s uneven defense.
According to Turgeon, all of the returning Terrapins have had good summers in the weight room and classroom.
Mosley, the team’s most experienced player, suffered a high-ankle sprain in early June and was only able to resume playing pickup games in July, Turgeon said.
“He’s pretty close to being 100 percent now, so he’ll be 100 percent when we get him back,” Turgeon said. “They all seem to be excited about the new staff. Obviously with eight scholarship players, they all know they’re going to play.”
Turgeon has added two non-scholarship players — both forwards — to the mix: Spencer Barks (a 6-8 center from St. Albans) and John Auslander.
And he said he intends to hold open tryouts this fall in hopes of adding three or four more to get the roster to 13 or 14 players.
“Maybe more, depending on quality,” he added, “just so we can practice.”