Some notes as we get ready for Maryland-South Carolina State.
>> Heads turned on press row at Comcast Center when the Maryland basketball team’s starting lineup flashed on the center-court video board against Maryland-Eastern Shore. Gone were Alex Len, Pe’Shon Howard and Nick Faust, in their place three freshmen.
Seth Allen, Jake Layman and Shaquille Cleare each wound up playing a starring role as the Terrapins surged to an early lead against the Hawks, and bless Coach Mark Turgeon for giving reporters some talking points in an otherwise uneventful 100-68 blowout Wednesday night.
Turgeon shook up the starters just to give his young players some front-line experience, and will do the same Saturday night. He hasn’t named the lineup just yet, but smart money has both Logan Aronhalt and Charles Mitchell each getting nods, given that they’re the only two Terps within Turgeon’s 10-man rotation to not start this season.
“At some point I’ve got to get the rotation down a little bit, but right now it’s building confidence and getting everyone in the system,” Turgeon said. Each game, each practice we get a little more comfortable. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to play offensively. I’ll add things in practice, what we might not try in games.”
>> The NBA buzz is already surrounding Len. Mock drafts have him squarely within the top 10 of next June’s NBA draft. And wouldn’t you know it, Len’s inevitable ascension – be it this year or down the road – to the next level is great for the Maryland basketball program.
“Hopefully it’s something we go through a lot here over the next few years,” Turgeon said. “I’m proud of Alex. He deserves it. We’ve sat down, we’ve talked to him about what he can and can’t do. Alex listens. I’m not concerned about that. Alex wants to win. Alex wants to get better. He deserves it. The guy put on 20-some pounds, gotten stronger and tougher. We’ll see at the end of the year where he stands and what he wants to do. I know that’s why he came here, to play at the next level, and he’s on the right track.”
Stronger and more confident, Len is averaging 14 points and nine rebounds per game through eight games despite averaging just 25.5 minutes per game, second fewest among the ACC’s top 10 scoring leaders. He also leads the conference with 2.5 blocks per game.
>> Guard Pe’Shon Howard played just nine minutes against Maryland-Eastern Shore, effectively removing himself from the game with a stomach ailment, but had a solid practice on Thursday, according to Turgeon, and should be ready to go versus South Carolina State.
Howard hasn’t made a field goal since the Lafayette game but leads the ACC in assists per game. Balancing that fine line between being a pass-first point guard and one who simply never shoots, Turgeon said, has been a point of emphasis.
“Pe’shon, he loves putting the team before himself,” Seth Allen said. “He’s always a team-first guy. That’s why he’s one of our captains. You see a lot, he’ll get an open three, and right before he’s about to pull up, the big man will turn his head, and he’ll try to pass it to Alex really fast. Sometimes he gives up open shots, but it’s to find a better shot.”
Howard, who’s shooting 14.3 percent from the field this season (3 of 21), also hasn’t missed on 12 free throw attempts, an indication to Turgeon that he’ll be fine down the road.
“I want for him to look at his shot a little more,” Turgeon said. “After the Kentucky game, I told him, I don’t need you shooting eight times. He took it a little too far. He’s not making shots in games but he’s making them in practice, so that’s a good sign for me. We’re all confident when he shoots it. I want him to shoot it when he’s open, and if they help off him he needs to step up and knock it down.”
>> Assistant coach Dalonte Hill, who has missed the past two games with blood clots in his leg, returned to Maryland’s practice on Wednesday. Turgeon is hopeful that he’ll be present for Saturday’s game.
“He’s doing much better,” Turgeon said. “Could only stand for about half of it. Sat in the chair for the rest of it. Looks good.”