Mark Turgeon nodded to his left, toward the guard he’s ridden all season, the sophomore who finally listened. The question, asked after Maryland topped Duke in the ACC tournament quarterfinals on Friday, was about Dez Wells and his career-high 30 points. Somehow, Turgeon’s answer evolved into praise for Nick Faust, the other player on the stage alongside Wells, who spent the entire interview session silent because everyone wanted to talk to Wells and Turgeon instead.
“Dez has stepped up,” Turgeon said, “And Nick Faust has stepped up. I’ve been riding Nick all year, been on him, playing better as a defender and playing with poise.”
The next night, under more heartbreaking circumstances following a three-point loss to North Carolina, Turgeon still found room to commend Faust.
“I’m really proud of this guy next to me,” he said. “Just his growth in the last three weeks. I’ve been on Nick hard about growing up and becoming a basketball player. He’s just had a great two weeks.”
Faust’s numbers reflect a larger transformation. He’s scoring more, averaging 13.6 points over the past five games. He’s shooting better — 45.8 percent from the field and 46.4 percent on three-pointers in that span. He’s shooting smarter, each game featuring minimal head-scratching, here-goes-nothing attempts, a staple of Faust’s game earlier this season. Most importantly, those shots are actually going in.
“It’s his shot,” point guard Pe’Shon Howard said. “He’s always had confidence in it, he’s always worked on it, he’s been in the gym a lot .We knew it would click eventually. Coach told him to keep shooting, but monitor it and make sure he’s taken good shots. That’s the main thing: He’s not settling for jumpers. He’s trying to drive, but if he has an open three-pointer he’ll take it. It’s just falling for him right now.”
Faust spent the offseason retooling his jumper, working on sliding the release point to the right, so he’s wouldn’t hoist shots from across his face. Still, Faust shot 27.5 percent from beyond the arc in nonconference play, with some ugly lines (0 for 5 against Kentucky, 0 for 4 versus Lafayette and South Carolina State) sprinkled in.
As point guard issues forced Faust into a positional switch, those scoring numbers dipped accordingly. In 13 games to open ACC play, he reached double figures twice. He shot 33.7 percent from the field for that stretch.
But Faust has finally found his balance. He’s scored in double figures in six of the past seven games, and the one anomaly was a nine-point effort at Wake Forest. The turnovers are still there – three per game since Georgia Tech – but he’s finally defending, something harder to quantify but infinitely more pleasing to Turgeon.
“He’s shot it well,” Turgeon said. “That’s icing on the cake. He’s not turning the ball over, making better decisions, not going one on five. Still takes a couple bad shots a game, made a couple bad shots against Carolina. But he’s defending now .That’s what I like. I’ve been begging him all year and he refused. With Pe’Shon and Dez out there defending, Nick’s really bought into it lately. A little more under control, doing what the coach asks and doing it with purposes…you guys might not see that change but I see tremendous change in him.”