They spilled onto the Comcast Center floor at around 7:45 a.m. on Monday morning, wide awake and ready to work. Some Maryland players grabbed basketballs off the rack and began shooting on the side baskets. Others idled around, chatting with coaches and teammates before their third preseason practice. Dez Wells and Roddy Peters had been there for at least an hour, getting treatment and putting up shots. Then at 8 a.m., strength coach Kyle Tarp summoned everyone to the baseline, where they stretched and officially began.
Last season, Coach Mark Turgeon would rise early at his Chevy Chase home, see his three young children off to school and then, well, sit around. He read the paper and tried to avoid thinking about an upcoming practice or game — anything but head to the office and stew for hours. “All I do in the office is sit around and be nervous about practice and games,” he said Monday.
It seemed like a no-brainer for everyone, so for the first time in his career, Turgeon scheduled early-morning preseason practices. The other day, as he drove from College Park exhausted at 3:45 p.m., Turgeon thought to himself, “I can’t imagine beginning practice 15 minutes from now.”
It keeps the players disciplined, he says, and helps discourage late nights. Monday’s practice finished around 10:30 a.m., so the players managed a quick lift before scampering off to their 11 a.m. classes.(Reporters attending Monday’s practice did so under the condition that the action itself be off the record.)
“But they’ve got the rest of their day to be somewhat normal, which I like,” Turgeon said. “I think kids need to be college students too.”
The extra benefit comes in recruiting. Last season, Turgeon hated how radio shows and speaking engagements and afternoon practices sapped away his free time to check out local high schoolers. Granted, he responded by assembling a stellar class of Romelo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens and Trayvon Reed, but Turgeon always wished for more.
Now, morning practices allow him to wrap up on the court, assemble another practice plan and visit high school gyms at night. If he wants, he can even fly somewhere and return for the next practice.
“If you’re going to live in Maryland,” he said, “let’s recruit it.”
Once the spring semester rolls around, the Terps will switch into their 1 p.m. practice time slot as the women’s basketball team moves to 4 p.m. Morning speaking engagements might force the occasional afternoon practice here and there, but Turgeon likes the focus and energy he’s received at dawn, even if the players needed some early adjusting at first.
“Yeah we’re pretty far along,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things going for us. We’ve got a lot of returning players. Even our non-scholarship players have been with me for two or three years. We’re way ahead of the curve. It actually feels like the way it’s supposed to feel. First year was first year, last year was all these new bodies, a lot of young kids. That was practice three. I mean come on.”
“We got a lot in, a lot done. The whole key for me is I don’t overdo it. We only have an hour and a half done, hour and a half three days. As long as we keep practicing that hard, and our ability to learn is good, I think I can keep it around an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes.”