Observations and notes from Maryland basketball open practice

October 12, 2013

The Maryland men’s basketball team conducted a 20-minute, refereed open scrimmage on Saturday morning at Comcast Center. Somewhere around 100 fans attended, migrating over across campus before tailgating for the football game later in the afternoon.

Coach Mark Turgeon sat out practice and stayed at home with strep throat, so assistant coach Scott Spinelli ran things, with Dalonte Hill (red team) and Bino Ranson (black team) managing the intrasquad sides.

Behind Jake Layman’s game-high 20 points, the Fighting Dalontes held off a late charge from the Runnin’ Ransons — fueled mainly by turnovers on the red side — for a 38-36 win.

“Still have a lot of room to get better,” Spinelli said. “The team itself has gotten better from when we first started even this fall, our practices, to where we are now. A lot of things we have to work on. Obviously turnovers has been something we spoke about as a coaching staff with these guys making simple plays, we had some turnovers today that were kind of foolish.

“Hopefully we can correct those. We talked a lot this week about executing your part of the play on offense, and on defense about talking and communicating. I thought we got better in those two areas today.”

The rosters and some postgame notes are below (starters denoted by asterisks):

BLACK TEAM: Seth Allen*, Dez Wells*, Shaquille Cleare*, John Auslander*, Evan Smotrycz*, Spencer Barks, Varun Ram, Jacob Susskind

RED TEAM: Jake Layman*, Nick Faust*, Roddy Peters*, Jon Graham*, Damonte Dodd*, Charles Mitchell, Conner Lipinski, A.J. Metz

>> Layman stole the show, and will steal plenty more shows this season, too. He canned four three-pointers, drew fouls at the rim and generally looked far more confident than the timid freshman of last winter.

“Everybody talks about the freshman to sophomore jump,” Spinelli said. “I think it goes back to the strength he’s got, he’s able to do a little more physically and where he gets bumped, whether it’s trying to rebound or coming off a screen, his legs are under him so he’s gotten stronger. He’s got a little bit more of a swagger to him. He’s playing with a lot more confidence.”

The lanky swingman has generated plenty offseason buzz with his three-game outburst in the Bahamas, and some added muscle has afforded him more confidence, that so-called “swagger” if you will.

“[Turgeon is] always preaching to his guys to make sure, whether they make three mistakes in a row or five or six mistakes in a game, to maintain their confidence,” Spinelli said. “That’s how he coaches, and that’s how our guys hopefully play, with a swagger or confidence about them. Jake’s a direct result of that coaching style.”

>> Having both Layman and Evan Smotrycz on the floor together will give Turgeon an added weaponry absent last season. Smotrycz finished with 12 points, twice bulldozing Penn State transfer Jon Graham on the low block for free throws and hitting three three-pointers around the arc.

A lineup with Layman and Smotrycz on the wing, any two-man combination of Wells, Faust and Allen, and either Charles Mitchell or Shaquille Cleare in the paint gives Maryland the offensive diversity it needs to space the floor and open room for paint penetration.

“They’re weapons on offense,” Spinelli said. “Last year, with us, we talked about this as a coaching staff, our big guys, whether Shaq, Charles, Alex [Len] or [James] Padgett, we didn’t have that perimeter threat from the post out to the perimeter, so the floor was kind of clogged up. With Evan and Jake on the floor, we’re going to have a lot more driving lanes, more spacing for guys like Dez and Nick and Seth to really drive to the basket, and the floor’s going to open up a lot more.”

>> Turnovers continue to present a thorny problem. As the black team mounted its comeback, going on a 10-0 run that overtook the lead, the red team committed seven turnovers on nine possessions. At least four came on poor passes.

“We’ve got so many talented guys that we can’t be giving away possessions like that,” Smotrycz said.

>> Seth Allen played next to no point guard, deferring to Varun Ram on the black team. Roddy Peters mostly handled point guard duties for the red side, but Nick Faust and Conner Lipinski also brought the ball up several times.

Speaking of Peters, he’s going to be just fine transitioning from high school to college this season. With all of Maryland’s scorers, the Terps need their prized point guard recruit to simply execute the offense, defend on the perimeter and make plays in transition. His defense is coming along, but Peters already possesses top-shelf body control and court vision on the break.

He nicked his ankle up twice during the scrimmage, receiving treatment and returning.

“It’s okay,” Spinelli said. “Roddy’s a competitor. He’s got that D.C. swagger out there. He’s continuously getting better and better and he’s going to be a valuable asset to our team this year in a lot of ways.”

>> Spinelli, one of three finalists for the Florida International job this offseason who was also contacted by Buffalo for its open gig, looked comfortable running the show. He’s been on the radar of mid-major programs before, and should continue to be in the future.

“Listen, I think the big thing is, we told the guys before, you’re a substitute teacher implementing the lesson plans from the permanent teacher,” he said. “We asked our guys, make sure you give the substitute teachers the respect and attention that we need to make sure we get you guys better over the last few days. I think our guys responded well in that regard.”

>> The other half of Maryland’s class of 2013, center Damonte Dodd, won’t see substantial minutes this season, but will still provide energy off the bench in a pinch. He blocks shots and elevates well.

>> Auslander joked that he wished Turgeon had asked him to coach one squad. It’s no secret he harbors post-graduate coaching aspirations, and will probably get his shot after this, his senior season.

>> Varun Ram may not play much this season behind Peters and Allen at point guard, but when he does receive minutes, the Division III transfer will drive opposing guards batty. He’s a backcourt hound with fast hands that shoot into passing lanes, and had enough athleticism to leap up from behind and poke the ball away from Mitchell during the scrimmage.

At the very least, Ram challenges Peters and Allen during practice like a scout-team players should.

>> Final point totals: Layman 20, Wells 12, Smotrycz 12, Faust 10, Cleare 4, Mitchell 3, Dodd 3, Peters 1, Lipinski 1.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · October 12, 2013

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