The Maryland men’s basketball team sank to 1-2 after its loss to Oregon State on Sunday, just the second time in Coach Mark Turgeon’s career that he has been under .500 through three games. And while Turgeon wouldn’t fully commit to any tweaks for the Terps’ upcoming trip to the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he hinted strongly that freshman Roddy Peters could be elevated from the bench.
“Yeah, I’ve given it a lot of thought of starting Roddy,” Turgeon said Tuesday. “There’s a good chance. I think it helps Dez [Wells], I think it helps our team. He was pretty good. Pretty big environment. I thought he handled it great. He wasn’t scared of the moment and he’s getting better defensively.”
Defense has been Turgeon’s pressing criticism of the Suitland High School graduate, but Peters was stellar attacking the Beavers zone on Sunday afternoon. With President Obama in attendance, he scored 10 points on knifing layups and dished out six assists, often for easy dunks when low-post defenders helped up and tried to block his path.
“He’s got to get better defensively for us,” Turgeon said. “Everyone’s telling him how well he played, but there’s two ends to the floor. It’s not like football where you can play certain guys on one side. We’d be pretty good if I could do that. The old three-on-three Iowa girls’ basketball. But we can’t.”
Adding Peters to the lineup for Friday’s Paradise Jam opener against Marist (which has lost its first four games by an average of nearly 27 points) would mean reshuffling things around along the perimeter. Wells and Jake Layman, who had 23 and 15 points, respectively, against Oregon State, would likely remain in the lineup. Turgeon could either bump Nick Faust to the bench, taking away the player he hopes can become Maryland’s go-to wing defender without sacrificing interior size, or play 6-foot-10 forward Evan Smotrycz in a reserve role.
Either way, the move seems almost inevitable now, given how vastly superior Wells can be without point guard duties on his plate.
“I don’t think it would matter,” Peters said. “Whenever Coach wants to play me, I’ll play. I don’t think it’ll make a difference.”
The three-game, four-day Paradise Jam, which features a relatively weak field compared to other such events, could allow Turgeon to tinker with his lineup, mixing and matching pieces to see what works. Or he could throw Peters into the deep end, much to the delight of Maryland fans who have been clamoring for such a move.
“You guys will be the last to know,” Turgeon said. “I just don’t want to say that today. I do think there’s a good opportunity that Roddy could be in our starting lineup on Friday at 5 o clock, island time.”
Turgeon revealed far less when asked about sophomore forward Charles Mitchell, who leads the Terps with 7.3 rebounds per game and a 63 percent effective field goal percentage through three games despite averaging just 20.7 minutes off the bench. But starting Mitchell would mean bumping a struggling Shaquille Cleare into a reserve role, and with the sophomore’s slow start already threatening his confidence, maintaining the status quo might be Turgeon’s best option here.
“I do like having a spark off the bench, especially if you don’t start well,” he said. “I know what you’re asking. Charles doesn’t care. Charles finishes the games. I’m not going to say Shaq’s practicing well, because every time I say that … I’m tired of saying we’re practicing well.”
Mitchell, for his part, feels content in his current role, and expressed confidence about his roommate and classmate Cleare.
“I’m the type of player who brings that energy,” Mitchell said. “If we’re down or up, I’m still clapping, smiling, high-fiving just to bring that whole camaraderie back. Shaq’s the same way. He just has to loosen up a little bit and play his game. When he goes back to playing Shaquille Cleare game, he’s going to be a great player.
“He’s a great low-post scorer. Him scoring in the low post, he will be during the season, it’ll open up more on the wing for Jake, Evan, Nick and Dez. He’s great down low. He just has to show it so the world can see for themselves.”