The great Maryland men’s basketball revolving door appears, at least for now, to have been closed for the summer, two final bodies welcomed into the fold Thursday afternoon as one more left. As guard Richaud Pack and center Michal Cekovsky enter, a transfer and a freshman, respectively, forward Charles Mitchell exits, moving back home to Atlanta to take care of his ailing grandmother. And so we’ve reached the point of offseason stasis — which might have seemed unattainable for some Terrapins fans — where the roster rounds out and the rotation takes shape.
Barring the addition of a second graduate student transfer, an injury or the entirely unlikely circumstance in which a sixth player transfers, this is how the Terps will look for the 2014-15 season, without question their most critical under Coach Mark Turgeon:
SENIORS: F Spencer Barks*, F Jonathan Graham, G Richaud Pack, G Varun Ram*, F Evan Smotrycz, G Jake Susskind*, G Dez Wells.
JUNIORS: G-F Jake Layman, G Conner Lipinski*.
SOPHOMORES: C Damonte Dodd.
FRESHMEN: C Michal Cekovsky, G-F Jared Nickens, C Trayvon Reed, G Melo Trimble, G Dion Wiley.
Eleven scholarships are filled so far, with room for two transfers eligible for 2015-16. High-major players like Terry Henderson (West Virginia), Andrew White III (Kansas) and Robert Carter Jr. (Georgia Tech) remain the targets, but the number of Division I transfers has climbed above 500. If Turgeon wants more pieces, even a fifth-year post presence to help fill the void left behind by Mitchell, there are options.
That said, the Terps will have four seniors on scholarship, one more than in the past two seasons combined (James Padgett, Logan Aronhalt, John Auslander), all of whom will be firmly plugged into the rotation. The biggest question remains at center. From day one, the starting lineup’s first four should be Trimble, Wells, Layman and Smotrycz. That final spot is up for grabs.
In Cekovsky (pronounced Chi-KOV-skee), the Terps welcome in a college-ready big man versatile enough to shoot threes and run the floor. He’s not a pure center, insofar as shot-blocking and rebounding goes, but Maryland has two trees in Reed and Dodd for rim protection. Rebounding will be another issue. The Terps were an above-average rebounding team last season, posting an even better defensive rebounding rate than when Alex Len was around, but Mitchell gobbled up a lot of errant shots, ranking in the top 85 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.
Back to the center question for a second. Cekovsky would appear to have the inside track, but Dodd has impressed the coaching staff during offseason workouts. If the season started July 1, it’s likely one of those two would start alongside Trimble, Wells, Layman and Smotrycz, with the other and Pack coming off the bench first. With Pack, the Terps signed one of their top transfer targets (arguably even more so than Ian Chiles, the IUPUI guard whose recruitment was handled by assistant Dustin Clark, and not Turgeon) and receive a self-aware guard prepared to sacrifice minutes for the betterment of the collective. He averaged 17.0 points per game for a bad North Carolina A&T team last season, but did so with a top-150 true shooting percentage (a weighted measurement that factors in three-pointers and free throws) and a fouls-drawn rate higher than any Maryland player from the same season.
Pack’s role, as a graduate student with NCAA tournament experience who’s been around the block with two other college teams, will be stabilizing a wave of bench reinforcements, most of whom will be freshmen. Reed will receive minutes to block shots. Nickens and Wiley, at least immediately, can fill up the box score from behind the arc. Trimble has been, and will be, the starting point guard from day one, especially in the wake of Seth Allen’s departure. But the biggest, unanswered issue will come behind the McDonald’s all-American: Who will be the backup point guard?
Turgeon and his staff are no strangers to point guard issues. Last season, Allen’s injury meant the Terps opened the season with Wells at the one, with Roddy Peters, Varun Ram and Nick Faust as backups. Two of those players — Peters and Faust — are no longer around. Pack, Turgeon has said, won’t strictly play point guard, though Turgeon’s secondary-break offense lends itself to a multitude of options for bringing the basketball up the court.
So how do you envision the Maryland men’s basketball rotation next season? What puzzle pieces are missing and who can fill them? Toss your thoughts into the comment section below.