On Monday afternoon, a plane carrying the Maryland men’s basketball team touched down in the Bahamas for a four-day exhibition tour. The Terrapins unbuckled their seat belts, strutted down the tarmac, grabbed their luggage and confronted a matter of grave importance.
Will there be enough time for waterslides?
Maryland will play three exhibition games over four days in the Bahamas, facing one local professional team and two local all-star squads. Or maybe it was the other way around. Coach Mark Turgeon wasn’t positive. “To be honest with you,” he said last week in a telephone interview, “I’m really just focused on us.”
Turgeon knows from experience that finding a balance between work and play is crucial on such trips, which are permitted once every four years by the NCAA.
The summer after Turgeon led Wichita State to its first-ever Sweet 16 in 2006, Turgeon took the Shockers on a foreign tour to Canada. Turgeon’s group was spent from a 26-win season and limited by injuries and the absence of any redshirt players, who then were barred by the NCAA from participating in such trips. “I probably overdid it a little bit,” Turgeon said. “Just approaching this one completely different.”
Turgeon has learned from his Wichita State experience. Though the NCAA allots 10 summer practices to touring teams, Maryland will only use nine of them. Through seven practices, Turgeon said, the Terrapins have been “dialed in” for all but one. Contrast that with last season, when Turgeon lamented lackluster efforts during news conferences.
Maryland has no scholarship seniors — its lone fourth-year player, John Auslander, recently had his appendix removed and will not play on the trip — but plenty of leaders. Juniors Evan Smotrycz and Dez Wells, who both transferred to Maryland before last season from Michigan and Xavier, respectively, have NCAA tournament experience. Classmate Nick Faust is the only scholarship player left over from when Turgeon first arrived from Texas A&M. A quartet of rising sophomores all have one season under their belts, when Maryland won 25 games, played in 38 and reached the National Invitational Tournament semifinals.
Unsurprisingly, instead of weeks, grasping new concepts now takes minutes.
“I’ve actually had to dial them back a little bit,” Turgeon said. “They’ve really been practicing hard, which we didn’t do at all times last year. I might have 15 minutes on the clock and only need 10 because they’re working so hard.”
Among the summer standouts include freshman point guard Roddy Peters, who is “way ahead” of where Turgeon thought he would be after offseason shoulder surgery. Front-court mates Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell have shed nearly 50 pounds combined since the season ended, but Cleare, who lived in the Bahamas until he was 15, will likely miss the games with a nagging hamstring injury.
The rest — eight scholarship players and six available walk-ons — get a chance to play three games against mid-level competition and bask in the sunshine.
“It’s more about the practices,” Turgeon said. “I wanted to have great practices, put in a few things, which we’ve been able to do and learn from it and be comfortable from it. That’s really what I wanted to get out of the beginning part of it. To be quite honest with you, I just want to have fun. I want our guys out on the waterslides. I don’t want our guys cooped up in their hotel rooms. That’s not why we’re making the trip.”