Maryland point guard Roddy Peters began Thursday’s game against Boston College like so many others, with enough twists crammed into one minute to make Coach Mark Turgeon stressed, then pleased, then stressed again. On his first possession, Peters committed a foul. On the second, he sank two free throws. On the third, he dribbled out of bounds.
“Really, the first three plays has been him,” Turgeon said. “The up-and-down part of it, being a freshman.”
As his confidence has increased in his first season in College Park, Peters has gained increasingly more trust from Turgeon. He was in the starting lineup for Maryland’s 88-80 win over the Eagles and — in his first ACC game, on the road — scored a career-high 14 points. And it is because of his improvement that, entering Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic, the Terrapins’ point guard situation appears solved, at least until ACC play begins in earnest next month.
In several weeks, when preseason starter Seth Allen returns from a broken foot, the position may again revert to its uncertain state, giving Turgeon a bounty of options from which to choose. But until Allen returns to playing shape after spending almost two months in a walking boot, the spotlight now belongs to Peters, the team’s success inextricably linked to the freshman’s maturation.
“Roddy’s playing big,” junior guard Dez Wells said. “He’s really getting comfortable. He’s getting his confidence up. That’s what we need from him. He’s going to be lights-out. Once he finally really gets it and starts to think the game a little more at the college level, he’s going to be unbelievable.”
A productive Peters creates a domino effect down the Terrapins’ rotation. The more minutes he sees, the less Maryland needs Wells at point guard, and Boston College was bludgeoned by this correlation. Peters logged a career-high 26 minutes on Thursday night, and the relationship between this and Wells’s career-high 33 points was no accident.
Even though Wells spent the final seven minutes in isolation mode, outscoring the Eagles by himself during that span, that Peters simply finished the game on the floor speaks volumes to the strides he has made since the summer.
“When Roddy [is] running the point like that for us, it lets Dez play his natural position on the wing and he gets going,” forward Jake Layman said.
His turnover rate — on average, a giveaway roughly once every three possessions — has been astronomically high, but Turgeon can reconcile this with Peters’s 29.9 percent assist rate, which ranks 115th nationally. The Suitland High graduate still commits typical freshman errors, like trying to split double-teams near midcourt, but his court vision and body control in transition have helped him reach double figures in consecutive games.
“I said you can’t make mistakes at both ends,” Turgeon said. “You can’t do both. You’ve got to do one or the other. Last night he guarded, so the turnovers [Peters had three] didn’t stick out as much as long as he was trying to guard. As long as he’s doing one or the other, you can let him play through mistakes.”
Peters’s most important basket against Boston College came with 32 seconds left. Maryland led by six points, but the game was still in need of icing. The Eagles lined up in a full-court press but forgot about Peters standing near midcourt. He caught the pass and bolted toward the basket. Boston College guard Garland Owens fouled Peters, but he scooped an underhand layup that kissed off the glass and through the net.
As the whistle blared, Peters lifted his arms and flexed his biceps, but only for a brief moment and his blank expression never changed. The Terps huddled around before the free throw, and everyone started rubbing his head. In many ways, Peters is still the shy rookie with the soft smile who chose to stay near home for college, but here was a glimpse of the impact Peters has made, and what he still could become.