Since Mark Turgeon was named Gary Williams’s successor in May, nearly every major development in Maryland basketball has represented a step backward — whether the decision of rising sophomore Hauk Palsson to turn pro, the broken left foot that sidelined point guard Pe’Shon Howard or the NCAA’s 10-game suspension of sorely needed center Alex Len.
Turgeon’s outlook brightened considerably on Wednesday — as did that of Maryland basketball — when he was able to unveil the three players who will anchor his 2012 recruiting class: 6-foot-9 center Shaquille Cleare of Houston; 6-8 forward Jake Layman of Wrentham, Mass.; and 6-2 guard Seth Allen of Fredericksburg.
“I’m thrilled to death with the three guys we got,” Turgeon said in a conference call moments after the signings were made official. “I think we did make a splash for getting the job in May.”
Turgeon said he expected to sign one and possibly two players later in the season, pending resolution of academic issues — ideally a power forward and another guard.
But all three signed Wednesday are players Turgeon had recruited while at Texas A&M and stand to provide the height, heft and depth to sustain the up-tempo offense that’s likely not possible given this year’s short-handed roster of seven scholarship athletes (eight when Len is eligible to compete on Dec. 28).
“They’re good pieces,” Turgeon said. “Whenever you add to a team, you try to add pieces you feel like you don’t have.”
The 6-9, 270-pound Cleare was more physically imposing than any Maryland player on court when he attended the team’s open scrimmage on Oct. 29, with a 45-pound advantage over the biggest Terp on this season’s roster.
Cleare and Layman are considered top100 prospects by ESPN.com.
“Jake gives you great versatility, and Seth is a big guard — 6-2, 195 — a big, strong kid,” Turgeon added. “He wants to be a point guard. He’s good with the ball in his hands. . . . He can also play the 2; he’s an explosive scorer and gives you a lot of leeway. The more point guards I have on the floor, the better.”
Turgeon said there has been no change in the timetable for Howard’s return, initially projected as eight to 12 weeks, keeping alive the possibility that the sophomore will be redshirted to gain an extra year of eligibility.
“If it’s 12 weeks, there’s no way we’d play him,” Turgeon said.