Coach Mark Turgeon has proved himself more than capable of reaching this young Maryland basketball team, rapidly earning his players’ respect with his passion and demands. He often fluctuates between the realms of happiness and displeasure, sometimes co-existing somewhere in the middle, at once pointing out positives and glaring holes during postgame news conferences. It’s a refreshing honesty that’s allowed Turgeon to extract improvements from this talented bunch. And through just four games for Maryland, one common occurrence keeps providing moments of clarity among the Terrapins.
Dez Wells had a weight lifted off his shoulders last week after a one-on-one meeting with Turgeon, during which Turgeon told the sophomore transfer to stop worrying about the pressure. Pe’Shon Howard found a groove running the offense after personal film sessions with his coach, watching tape of Texas A&M’s secondary breaks. Now, Nick Faust appears to have become the latest beneficiary.
During a recent meeting, Turgeon told his sophomore guard to quit fretting about numbers. “Sometimes,” Turgeon told Faust, “you’re going to get 16 or 18 points. Some nights you’re going to get four or six.” Faust, the leading returning scorer from Maryland’s 2011-12 season, has proved himself a dangerous slasher with a work-in-progress jump shot. But on a team where five players average at least nine points per game, Faust doesn’t have to be the guy. He just has to be one of them.
After a particularly subpar performance against LIU-Brooklyn, when Faust shot 2 for 8 from the field and finished with six points, his lowest since Feb. 7, 2012 at Clemson, the Baltimore native texted graduate assistant Ryan Richman and insisted on a late-night shooting session.
Inside a nearly empty Comcast Center, Faust drilled for nearly an hour, working on one-handed runners and pull-up jumpers with free-throws in between. He had been called for two charges before halftime against the Blackbirds and left frustrated and disappointed. He needed to clear his head and get back in control.
“It’s something I had to push through and get better,” Faust said. “I had a bad taste in my mouth, so I just did what I could. Pushed through and helped my team.
“Re-locking in, re-focusing. Just getting better. I have to push through bad games, clear my mind, get ready for the next one.”
Faust rebounded from his worst game of the season with arguably his best, shooting 4 for 9 from the field and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line against Lafayette, finishing with 13 points and eight rebounds despite misfiring on all four attempts from beyond the arc. He was plus-22 as well, highest on the team.
“This is as settled as I’ve seen him,” freshman Charles Mitchell said. “He’s playing under control, more comfortable. He’s more like himself. He’s not forcing anything. That’s better for our team.”
Pressing would have been understandable against a scrappy Leopards squad, which packed the lane and dared Maryland to shoot from the outside. But the Terps were relentlessly stubborn, whipping passes around the perimeter, exhibiting enough patience to find the open cutter or driver on a skip pass.
At one point, early in the first half, Wells drove the baseline and rose up for a massive one-handed slam. But the basketball caromed off the back iron, on a beeline for Faust, who was waiting at the top of the key. With minimal hesitation, Faust grabbed the rebound and finished the job, himself throwing down an uncontested dunk.
“I was relieved,” Faust said. “The ball came right to me and the lane was wide open. Pretty obvious play to make. I felt as though it was a free one.”
Sometimes, such handouts are necessary to get back on track. After Faust took an early three-pointer from the corner, Turgeon told him to stop settling. So Faust revealed a new arsenal of controlled moves, like two-feet stops in the paint or a one-two step-around to avoid charges, a move reminiscent of San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobli.
The genesis of those moves? More meetings with Turgeon.