Before each Maryland men’s basketball practice, Coach Mark Turgeon lays out three key points. The Terrapins have emphases, both offensive and defense, and a thought for the day. Before one preseason practice in mid-October, for instance, the thought was particularly motivational, reading, “It’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit.” Know the thought, Turgeon told his players. Otherwise, it’s a sprint.
By no means are these unique to Maryland. Bishop O’Connell High School, for instance, where 2014 commit Melo Trimble plays guard, has its thoughts taped throughout the hallways leading into its gymnasium. The Terps’ thoughts rotate daily, but Turgeon has settled on a two-word notion for the past two practices.
Commit a turnover? Move onto the next play. Miss a free throw? Focus energy towards the next one. Air-ball a three-pointer? You get the idea.
Young teams have a tendency to dwell on the past, with memories of old mistakes blockading future progress. But conference play necessitates a short memory, tunnel vision to the next play. Having lost three out of four, Maryland needs this mentality more than ever.
“Tip off Tuesday night, next play in practice, whatever it is, just move on, try to get better, try to not make too much of it,” Turgeon said Monday. “It’s one loss, just like North Carolina State was one win. We need to get better. We’re obviously not playing at the level we need to in order to be successful in this league. Hopefully we can get better as we move forward.
“We have guys who will hang their head and never snap out of it. It’s like…come on…next one, snap out of it, try as hard as you can. A lot of coaches and teams do that, that’s where we are right now, so you don’t think about what’s going on.”
After losing a sizable second-half lead at home to Florida State on Jan. 9, the Terps perhaps pondered their first loss since Nov. 9 a little too much. The result? A sluggish loss at Miami, a mind-clearing bowling trip and finally a thrilling 51-50 win over North Carolina State.
With four games in 10 days, including two trips to Tobacco Road, stemming mental fatigue becomes as important as curbing physical exhaustion. The Terps have such little time to work on themselves, the days filled with scouting reports, that they can’t afford to be in their own heads, too.
“You have to find that happy medium,” Turgeon said. “We’ve shown them enough of Boston College but also keep them fresh to figure out what we’re going to do. It’s been a little bit of a grind with this schedule. The last two games, North Carolina had a bye when they played us, now Boston College had a bye. That’s a huge advantage. I think, especially when we’re in four games in 10 days. Tough stretch for us. It’s going to toughen us up. As a coach, you have to figure out a way to keep them mentally fresh and physically fresh and ready to go tomorrow night.”
Turgeon’s remained upbeat throughout Maryland’s recent slide, realizing constant criticism won’t help matters, especially when the issue lies with execution and not effort. A Reggie Bullock-led North Carolina team blew the game wide open early, backed by a raucous Dean Dome crowd, but now the Terps return home, looking to flip the script on bottom-feeding Boston College, beginning with the tip off.
You know, the next play.
“I always try to take what we can and just learn, do whatever we can to execute the next game,” Nick Faust. “It’s pretty tough, but you have to have that mindset. Just want to be in a great place, learn and keep getting better. That’s the difference between D-I, D-II and D-III players.”