The rehabilitation of Maryland point guard Seth Allen has been a slow incremental process, still ongoing, still frustrating. Nearly 10 weeks removed from surgery on his broken left foot but only two after returning to the floor, the sophomore has readjusted just fine to the speed of college basketball, but as his conditioning develops and his athleticism catches up, it becomes increasingly clear that Allen still has plenty left ahead of him.
Over this six-day break following Maryland’s loss to Pittsburgh, Allen practiced fully in two-a-day workouts and has all but shed the slight limp that once left a lingering reminder of his injury. Against the Panthers, Allen was the team’s lone bright spot, scoring a season-high 18 points – one short of his career best – on 5-of-11 shooting and made 4 of 7 three-pointers.
“It’s hard,” Allen said. “You’ve got to pick up where they’re at right now. I had to jump into the flow with everybody else. It was hard at first but I’m getting used to it.”
At Maryland, still inconsistent on both ends despite Allen’s return, one thing remains certain: Whenever Allen is healthy enough, he will replace freshman Roddy Peters in the starting lineup. Allen’s absence allowed Peters to play through his mistakes and Peters has committed just one turnover in the past two games, but still gives the ball up on 31.8 percent of his possessions (the second-highest rate in the ACC and 63rd-highest in the country). To put that number in perspective, Peters has an assist on 31.6 percent of his possessions.
Both Peters and Allen have developed an affinity for the same move, splitting two defenders whenever trapped or hedged onto off a ball screen. Sometimes, it creates an advantageous situation at the rim, provided they can squeeze through the narrow space.
“It depends what type of split you’re doing,” Allen said. “If you’re coming off a ball screen, you read the bigs, their feet, I don’t know. I can’t explain it. You have to sneak through the cracks and seams. Sometimes if you split and it’s not there, it can lead to turnovers and a quick basket. Our game plan against Pitt was not to split as much. A couple times when I got there, the bigs were really wide, so I split it and made a play for other people.”
Other times, the gap closes too quickly, and forcing the move results in another head-scratching turnover.
“Every time they tried to and turn it over, we’d get on them,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “It’s hard. Guys have to grow up, guys have to be a little more coachable. Roddy sometimes he’ll come down one-on-three, he can get to the rim but most times he can’t. It’s a work in progress.
“Roddy was able to play through a lot of mistakes early, thinking, ‘Well, Coach isn’t taking me out.’ Now I can. Seth’s got to continue to get healthy. I think it’s going to help with a lot of those things. We’re already better because of Seth being back, guys making better decisions, our turnovers have come down. That’s paramount tomorrow night that we take care of the ball.”
Asked whether Sunday night’s game contest at Florida State would finally be the game Allen starts, Turgeon replied: “I don’t think so. I don’t know yet.” But the sophomore still should receive meaningful minutes in a reserve role. Though Turgeon sometimes calls him a world-class athlete, Allen hasn’t quite recovered the same leaping abilities his healthy self can display. Against Pittsburgh, two missed layups at the rim probably would have been dunks this summer and Allen, according to Hoop-Math.com, is only shooting 30 percent at the rim through four games.
Allen’s absence made evaluating Maryland an enigmatic proposition, and though his return has undeniably provided an offensive boost for the Terps, he hasn’t quite been the catch-all savior many fans hoped he would be. But the more he practices, the better his conditioning becomes and the less rehabilitation is needed. The foot, Allen said, feels stronger every day.