The deluge of transfers came just after dinnertime Tuesday night and it felt like ripping off a bandage when Shaquille Cleare, Nick Faust and Roddy Peters all received their releases from the Maryland men’s basketball team. Faust had been mulling the decision since Christmas, his father would later say. Cleare and Peters were a more recent development. But the Terrapins deemed it fitting to announce all three transfers at once, which created an exodus effect that sent ripples through the fan base.
It certainly looks bad on paper. Faust, Cleare and Peters were Maryland’s top recruits for its class of 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively. Instead of returning nine scholarship players for a crucial season under Coach Mark Turgeon, and their first in the Big Ten, the Terps have six. But the transfers also cleared up a muddled roster situation. Once faced with the prospect of too many scholarships, Turgeon has two open spots to fill as he pleases.
The Terps will continue to monitor the transfer wire, presumably for an experienced guard to complement incumbent starter Seth Allen and incoming McDonalds all-American Melo Trimble. Cleare’s departure seemed connected to Trayvon Reed and Michal Cekovsky, two incoming 7-foot freshmen expected to vie for playing time immediately. (Reed, according to several individuals with knowledge of the situation, is expected to qualify despite concerns about his academics, but we’ll know more once after his standardized test scores come back.)
Once the initial shock subsides and these players turn into numbers, the Terps have to replace the following statistics: 16.5 combined points per game, which is 1.6 points fewer than rising senior Dez Wells, 7.5 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game. Faust started the final four games of the season and 13 overall last year, but his minutes (27.4 per game) can easily be redistributed elsewhere. Peters logged no more than 16 minutes in any game after Jan. 12, the date of his final start. And Cleare, despite playing 17, 26 and 17 minutes over the final three games, never quite hit his stride in a Terps uniform.
So how will the rotation look next season? Were Trimble here in 2013-14, he likely would have been the starting point guard, so it’s safe to slot him and Allen together in the back court, along with Wells and Jake Layman on the wing. Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens provide bona fide shooting options as freshmen, but the Terps need wing defenders, something Faust vigorously provided in his best, most focused moments. Peters, for all his high school hype, never quite adjusted to the college game, brilliant in transition in spurts but also careless in others.
Inside, Cleare’s absence will presumably be offset by Cekovsky, the Slovakian center who committed this past week. Turgeon seemed genuinely bummed about Cleare when he called late Tuesday night, mainly because Cleare had worked so hard with the Terps and because Turgeon was the first coach to begin recruiting him. But sometimes players don’t pan out. Sometimes coaches miss on evaluations.
That said, Maryland’s biggest weaknesses last season came inside, where Cleare, Charles Mitchell, Damonte Dodd and Jon Graham offered a revolving door of options, none of whom Turgeon could settle upon for more than 19 minutes per game. Evan Smotrycz will continue to provide an inside-out option and the scouting report on Cekovsky has labeled him a similar threat in a bigger, stronger body, so to supplement them with the shot-blocking abilities of Dodd and Reed, as well as the rebounding tenacity of Mitchell, might make for a more stable frontcourt situation.
What was your reaction to the three transfers? How do you envision the rotation for the 2014-15 season? Toss your thoughts into the comments.