After his team took the floor for a quick 10-minute scrimmage during Saturday night’s “Magic Maryland Madness” at Xfinity Center, Mark Turgeon sat at the end of the bench and relaxed. The coaching will come later. Earlier in the night he had snuck to half-court under the cover of darkness to play along with the event’s circus appeal, but Turgeon soon turned serious when speaking to thousands of giddy fans in the stands.
“When I took the job on May 10th, , a long time ago, this is what I envisioned for Maryland basketball,” Turgeon said, eventually thanking the crowd for helping the program sell out season-ticket packages earlier this year.
Saturday’s event comes 27 days before Maryland’s season opener against Mount St. Mary’s in College Park, which will kick off one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory. Maryland is ranked third in USA Today’s preseason coaches poll, and Turgeon said this week he believes he has a national championship-caliber roster for the first time in five seasons at Maryland.
One by one they were introduced to a thunderous applause Saturday night, fans waving glow sticks in the dark as each player attempted a dunk. The first came from Diamond Stone, the blue-chip recruit who has already attained celebrity status on campus without playing a game, who wore the team’s alternate gold uniform and pulled off a reverse dunk. The introduction ended with the team’s only senior, Jake Layman, showing off a bulked up frame and slamming home a pass to himself off the backboard.
“I think from my freshman year to now, the hype around this team has gotten a lot bigger,” Layman said. “The turnout today was unbelievable.”
Turgeon said after the event that he thought his team played hard during the scrimmage and didn’t treat it as an all-star game, but that’s what it looked like when the players took the floor. Sophomore point guard Melo Trimble dazzled with a no-look pass to set up a Damonte Dodd dunk and later added a nifty finger roll in the lane. Junior power forward Robert Carter Jr. showed his inside-out game with a jump hook and a 16-foot jump shot. Stone had a pair of buckets, including a left-handed runner that garnered more ruckus from the crowd.
It was just a teaser for what is to come, though. Saturday night was more about honoring tradition and providing pure entertainment, which included a magic show and gymnasts jumping through a ring of fire. Maryland’s players lightened the mood further with their own choreographed dance.
“This was good,” Turgeon said. “I think the players from both teams had a good time. I think the fans had a good time.”
– Maryland was hosting a number of recruits who took in Saturday’s event, including 2016 commits Anthony Cowan and Kevin Heurter, as well as four-star target Mario Kegler and Jacob Larsen, a 6-foot-10 center prospect from Denmark.
– Turgeon said that his team has started its practice regimen slowly over the past two weeks, which in part has been due to recruiting and a hectic preseason schedule that included preparing for Maryland Madness. He said the team will “really dive in” to build on its first 10 practices. “We still have a lot to put in. We still don’t have an out of bounds play yet, so I was saying check it at the top.”
– Trimble, Dodd, Rasheed Sulaimon, Dion Wiley and Michal Cekovsky started for the gold team, while Jaylen Brantley, Layman, Carter, Stone and Jared Nickens started for the black squad. Trimble scored the last six points of the scrimmage, hitting a three-pointer and adding a conventional three-point play after a strong take. Wiley also knocked down a trey. Carter, who enjoyed a physical transformation during the offseason, recorded a block.
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