The drill dragged on during a recent Maryland men’s basketball practice, far longer than Coach Mark Turgeon would have enjoyed. The four-on-four, guard-the-ball exercise was supposed to last 12 minutes. Instead, it lasted nearly 40 after coming up short of perfection again and again. The Terrapins were stuck.
Rather than cut off the drill in frustration, Turgeon let his players resolve the situation themselves. Motivation, Turgeon reasoned, has to derive from within. Early portions of practices can feature screaming and yelling and Turgeon as animated as he is during games. But as the afternoons wind down, he backs off. These Terrapins, Turgeon has noticed, will rally around one another to prove that they can complete a drill.
“He wants everything to be done perfect,” freshman center Shaquille Cleare said Thursday. “We understand that. Sometimes we mess up and he won’t stop until he gets it perfect. We’ll do drills for hours. We know we’re messing up. One thing I like about Coach Turgeon, he doesn’t give us anything easy. He wants us to work for everything. That’s what a lot of the players like about him. If your coach isn’t on you, he doesn’t care.
“Most of the time, you figure you’re old enough. It’s time for us to be responsible, time for us to talk and count on each other.”
With the spotlight of the opener against defending national champion Kentucky fading in the distance, a relatively soft nonconference schedule, featuring games like Friday’s home matchup against LIU-Brooklyn, affords Turgeon the luxury of letting the Terrapins play through inconsistency until it clicks.
“If we can’t motivate ourselves, who can?” forward Charles Mitchell said. “We want each other to do better. It got frustrating at times, but you could see who’s mentally tough at the end of the day. Practice just flows. Everything flows as one. Everybody’s working as one team, happy, working hard. You can tell. They’re all dedicated to the mission. Most practices will be like that. That’s how you know.”
The Terrapins, Turgeon said, spent far too much time working on the offense before the season opener against the Wildcats. What followed was a sluggish defensive performance in the first half. In three halves since, however, Kentucky and Morehead State have shot 29.4 percent from the field and 20 percent from three-point range.
LIU-Brooklyn (0-2) boasts senior forward Jamal Olasewere and senior guard C.J. Garner, both Springbrook High graduates, are averaging 25.5 and 15.5 points, respectively.
Flashing relentless depth, the Terrapins wore down Morehead State on Monday, emerging with a dominant 67-45 win, the type of Comcast Center blowout Turgeon hopes will increase his young team’s confidence.
Ever honest and critical, Turgeon said Maryland is still “way behind when it comes to certain things.” But he remains content to cycle through a 10-man rotation, and each day brings a greater feel for coaching this group.
Every practice, the Terrapins declare an offense and defensive “thought of the day.” Thursday’s was “set a high standard for yourself and for our team,” an effort to curb complacency, to push his players to expect greatness.
“We’re not there yet,” Turgeon said, “but if we expect to we’ll work hard.”
Even if they haven’t yet realized it, Maryland’s players will figure it out. Seems they always do.