Mark Turgeon rarely adds fifth-year senior transfers to his roster, let alone expects one to balance multiple roles within five months. But as the Maryland coach walked off the floor after a 66-50 win over Fordham on Thursday night, he scanned the game’s stat sheet and immediately was reminded of the importance of fifth-year senior Richaud Pack.
The number that stood out to Turgeon was the 30 minutes Pack played, more than any other Terrapin. The transfer from North Carolina A&T made the most of those minutes, posting nine points, eight rebounds and four assists.
“I really wasn’t sure how much he played,” Turgeon said. “I must feel like I have to have him on the court right now for us to be successful.”
Pack has perhaps been Maryland’s most consistent player in wins over Wagner, Central Connecticut State and Fordham, as Maryland has started 3-0 for the first time in Turgeon’s four years in College Park. But the schedule becomes more difficult when the Terps meet Arizona State (3-0) on Monday night at the College Basketball Experience Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo. Iowa State will play Alabama in the nightcap, with the tournament championship the following evening.
It will be a celebration of sorts for the Maryland program, which will watch former coach Gary Williams get inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame during the festivities.
But it will also be a barometer for a young Maryland team, which won its first three games by an average of 28.6 points. Arizona State has a similar résumé after the first week — the Sun Devils have beaten Chicago State, Bethune-Cookman and Loyola-Marymount — and feature a guard-driven offense that is shooting 49.6 percent. They are also holding opponents to 30.6 percent shooting, and 6-foot-10 junior Eric Jacobsen (9.3 points, 9.0 rebounds) will be the best post player the Terps have faced thus far.
“It’s a step up in competition,” Pack said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Maryland can take solace in the veteran leadership of senior Dez Wells, junior Jake Layman and now Pack, who has quietly established an elder statesman presence that has brought stability to the team. Pack has averaged 8.6 points, six rebounds and four assists in wins over that stretch and embraced a utility role — one in which he has consistently guarded the opponent’s best scorer and served as a productive backup point guard for true freshman Melo Trimble.
“He helps a lot. He’s a veteran guy who knows what he’s talking about,” freshman guard Jared Nickens said. “I listen to everything he tells me.”
Pack makes Turgeon feel comfortable, and he gives the coach options that weren’t realized until the weeks after Pack arrived in College Park in May. After two seasons at Florida International, the Detroit native transferred to North Carolina A&T and led the team in scoring with 17 points per game last season. His ability to produce offense off screens and hit outside shots was attractive to Turgeon — but the senior also proved to be one of the team’s best perimeter defenders during the preseason.
And with Trimble still adjusting to the college game and bearing overwhelming expectations — the former O’Connell star has struggled with foul trouble and turnovers over the first three games — Pack has earned his spot as a steady point guard who can initiate Maryland’s new-look motion offense.
“I didn’t know what kind of role I would have here. I knew I would have one. I think my role has continuously changed,” Pack said. “I think I’ve been able to be pretty productive, especially on the defensive end. I want to try and guard the other team’s best player.”
How Pack fits into the rotation once forward Evan Smotrycz returns from a broken foot injury is still unknown, although he has solidified himself in the rotation. Tuesday will mark the fifth week since Smotrycz had surgery, and Turgeon said Saturday that it was still too early to speculate whether he would be back in early December. There will likely be an adjustment process that could last a couple weeks, Turgeon said.
“You could argue that he’s been our best player,” Turgeon said of Pack. “I know Dez and Jake have had some big games, but I’d say that Richaud has been the most consistent. And probably has the most on his plate with the things he’s had to adapt to since he’s been here.”