By Jason Dobkin
The University of Maryland men’s basketball program welcomed a highly regarded recruiting class this fall as it heads into a very important season.
Guards Romelo Trimble, Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens were ranked in the top-100 nationally, according to ESPN and 247 Sports. The Terps also added Richaud Pack, a senior point guard who transferred from North Carolina A&T, and Michal Cekovsky, a seven foot center from Slovakia. Robert Carter rounds out the list of newcomers, but will sit out this season after transferring from Georgia Tech.
These additions come after losing several important players over the summer, including guards Seth Allen and Nick Faust, and center Charles Mitchell.
Pack has been playing alongside Trimble in a three-guard lineup while forward Evan Smotrycz is sidelined with a leg injury.
”It’s really fun playing with Melo,” said Pack during a press conference. “He takes pressure off of you because he can score so well but he also makes you so much better because he can create shots for you both by his ability to score and his ability to pass.”
Trimble, Nickens and Wiley have impressed in the preseason thus far.
“In limited action so far they have already proved that they will have a huge positive impact on the team,” said sophomore finance major Gabriel Weintraub. “With all the departures from last year, it was evident that there was a talent gap, and they’ve shown so far that they’re going to have no issue filling that gap.”
Of the new players, Cekovsky is the only one that has looked shaky thus far. The big man has looked jittery and nervous, and has not put up great numbers. Pete Volk, the managing editor of the Testudo Times, the Maryland sports blog on the popular sports site SB Nation, thinks it will take some time for Cekovsky to settle in.
“Cekovsky has a ton of potential, but it’s going to be a bit before he can make a significant impact on the floor,” said Volk. “Maryland likely has to look elsewhere early in the season for major minutes at the frontcourt positions.”
Maryland has not made the NCAA Tournament since head coach Mark Turgeon took charge of the program three seasons ago, and there is a ton of pressure on Turgeon and the team to play at that next level.
“I think this season is extremely important with regards to how the fans view Turgeon, but it would take a disastrous season for him to get the boot,” said Volk.
This is because Turgeon still has four years left on his contract after this season, and will gain a major inside presence from Carter when he is eligible to play next year, along with the returning players.
The Terps have missed the tournament with talented squads recently, but Volk thinks they can get there this year.
“Turgeon has made a shift to a more guard-based tactical setup, and I think that plays into the Terps’ strength in a way we haven’t really seen over the past few years,” he said. “Maryland has a number of gifted shooters on their roster, and getting them the ball in scoring situations is how the Terps will find success this season.”