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An injury riddled season may prepare the Terps for a historic future

An injury riddled season may prepare the Terps for a historic future

Injuries are the tale of the 2017-18 season for the Maryland Terrapins.

A season that was supposed to signify the post-Melo Trimble era in College Park quickly became derailed after the loss of Naismith Trophy contender Justin Jackson and his backup Ivan Bender.

Short-term, these injuries have set Maryland back this season, so much that they are on the bubble of making the NCAA Tournament. Even if they do happen to miss the tournament for the first time since 2014, it is not all doom and gloom for Maryland. The way these injuries have sprouted up could propel the Terps back to the national stage a year from now. A stage higher than the program saw during the Trimble era.

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Back in December, it was an all too familiar sight for the Terps under head coach Mark Turgeon. The Terps announced that Jackson (9.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg) would miss the rest of the season due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Merely three days later it was announced Bender (4.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg) was going to miss the season too with a torn meniscus.

With these two added to the list, it marked the eighth significant injury for the Terps since Turgeon took over in 2011-12 according to Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

Losing Jackson and Bender further dug a hole that Maryland was in at the start of the year. Opening the season with only 11 scholarship players, two less than the NCAA maximum, there was no depth concern in the Maryland camp given the quality of players they had. Now having only 11 or 12 scholarship players is not too uncommon in college hoops. In reality, only eight or nine players see significant time in a Division I rotation.

But Jackson was a starter and if not considered the best on the roster, he was at least their No. 2 guy. Paired with the loss of Bender, the most experienced forward on the roster was then a redshirt-freshman Joshua Tomaic.

In all likely-hood, the 2017-18 season was going to be the last season for Jackson in College Park. A season ago he declared his eligibility for the 2017 NBA draft but returned to the program after not signing with an agent. His flirtation with taking the next step gave the indication that with a solid-to-stellar season, Jackson was going to be an easy choice as a first-round draft pick in 2018.

Now with an injury after 11 games, going to the 2018 draft may not be the best option for the 6-foot-7 Canadian. The return to College Park may be imminent.

A good sign for the 2018-19 Terps.

Stepping up into the empty four spot in the starting line-up was the four-star freshman Bruno Fernando. Before the loss of Jackson and Bender, he was averaging 19.5 minutes and bringing in 10 points a contest. Now he is up to 24 minutes a game, and although spotty, scoring 10.4 ppg. The 6-10 ball of energy has displayed a wealth of skill to go along with his uncanny talent and is now a certified NBA Draft prospect. 

He has been fortuned more time to develop, which has been evident of late. He is fiery, a fan-favorite, and can be groomed to fill Michal Cekovsky’s (one of three players that will leave the program this year) spot in the post. Defensively Fernando has a team-high 26 blocks.

There is also more court time for the other healthy forward, Tomaic which would give Maryland four formidable forwards entering next year. If Fernando stays, and that is a big if, Maryland will start to look like an embarrassment of riches.

A good sign for the 2018-19 Terps.

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One slight disappointment this year, has been sophomore Kevin Huerter. With the loss of Jackson, he had to step up to be the other ball handler besides Anthony Cowan Jr. Although still with some of the best shooting numbers on the team (50.5 percent FG, 45.5 percent three-point range), his handling has been exposed.

As a freshman, he was known as a 6-7 spot up shooter. Now he forced to generate his own shot as the No. 2 guy behind Cowan, sometimes going for a little too much. He has to learn to initiate the offense, giving the team more options in a full ranged offense.

A good sign for the 2018-19 Terps.

Dion Wiley is seeing double the minutes he did last season after his knee injury in 2015. This is despite reoccurring concussion issues he’s been battling this year. It is by far his best season in every statistical category, shaping up to be the preferred bench guard next year.

A good sign for the 2018-19 Terps.

Another freshman Darryl Morsell is getting more time at the guard position with a limited rotation. Believe it or not, he may be the best freshman, over Fernando. 

A good sign for the 2018-19 Terps.

If everyone is healthy and Jackson and Fernando stay, it could be the most dynamic starting five in the Big Ten. Purdue is going to be losing four senior starters after this season. Ohio State will lose three starters if Keita Bates-Diop chooses to go to the NBA. Michgan's roster will be up in the air and while Michigan State will still be one of the top teams, they will be losing Miles Bridges to the NBA Draft at the end of this season.

A good sign for the 2018-19 Terps.

The projected line-up next season in College Park will be something like this: Anthony Cowan Jr., Kevin Huerter, Darryl Morsell, Justin Jackson, and Bruno Fernando. The bench will have Dion Wiley, Ivan Bender, and Joshua Tomaic. It will be a dynamic, electric, and flexible group that can play big or small.

None of this even mentions the two four-star recruits and a five-star that Maryland has coming into the program, with more open scholarships available to use, like five-star center Moses Brown. Additionally, there is a McDonald's All-American selection, Jalen Smith, that many recruiting experts pin Maryland as his primary choice.

At the time of this writing, the Terps are 14-6 (3-4 Big Ten) this year and by no means is the season over. The talent on this team is capable of going on a run and getting into the NCAA Tournament and from there we have seen crazier things happen. It would be foolish though to say they are not running out of time.

If that push is not there at the end of the year, there is still the NIT, which will give the young team more time together.

But with the roster currently assembled, with everyone healthy in 2018-19, it is hard not to see this team as a favorite for the Sweet 16 a year from now. With the quality of top recruits they continue to bring in, there is no question they will be in the national championship conversation.

And that projection is being modest.

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Maryland loses two as Justin Jackson declares for NBA Draft, will sign with agent

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USA TODAY Sports

Maryland loses two as Justin Jackson declares for NBA Draft, will sign with agent

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland forward Justin Jackson will forgo his final two seasons of college eligibility to seek a career in the NBA.

Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon also says guard Dion Wiley will transfer before playing his senior season.

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Jackson averaged 10.5 points as a freshman before missing most of the 2017-18 season with a shoulder injury.

Jackson says, "After talking with my family and weighing my options, it's my desire to turn my full attention to preparing for a career in professional basketball."

Wiley appeared in 83 career games, playing a backup role on three teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament under Turgeon.

Maryland was 19-13 this season, including 8-10 in the Big Ten, and failed to reach the postseason.

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Lefty Driesell to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame per report

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Lefty Driesell to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame per report

Long-time University of Maryland men’s basketball coach Charles Grice “Lefty” Driesell will finally be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this year.

This is according to NBC Sports Washington contributor Jon Feinstein.

Driesell coached the Terrapins for 17 seasons between 1969-86. While guiding the program to eight NCAA Tournament appearances and an NIT Championship, Driesell transformed Maryland into a legitimate force in college basketball.

When hired by the Terps, Driesell famously announced that he wanted to turn Maryland into the “UCLA of the East.” After only four seasons he had made it to two ACC Championship Games and his first Elite Eight appearance. His success opened the door not only for the program but the school to compete at the highest levels of competition.

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Maryland made it as high as the Elite Eight twice under the reign of Driesell. He was named ACC Coach of the Year twice and won one ACC Tournament Championship in 1984. At the time of his NIT Championship with the Terps in 1972, the NIT was held in a similar regard to the NCAA Tournament.

He is second on Maryland’s all-time wins list (348), behind Gary Williams’ 461. Driesell however, still holds the best win percentage of all Maryland coaches with 68.6 win percentage.

After Maryland, the former Duke basketball coached at James Madison for just short of a decade and ended his coaching days at Georgia State. Driesell also coached at Davidson before taking the Maryland job to combine for over 40 seasons at the head of a Division I basketball program.

The 86-year-old was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame back in 2007. He also the namesake for the NCAA’s best defensive player of the year award, which was first awarded in 2010.

The official announcement from the Naismith Hall of Fame will be during the Final Four on Saturday, March 31.

WANT MORE HOOPS?  Listen below as Troy Machir and Chick Hernandez discuss Lefty Driesell's legacy in the area and why the Terps icon was on the outside of the Hall of Fame for so long.