COLLEGE PARK -- It was likely a welcome Christmas gift for Mark Turgeon, in a way. Five-star freshman Diamond Stone said on Sunday that he texted Maryland’s head coach earlier this week and told him that he has fully accepted his new role as the first man off the Terrapins’ bench.
And he has every reason to, really.
Since Turgeon made the move to start junior Damonte Dodd and shift Stone to the sixth man on Dec. 4 against St. Francis (PA), the freshman has scored in double figures in all five games that followed, including posting 16 points and seven rebounds in an 87-67 Maryland win over Marshall on Sunday afternoon in College Park.
“I kind of accepted it and realized we’re a team. It’s not just all about me,” Stone said after the victory. “If we’re winning and I’m coming off the bench, then it’s a good win. It’s no more individual goals anymore. This is college. We’re all one. We’re all a unit.”
Turgeon solved two problems at once by making the change. The defense in his starting lineup improved with the addition of Dodd. His second-unit offense also got a boost, thanks to Stone’s handiwork in the paint.
By breaking up Stone and Robert Carter, Jr., as well as Dodd and Michal Cekovsky, rotations are more even and effective. It was evident on Sunday when Maryland shifted the focus to the inside and pounded Marshall’s smaller frontcourt players.
“That was our plan,” Turgeon said. “I thought we shot too many jump shots early, but we settled down, we went inside.
“Diamond was terrific. He makes it look so easy, how he easy he scores around the basket.”
Terrific may be an understatement.
It is rare for a player this early in his career to be simultaneously so unafraid of contact, but still so skilled that he is able to finish through it. He was 8-of-10 from the floor on Sunday evening, including a pair of back-to-back layups in the second half that looked to be from nearly impossible angles in the moments leading up to his release of the shots.
“I’ve gotten more aggressive,” Stone said of the difference in himself from when he came to Maryland and where he is as the calendar is set to turn.
“Now, I’m more aggressive and day by day in practice I’m getting more and more aggressive so I think I just need to keep that up.”