Maryland Terps

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Terrapins identity still unknown, but win over Hoyas adds clarity

Terrapins identity still unknown, but win over Hoyas adds clarity

It's easy to look at Maryland's roster last season, the one that produced two NBA Draft picks and international pro player, and simply scoff at this year's team.

Last season's Maryland team had Diamond Stone (Selected No. 40), Jake Layman (Selected No. 47)  and Robert Carter (Signed to a professional deal in Italy), along with veteran sharpshooter Rasheed Sulaimon and draft enigma Melo Trimble.

With Trimble serving as the lone returning starter from a team that finished 27-9 and was ranked inside the AP Top 10 for all but three weeks last season, Mark Turgeon's team was a relative unknown heading into the 2016-17 campaign.

A narrow win over low-major American University in the season-opener did little to provide clarity.

But after the Terrapins' manic, 76-75 win over Georgetown on Tuesday night, two things became clear:

1) This season's collection of talent already meshes better together than last season's, and

2) This season's team might have the same number of future pro's as last season's team.

RELATED: TURGEON, TERPS CELEBRATE WIN IN STYLE

In just their second college game, freshmen Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter combined to score 34 of the Terps' 76 points. At no moment did any of the three freshmen look like a freshmen.

“Honestly, it was my first time playing in an environment like this,” said Jackson after the game, despite his even-keeld performance. “It was nerve-racking a little bit, but the confidence my teammates had in me and my coaches had in me, I would be able to get over the hump.” It may have been nerve-racking to the Ontario native, but like a duck on a pond, he didn't show it.

The Terps seemed more confident than the Hoyas. They seemed more further along in the process. The ball movement was crisp, and the Terps rarely seemed out of position with their spacing. 

Huerter and Jackson excelled on the wings, finishing a combined 5-8 from beyond the arc. With Cowan on the floor to handle the ball, Trimble was able serve as the lead playmaker, something he didn't get the opportunity to do enough of last season. That is where Trimble thrives, and it showed, scoring 10 points in  the final three minutes of the game, including two tough drives to the basket.

While Jared Nickens and Damonte Dodd got the start along with Cowan, Huerter and Trimble, it was Jackson and sophomore Ivan Bender who added the most when on the floor. Not much was expected of Bender this season, but he could end up being a very important piece.

"He has a great feel for the game. We recruit a lot of smart players but Ivan is as smart as anyone," Turgeon said at Big Ten media day last month when asked about a breakout star on his team.

On Tuesday night, Bender finished 3-3 from the field and grabbed six rebounds. But it was apparent that Bender was the best option down low. He provided a level of energy and athleticism that Dodd didn't.

This Maryland team might not be deep as last season's team, but the pieces fit better.

Huerter and Jackson don't require the ball in their hands at all times. Cowan is a selfless facilitator. All that adds up to putting Trimble, the team's bona fide difference maker, into a position to be as successful as possible. The Terrapins have a slew of capable veterans to fill the gap if the freshman hit the wall, players like Dodd, Nickens, and Duquense transfer L.G. Gill.

The Terps have five legitimately talented players that fit together much better than the supremely talented bunch did a season ago.

But make no mistake about it: As of Tuesday, Nov. 15, Huerter is not Layman and Benmder is not Stone.

However, although the sample size is incredibly small — just two games — Huerter, Jackson and Trimble all look like future pros. And it's not out of the realm of possibility that Bender, whose brother Dragan was selected by the Suns with the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, develops the skills to earn a contract at the professional level.

Huerter, at 6-7, has incredible body control, a tremendous game IQ and a good stroke from deep. As his play in the last 60 seconds proved, he is a smart defender. He's not a world-class athlete, but he's good enough. The same can be said for Jackson, who has a diverse array of moves both in the post and on the perimeter. At 6-7 and 220 pounds, he has the look and poise of an NBA player.

Trimble, despite a plummeting draft stock over the last tow seasons, looks to be in position to rise back into the draft discussion thanks to gutsy leadership and savvy play. 

The season is still young, and the jury is still out. But if Maryland was an unknown heading into the season, we've learned a lot about the Terps in just two games, and in a good way.

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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.

MORE TERPS: LEFTY DRIESELL IS FINALLY GOING TO ENTER THE HALL OF FAME

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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USA Today Sports Images

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.

MORE NCAA: BEST BUZZER BEATERS IN NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY

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.