Maryland Terps

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After ugly tweets, that's not Stone's focus in return to home state

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After ugly tweets, that's not Stone's focus in return to home state

In the days and weeks that followed the announcement in the spring of 2015 by Maryland freshman Diamond Stone that he would play his college basketball in College Park over in-state favorite Wisconsin, there were instances of well-documented, often ugly social media backlash directed at the Milwaukee native.

On Saturday, Stone and the No. 3 Terrapins travel to Madison for what will be a homecoming and also likely a less-than-welcoming crowd at the Kohl Center.

In speaking to him, though, he won’t mention much about the possibility of hostility.

“I’m just really excited to come back home to play in front of my family and friends,” Stone said on Thursday. “I know they’re going to be excited to see me play.

“Everyone’s excited. I’m excited, so it should be a fun game.”

Despite the fact that Maryland has not played in many true road games this year, those few away from College Park have included some especially loud environments -- a Connecticut-friendly Madison Square Garden and the raucous Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill when the Terrapins faced North Carolina.

That game against Connecticut -- another school that recruited Stone extensively -- was actually one of the freshman’s best to that point in the season. Seeming to settle into his role off the bench, he had 16 points and nine rebounds in a double-digit victory.

The focus against Wisconsin is flipping that negative energy on its head.

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“If the crowd is loud, that’s like the environment I like to play in,” Stone said. “I like to play in big environments. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a sold out game and I’m ready to play.”

Stone has progressed rapidly, better than he was one month ago and better than a month before that. His role off the bench has helped him to elude foul trouble, which means he is in the game for more meaningful stretches and more stretches that are meaningful.

Part of that is a credit to head coach Mark Turgeon, while another part is credit to Stone for being willing -- as a five-star player with NBA aspirations -- to be shifted to a role off the bench and take hard coaching.

“I’m probably harder on Diamond than most of the team because he has the furthest to go. He didn’t like it at first,” Turgeon said. “I think he’s getting more used to it. When you have guys with talent, you really want to push them because you know there’s more in him.”

That is what makes the timing of Saturday’s game fortuitous for Stone and Maryland.

This is the 16th game of the season for the Terrapins, long after (in terms of Stone’s progression) its early matchup against local rival Georgetown and that showdown against the Tar Heels.

Stone will be personally tested against a crowd that likely will not do him any favors. But now almost halfway through his freshman season, he acknowledges that he is in a better position to handle it.

In Chapel Hill, a similar environment greeted former Duke Blue Devil and current Terrapin Rasheed Sulaimon. But he is a senior, used to those types of atmospheres, and he not only put up 18 points in that game, but he came out of it with words that were wise beyond his years.

He related his experience at UNC to what Stone may face vs. Wisconsin.

“Don’t do anything differently than what we’ve been doing all year,” Sulaimon said. “That’s what crowds want you to do. They want to get you out of your comfort zone and they want you to make it a personal vendetta where you go 1-on-5.”

Tip-off between Maryland and Wisconsin is set for 1 p.m.

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NBA Draft 2018: Maryland basketball's Justin Jackson drafted by Nuggets, traded to Magic

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NBA Draft 2018: Maryland basketball's Justin Jackson drafted by Nuggets, traded to Magic

Maryland basketball had two players drafted in one night for the second time in three years Thursday night when the Denver Nuggets picked Justin Jackson with the No. 43 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Jackson was subsequently traded to the Orlando Magic as part of a deal that brought the No. 41 overall pick, Kentucky's Jarred Vanderbilt, to Denver.

After his freshman season, in which he averaged 10.5 points and six rebounds a game while shooting 43.8 percent from beyond the arc, Jackson declared for the draft without an agent, but elected to return to Maryland for his sophomore season. But he'd play just 11 games before being shutdown for the year with a torn labrum. His draft stock was hurt, but obviously not totally erased.

He had surgery in January and ended up being the first Terp to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft back in March. Though Jackson's recovery kept him out of the NBA Combine, teams were still intrigued by what they'd seen from him in the past to be willing to take a flyer.

A 6-foot-7 forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Jackson has the skill to play anywhere between the two or the four in the NBA, and the length to guard all kinds of players.

With Kevin Huerter headed to the last-place Atlanta Hawks, Maryland basketball's two draftees are slated to join last season's two worst teams in the Eastern Conference.

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NBA Draft 2018: Atlanta Hawks draft Maryland basketball's Kevin Huerter with the No. 19 overall pick

NBA Draft 2018: Atlanta Hawks draft Maryland basketball's Kevin Huerter with the No. 19 overall pick

Maryland basketball's Kevin Huerter was drafted No. 19 overall Thursday night by the Atlanta Hawks.

He's the Terps' highest draft pick since the Phoenix Suns drafted Alex Len fifth overall in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Huerter played two seasons with Maryland, averaging 12 points, five rebounds and three assists as a Terp. He's best known for his knockdown shooting ability, as he knocked down 46.6 percent of his shots from the field, including 39.4 percent of his three-point shots. During his sophomore season, he was better than 50 percent from the field and better than 40 percent from deep.

Back in April, when Huerter first declared for the 2018 NBA Draft without an agent, it was widely assumed he was just testing the waters to get feedback from NBA scouts and would return to school for his junior season. But an outstanding performance at the NBA Combine saw his hardly existent draft stock skyrocket. Almost overnight, Huerter's name was popping up in the first round of mock drafts, and now what seemed like a no-brainer decision to return to school wasn't so clear.

On May 30, he announced that he would leave his name in the 2018 NBA Draft and hire an agent. He recently had surgery on a torn ligament in his hand, but is expected to miss only two months and make a full recovery by the time the 2018 NBA season starts.

With the Atlanta Hawks, Huerter should pick up right where he left off shooting in college, but can also provide high basketball IQ and sneaky athleticism. He and Trae Young join Dennis Schröder and Kent Bazemore who finished last in the Eastern Conference last season.

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