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How Locksley proved he's the coach Maryland needs right now, despite loss


How Locksley proved he's the coach Maryland needs right now, despite loss

BALTIMORE -- Maryland interim head coach Mike Locksley has been brought into a difficult situation. He has been given a second chance to lead a program, but it comes in the middle of the season during which his boss was fired -- a firing that he feels was, at least in part, a product of his shortcomings as the team’s offensive coordinator.

His players understood that and it was reflected in the effort that Maryland showed in his first game as the team's new leader, despite its 31-30 loss to Penn State on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

“[Locksley] tried to make sure that [winning a game on his behalf] wasn’t our mindset, but I think it’s clear that’s what we all were trying to do because he’s took over such a tough situation,” senior running back Brandon Ross said.

“He’s tried to make it as much of a relaxed environment as he possibly could and guys definitely fed off it. It actually motivated guys to want to play harder and do better.”

It wasn’t a lack of effort that hurt Maryland on Saturday. This was far from the blowouts we’ve seen at other points this season, like against West Virginia and in the second half against Bowling Green when there seemed to be a lack of will or ability to compete.

Maryland lost to Penn State because of football errors, specifically its five turnovers and and its inability to keep Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg from hitting home runs on deep shots down the field.


“A lot of guys, we went out and played our butts off and unfortunately the score is what it was,” junior linebacker Yannick Ngakoue said. “It was a lot of disappointment, but we’re just going to have to come back tomorrow, re-evaluate the film, and just fix stuff.”

It is unclear what the longterm future of this program will be and where exactly Mike Locksley fits into those plans.

Saturday’s game against Penn State was one of three reasonably winnable games remaining on Maryland’s schedule, along with end-of-season dates against Indiana and Rutgers.

A win over Penn State would have been the best possible start for Locksley as he tries to build a running resume in his unofficial campaign to become the program’s full-time head coach.

It remains to be seen whether he is the coach of the future, but he is the coach that Maryland needs right now -- right now to finish what has amounted to a new six-game season.

He is a uniter of young men who were put through the grinder of a midseason coaching change and a person who helped them to come to terms with their feelings about it in the wake of the decision.

“We’re way beyond moral victories,” Locksley said after Saturday's loss. “What I did tell them is if you can come in that locker room after a game like today and look yourself in the mirror and know that you did everything you could do to possibly win that ball game, then the scoreboard won’t define you.

“We’ve got some guys that are in there pretty hurt because this was a game that we really wanted. We didn’t do the things to take it and that’s where we’ve got to become that type of team.

“We’re way too mature of a team to buy into moral victories and today we didn’t take care of our business.”

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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.