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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.

LATEST DMV POWER RANKINGS: TERPS ARE STUCK

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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Mike Locksley reportedly makes big addition to Terps staff with former Tennessee head coach

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USA Today Sports Images

Mike Locksley reportedly makes big addition to Terps staff with former Tennessee head coach

When Mike Locksley was hired to become the University of Maryland's newest head football coach earlier this month, it was expected that his biggest impact would come on the recruiting trail. Locksley has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best recruiters of talent in the DMV, and his hometown connections were a major draw for the university and its boosters.

His recruiting acumen doesn’t just apply to players, it seems. He’s begun putting together a coaching staff at Maryland, and many of the rumored candidates would represent major “gets” for a school of Maryland’s stature and reputation.

Former Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has accepted a position as tight ends coach and associate head coach for the Terps, Jeff Ermann of InsideMdSports reported on Tuesday.

Jones was a head coach for a decade prior to spending 2018 as an offensive analyst for Alabama, an off-field position. In the years prior, he spent time at Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and most recently Tennessee. He holds a career record of 84-54, and is 4-2 all-time in bowl games. He had a winning record at each school.

The title of associate head coach is a nice addition for Jones, but a former SEC head coach who experienced some success would seem to be somewhat overqualified for a position coach. Jones, similarly to Locksley, was attempting to rehabilitate his reputation under Nick Saban at Alabama, and is likely aiming to return to head coaching one day.

There are some conflicting reports. Rivals is reporting that while an agreement could be coming soon, it is not yet a done deal.

It would be a nice coup for Maryland, as Jones would come to College Park with a reputation as a good offensive mind and a stellar recruiter. Jones signed multiple top-10 recruiting classes at Tennessee, and while coaching in the SEC has certain advantages, his recruiting acumen fits in well with Locksley.

It remains unclear how much of an overhaul Maryland’s coaching staff will undergo under Locksley, though it stands to reason there will be some turnover. 24/7 Sports is also reporting that Locksley will be bringing on John Papuchis to coach special teams and linebackers, and Cory Robinson, a former director of player personnel at Maryland under Randy Edsall. Robinson’s role is not yet specified, though based on his experience it is assumed he’ll be working with defensive backs.

Elijah Brooks, longtime head coach at local powerhouse DeMatha, has also been rumored to be joining the Maryland staff, though it has not been reported at this time.

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Anthony Cowan highlights an ugly Terps start, hits historic milestone against Loyola Chicago

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USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Cowan highlights an ugly Terps start, hits historic milestone against Loyola Chicago

BALTIMORE -- Anthony Cowan scored 17 points and No. 23 Maryland overcame a sluggish start to beat Loyola of Chicago 55-41 on Saturday.

Cowan became the 55th player in Maryland history to score 1,000 career points, hitting the milestone with a free throw in the first half. He has 1,010 for his career. Aaron Wiggins added 10 points for the Terrapins (8-2).

Cameron Krutwig scored 12 points for the short-handed Ramblers (5-5), who have lost four of five.

Maryland won despite getting modest contributions from its imposing frontcourt. Sophomore Bruno Fernando and freshman Jalen Smith each picked up two fouls in the first half, and the pair combined for two points and two rebounds in 10 minutes as the Terps carried a 24-20 lead into halftime.

The 6-foot-10, 240-pound Fernando, who was averaging 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds coming into the game, finished with eight points and five rebounds. The 6-10 Smith had one point and three rebounds in his first college game in his hometown.

Cowan and Fernando scored on Maryland's first two possessions of the second half, and Cowan added a 3-pointer to make it 31-22 with 17:03 to go. Loyola never got closer than six points the rest of the way.

The game was the second half of a doubleheader in the Charm City Classic. Morgan State defeated Towson 74-69 in the opener.

BIG PICTURE

Loyola of Chicago: The Ramblers dressed only eight scholarship players because guards Bruno Skokna and Lucas Williamson remain out with injuries. Loyola has lost both of its games against power conference teams this season (Boston College and Maryland).

Maryland: Two days after sputtering down the stretch in a loss at Purdue, the Terps needed time for their offense to emerge from the doldrums. Maryland improved to 3-0 under coach Mark Turgeon in games played in Baltimore.

UP NEXT

Loyola of Chicago enters a week-long exam break and won't play until Dec. 16, when it entertains Norfolk State.

Maryland hosts Loyola (Md.) on Tuesday in the teams' first meeting since 2003.

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