COLLEGE PARK -- Saturday afforded the first public opportunity to see the best men’s basketball team Maryland has fielded since it won the national championship in 2002.
Head coach Mark Turgeon, obscured behind a veil before his introduction, appeared with overhead pyrotechnics going off. He was given a microphone and spoke to the crowd.
“It’s magic,” he said. “See that? It’s magic.”
Here are five things you need to know from Saturday night in College Park.
1) The energy is there
I arrived at XFINITY Center around 4:30 p.m. and there was already a line that snaked out the side door and along the backside of the arena, fans waiting in line for an autograph session that had just begun.
Last season’s edition of this event seemed, at its core, to be a chance for Mark Turgeon to sell belief in his program. When the conversation centered around how many wins he needed to keep his job, he reiterated his love for that team and how he thought the 2014-15 season would be a fun one.
It was. And now the Terrapins no longer fly under the radar of expectations. Energy and turnout matched those expectations on Saturday.
2) Magic is the theme
Maryland legend Walt “The Wizard” Williams began the night’s festivities as the emcee, wizard hat and all to fit the “magic” theme. An Oklahoma City-based magician performed his routine, highlighted by the disappearance of his assistant, only for her to reappear in a Maryland jersey.
Crowd goes wild.
3) A standing ovation for Brenda Frese
Entering the 2015-16 season coming off of two straight Final Fours, Frese was introduced with her two sons after her team took the floor moments prior. Fans at XFINITY Center gave her a standing ovation.
4) The star of the show
Coming into the season as the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, Melo Trimble has the same level of personal expectations as this team does as a whole.
You’d almost expect it. He received the most raucous round of applause of any of the Maryland players during introductions, being both the star of the team and a star in the league.
5) “A chance to be real special”
Turgeon addressed the crowd after his introduction, talking mostly about expectations and the hard work that his team has put in in spite of those expectations.
“When I took the job on May 10, a long time ago, this is what I envisioned for Maryland basketball,” he said. “This team has a chance to be real special.”
Why? We started to see why in the brief time we saw them on Saturday. Five-star freshman Diamond Stone has cut weight and looks significantly trimmed down from his time in high school. The same for Robert Carter.
Sophomore big man Michal Cekovsky and junior center Damonte Dodd both look to have added upper body strength.
During the team’s scrimmage, Carter looked strong. He had a jump hook in the lane that was good and a faceup midrange jumper that he sank. He also blocked a shot, snatched it out of the air, and started the fast break.
Dion Wiley hit a three. Diamond Stone had a nice up-and-under finish near the rim. Melo Trimble had a nice layup, and one. He also hit a three.