By Max Marcilla
The departure of point guard Melo Trimble isn’t the only thing that has changed for the Maryland men’s basketball team. As the Terrapins gear up for their 2017-18 season, they will take the court with many new lineups and rotations.
One of those lineups could feature a two-big man setup. Last year, Maryland played then-freshman Justin Jackson at the 4 — the power forward position — in all 30 of the games he started. The center in those lineups fluctuated between Damonte Dodd, Michal Cekovsky and Ivan Bender, but Jackson consistently played at the 4.
Now, with more options for head coach Mark Turgeon in the front court, including freshman Bruno Fernando and graduate transfer Sean Obi, Jackson may see more time at small forward.
“Me personally, I’m a guy that likes to set my teammates up,” Jackson said. “Playing the three will help me with that since I’ll have the ball in my hands more than I did last year. Just making the right decision and making great plays for my teammates. I’m trying to be more aggressive and trying to score with the ball more.”
Playing alongside a pair of big guys will also set up Jackson, at small forward, to stretch the floor and set up as a shooter.
Last season, Jackson shot 43.8 percent from downtown and showed off his sharpshooting skill-set often. His best moment came during a two-game stretch against Ohio State and Minnesota in January, when he scored 50 total points and shot 9-of-12 from three-point range.
“I can really spot-up, I feel like I can space the floor a lot,” he said. “Me putting a little bit more pressure on the defense by playing from the post-out, but playing from the perimeter-in, I feel like that’ll help our team a lot.”
The orchestrator of the offense, point guard Anthony Cowan, views the lineup flexibility as a strength for this Maryland team.
“At times, like I said we’re going to run different things whatever lineup we’re in,” Cowan said. “I think what makes us good is how versatile we can be.”
A transition to a two-big man unit isn’t only helping Jackson by returning to play his natural position, but also helping junior Ivan Bender. After he played minutes at center last year, the Bosnia & Herzegovina native suggests that a change to the 4 could help him significantly.
“I really like it so far and I feel like it’s my natural position,” Bender said. “I really like when I go as a power forward and Justin plays 3 [small forward] and then Bruno, Ceko or Sean [plays] at the 5 [center]. I feel like we’re pretty good chemistry-wise and we understand each other.”
While Turgeon hasn’t decided on a starting lineup, he acknowledged that the team’s depth could help make his job a bit easier.
“I do think we have eight, nine, nine-and-a-half guys that really can play a little bit,” he said. “ I think we can be a deeper team than we’ve been the last two years. I don’t know if we’ll be better, but we can be a deeper team.”