With its newfound depth, Maryland men’s basketball must be flexible

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Following a surprisingly close Hofstra game, head coach Mark Turgeon referenced his inner-Larry Brown — his by-any-means-necessary will to win. 

Brown, Turgeon’s former coach and mentor, is a one-of-a-kind basketball-lifer, who during his time as a professional athlete, NCAA and NBA head coach, fostered an indelible winning mindset. 

It was Brown’s philosophy that inspired Turgeon’s decision to bench center Qudus Wahab for the entirety of the second half and employ a variety of small ball lineups. 

“… Tonight — it’s the Larry Brown in me — I had to figure out how to win the game,” Turgeon said of the lineup change. “… It didn’t always look great, but it gave us the best chance to win.”  

It’s also a mindset that will need to endure if Maryland men’s basketball hopes to utilize its talent effectively. 

Last season, depth and proper personnel seemed to be the two most hampering issues for the Terps. Today, with those matters seemingly addressed with newcomers, the biggest immediate concern may now be finding an adaptable, trusted rotation. 

Turgeon and the Terps barely had a six man rotation last year. And outside of relatively smooth sailing to a share of the Big Ten title the year before, Maryland also struggled to find a serviceable seventh man in its 2019 campaign. 

Five games in, Turgeon has seven players logging considerable minutes and eight averaging at least 15 minutes per contest. Having that trio of dependable role-players to spell the starting lineup could be what propels Maryland to being a true 40-minute team. 

Maryland knows what it has in Eric Ayala, Hakim Hart, Donta Scott, Fatts Russell, Ian Martinez, Julian Reese, Xavier Green and Wahab. But it has plenty more to offer. It doesn’t hurt to go deeper and try new looks. 

As the Big Ten slate looms, players’ roles need to be decided quickly to ensure the Terps aren’t scrambling to find good minutes against more established opponents. Finding solid minutes also means Turgeon can freely adjust his lineup for varying situations.  

With the shooting woes, perhaps James Graham III, a young guard Turgeon lauded for his ability to change practices with his efficient shooting stroke, has earned a chance to prove himself in games. In small ball lineups, Pavlo Dzuiba might be a serviceable swiss-army knife kind of player as he molds into a more complete athlete.  

In more frontcourt demanding situations, Turgeon seems keen on playing Reese and Wahab together. The twin tower duo should find familiarity on the court as Purdue, Michigan and other tall opponents await. 

“Hopefully, down the road, [we’re] playing [Wahab and Reese] together,” Turgeon said. “The matchups have just been so tough. We’re playing these little teams that spread you out.” 

Turgeon’s willingness to try Scott at the five was especially clear in the Terps contest against Hofstra. Scott’s performances defensively at center last season and the ability he provides as a floor spreader have earned him trust from his head coach. Against quicker, guard heavy teams, Scott’s experience is vital. 

The backcourt depth also offers plenty offensively and defensively, depending on whether Turgeon is looking for shots to fall or guards to contain. 

The season is young and the opportunities are endless. It’s up to Turgeon and his coaching staff to realize the immediate potential of Maryland and find the winning pieces as fast as possible. 

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