Several newcomers offer promise and potential for Maryland men’s basketball in 2021

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

For a considerable portion of the program’s history, Maryland men’s basketball has drawn attention and excitement. 

In 2021, the hype still is ultimately superficial, but in some ways it can be justified, especially when examined in relation to last year. With transfers and new recruits, all of the shortcomings of last season have become strengths of No. 21 Maryland’s highly anticipated campaign. 

So in an effort to explore the stuff that fuels the hype, here’s my roster analysis for this year’s men’s basketball roster:


At the guard position, there’s an expectation of guaranteed production, and with a revamped roster, particularly at guard, there certainly is — the question is how impactful the guard play will be. 

Gone are the days of the Terp lineups without a proper point guard. At a modest 5-foot-11, senior transfer Fatts Russell (Rhode Island) offers all the intangibles of a true floor general. Blistering speed, pestering on-ball defending bonafides and swift handles characterize his ability on the court but his stoicism and leadership have earned him praise as a players’ coach. At the team’s media day, head coach Mark Turgeon believed Russell’s play will prompt some comparisons to Anthony Cowan Jr.

Russell was a consummate all-around guard at Rhode Island averaging 16 points and 2.2 steals per game, all while being the focus of an otherwise one-dimensional team that ran through him. At Maryland, Russell is expected to take more of a backseat role — and he looks forward to the opportunity. 

“Playing with these guys, it makes it a lot easier for myself,” Russell said. “[I] just pick my spots out there and just knowing I have great scores around me like [Ayala] and [Donta Scott], [Qudus Wahab] and [Hakim Hart] — I’m in heaven. 

Alongside him at guard, senior Eric Ayala, the likely fulcrum of the offense who averaged a team-high 15.1 points per game completes an exciting back court duo. Ayala shot an underwhelming 33% from three last season and could use a boost from range to help an offense that desperately needs a reliable sharpshooter. Hakim Hart, the third guard of the starting lineup, hopes to provide some spacing with his redesigned jumper. A little heavier and a bit more taller as well, Hart brings the features of a brand new athlete.

“Hakim’s put on about 15 pounds of muscle,” Turgeon said. “He looks like a whole different player.”

On the bench, Maryland’s guard play offers a similar brand of newness. Bench point guard and sophomore transfer Ian Martinez brings a defensive style of play Maryland lost with the departure of Darryl Morsell. At Utah he never played position, but his length and athleticism will prove to be useful for Maryland’s brand new second unit. Turgeon hopes to have Martinez play at least 20 minutes per game at point and shooting guard.

Freshman James Graham III is a similarly lengthy but skilled two guard who boasts a smooth shooting stroke. Graham opted out of his senior year of high school and was a late arrival on the roster in the Big Ten slate of the Terps’ 2020 season. Turgeon believes Graham is one of the better shooters on the team and has fostered a reputation as a microwave shooter from deep. Marcus Dockery is also a sleeper point guard reserve who has yet to show his ability in meaningful games. Dockery averaged 1.4 points last season in the 14 games he appeared in. 


In basketball, high-level wing play is crucial. At any level, it’s nearly impossible to find any winning basketball program without a capable wing who can defend and hit threes — or a collection of wings who can defend or hit threes. With junior Donta Scott, graduate transfer Xavier Green and sophomore transfer Pavlo Dziuba there is certainly a clear collective of defenders. With Scott, there’s an authentic three and D athlete. 

Scott, a starter in his first two years, led the team in rebounds per game (5.9) and shot a remarkable 43% from three (on 112 shots) last season. He achieved this all while being asked to clock minutes at the center position (at 6-foot-7) and guard some of the best front court talents of the nation. 

His newcomer runningmates show promise but have plenty to prove as the season begins. Green, who will likely be asked to showcase his defensive acumen that allowed him to thrive at Old Dominion, has been thrusted in a much more talented league and will be asked to guard significantly more skillful small forwards. Can he keep up with the new Big Ten talent after five years in the Conference USA? 

Dziuba averaged just four minutes a game in just eight appearances with the Sun Devils and offered little in his freshman year. At 18, it’s unclear whether his abilities call for him to play as a perimeter player or a post presence. With his size and athleticism, what type of player will he mold into and will it be impactful for a group of championship hopefuls? 

Freshman Ike Cornish, much like Dziuba, prompts the same question with his youth and inexperience; it’s likely he’ll spend time deeper on the bench.  


Maryland officially has the bodies to hang with the rest of the front court talents that dominate the Big Ten. Freshman Julian Reese and junior Qudus Wahab change everything. From the potential lineups that Turgeon can employ to the teams that the Terps will have a better time guarding, the two new centers for Maryland complete the Terps. Wahab, the expected starter at center, brings experience, coming from Georgetown, averaging 12 points and nine boards per contest in the Big East. Reese brings loads of potential, at 6-foot-9 with his mature feel for the game and sure hands in the low post. 

“… probably where it helps more is we had no low post scoring,” Turgeon said. “And if you look at our teams when we’ve been successful, we’ve had a lot of low post scoring and [Wahab is] really good down there … physically, we’re much more equipped to stay fresh and compete at the highest level in the Big Ten.”


In the offseason there were plenty of questions revolving around Turgeon’s decision to extend his contract or explore coaching free agency, but he ultimately opted to stay with Maryland and signed a multi-year, incentive-laden contract. However, two of his assistant coaches departed after the season, and to replace Bino Ranson and DeAndre Haynes, Maryland brought on Bruce Shingler and Danny Manning as assistants. 

Shingler is a DMV native and with his experience in the AAU circuit as well as on Morgan State and Towson’s coaching staff, could provide some needed guidance in the local recruiting process that Maryland has struggled to grasp throughout Turgeon’s tenure. 

Manning, the more heralded hire, and long time friend and former teammate of Turgeon when he played at Kansas, brings a promising ability as a big man whisperer, having formerly coached Atlanta Hawk John Collins and Markeiff and Marcus Morris in his career as a coach. As the first overall selection in the 1988 draft, Manning also offers a breadth of experience as a talented NBA big man himself. 

With the two new coaches also having familiarity with the head coaching job, Turgeon feels comfortable with his new staffers.

“I’m just lucky to have both of those guys on my staff,” Turgeon said. “They really make me a better coach and a better person.” 

The Verdict

This roster has loads of potential. And if the Big Ten is anywhere as competitive as it was last year, there will be plenty of opportunities for the squad to learn and grow. But with the new cast of players, the goal is exceedingly loftier than what it was last year. A deep run through the Big Ten and perhaps a better go in the national tournament tops the list of ambitions for a team brimming with high-level talent.

“We’re a little bit deeper, a little bit more experienced. We have really good guards,” Turgeon said. “I’m a blessed guy, you know at some point, I’m going to be blessed enough to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. We’ve been really consistent … I know that year is coming — hopefully it’s this year.”