Mark Turgeon expects a "more complete" Terps team
There's one thing Maryland knows for sure heading into this 2013-14 basketball season: Alex Len ain't walking through that door. That, of course, is because he is out in Phoenix, Ariz., having been taken No. 5 overall by the Phoenix Suns in this year's NBA Draft.
But judging by the way head coach Mark Turgeon walked into his media day press conference on Tuesday in College Park in a fresh black suit, white shirt, and red tie, still with his signature gray patch of hair on the top of his head, pushed off to the right, you might never have known.
Turgeon worked the room like a politician upon his entrance, shaking hands and making small talk with media members, expressing a light-hearted disbelief that the season was already here before taking the podium.
"We're going to miss Alex," Turgeon said. "If you followed us closely down the stretch last year, Alex was pretty special...he covered up a lot of our mistakes. With that said I do think individually we've gotten better defensively.
"Offensively, we will be different...We'll be a different team. How much better? I don't know. We'll see. That's the plan."
Without the 7-1 Ukrainian Len anchoring the middle, Turgeon is right, this team will look different.
There is no clearly defined rim protector, though all signs point to Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare as the tandem tasked with filling Len's shoes on the inside. Turgeon even reiterated that if the season were to start tomorrow, Cleare would start at center.
The offense could look different, too. Instead of working through Len in the post, the Terrapins will likely work from the outside, in and rely on improved point guard play from sophomore Seth Allen, improved outside shooting from junior Dez Wells, and contributions from stretch forwards Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman.
And it could all begin with Allen, the 18-year-old sophomore who has been handed the reins to this offense.
"I think that's what everybody is worried about," Turgeon said. "Seth has come a long way...Seth's just such a dynamic scorer. I think Seth can get a shot whenever he wants to get a shot, so that's hard sometimes."
Allen and his understudy, freshman Roddy Peters, will together have the majority of the minutes at the lead guard spot, meaning the on-court orchestrators of Maryland's offense will be one of the youngest duos in the conference.
But that brings up the importance of Wells, now settling in for his second season at Maryland and having gone through his first full offseason in College Park.
"I don't know as a player [how much better he has gotten] because we're just getting started," Turgeon said of Wells. "As a leader, it's night and day. He's really trying and he's doing it in the right tone and guys respect him."
Wells appears to have added muscle and said Tuesday he has worked to improve his mid-range game, along with putting behind him the issues at Xavier that brought him to College Park last fall.
And the sights are set forward for this team and this program.
"It would have been nice to sneak [into the NCAA tournament] last year, even if you snuck in it would have been nice," Turgeon said. "We didn’t deserve it. We didn’t enough games, enough games that we were supposed to win.
"We’re going to have to stay healthy. We’re going to have to be somewhat lucky. The basketball gods are going to have to be on our sides...It feels right. I feel like I have a really good basketball team."
Check back to CSN in the coming week for more coverage from media day before the Terrapins hold "Maryland Madness" on Friday, Oct. 18.