2011-2012 Preview: Talking Maryland Basketball With Pete Volk

In preparation for the start of the 2011-2012 regular season on November 7, we’re running a series here on Busting Brackets where we talk with other writers about their team. You can check out all of our preview pieces in the series by clicking here. We continue today with a discussion with Pete Volk of Terrapin Station, who talks about what we can expect from the post-Gary Williams era at Maryland.

Be sure to check out more of Pete’s work at TerrapinStationMD.com and follow him on Twitter @Pete_Volk.

Busting Brackets: If we’re gonna talk Maryland basketball, we have to start with the retirement of Gary Williams. What was the general fan reaction? Were they shocked or ready for a change?

Pete: The fan base was definitely shocked. There had been rumors of Gary’s retirement in the past, but nothing anyone took very seriously. Gary was a legend – despite the struggles in his last season, he won a national championship here and had the respect of just about everyone. That being said, there wasn’t a huge outcry to his retirement, but the timing of it was questionable. The Terps ended up losing three recruits – 2011 prospects Sterling Gibbs (Texas) and Martin Breunig (Washington) and 2012 prospect Justin Anderson (Virginia) – because of it, and nearly lost freshman stud Nick Faust.

BB: So with that said, what’s been the overall response to the Mark Turgeon hire?

Pete: There was an large reaction of disappointment at the start, as Maryland fans saw it as a very similar situation to two of their three football hires. Maryland fans were promised Mike Leach, and they got Randy Edsall. Then they were promised Randy Shannon, and got Todd Bradford. In basketball, Sean Miller looked like a few thing, and Mark Turgeon (who many casual Terp fans didn’t know) was the hire. Turgeon has impressed so far with his handling of the media, however, and with two key moves – retaining both the aforementioned Faust and Baltimore recruiting specialist Bino Ranson and hiring Dalonte Hill, possibly the best DC recruiter in the nation. Gary Williams’ biggest problem was in local recruiting – Maryland has a big local pipeline in Baltimore and DC but was never able to fully tap in to it. With Ranson and Hill, they could have some major recruiting classes over the next few years.

BB: Replacing Jordan Williams will be extremely tough. Can Terrell Stoglin make that transition easier if he raises his game to an even higher level?

Pete: Stoglin might actually not be the one to lead the Terps to any sort of success this season. While he had a good year last year, he just shoots the ball too much – he’s a streaky shooter who never stops putting it up and can ruin a team’s chances very easily. He will be a key contributor, don’t get me wrong, but Turgeon has talked about how Stoglin needs to stop taking so many shots. Instead, Sean Mosley and the freshman Faust are probably going to be the guys that Maryland will look to. Mosley is one of three seniors on the team (along with Berend Weijs, who joined the team last year as a JuCo transfer, and Jon Dillard, who is on varsity after three years with club basketball), but followed up a promising start to his sophomore campaign with a disappointing second half and a very disappointing junior year. He really needs to step up his game if Maryland wants to contend for any postseason berth this season. Meanwhile, Faust is getting all kinds of hype, and could potentially be an ACC Rookie of the Year type player – he’s just that good.

BB: But the backcourt isn’t where the issues will lie, is it? It looks like someone needs to step up big in the middle. Which player do you see stepping out from the pack in that unproven frontcourt?

Pete: You’re right, the departures of Jordan Williams and Dino Gregory leave a gaping hole in the post for the Terps. Turgeon has already hinted at playing a four-guard set a la Villanova, but there are four different big men who legitimately have a chance at major playing time this year. The most promising option is Alex Len, the 7-plus foot freshman from the Ukraine who is athletic, dynamic, and yet to clear the NCAA Clearinghouse. If he can’t play, James Padgett is most likely the next option. Padgett was in the same recruiting class as Williams and many thought he was the more promising of the two, but he’s had a disappointing Terrapin career thus far. Weijs, who we talked about earlier, is rail-thin and really only brings solid blocking ability to the table. The final option is Ashton Pankey, who hasn’t played competitive ball in about two years, after missing last season and his senior year of high school due to injury. Pankey has apparently impressed the coaches so far, and has stated that he wants to lead the ACC in rebounding this year. Why the hell not? If Len can’t play, Pankey’s my pick.

BB: Most projections I’ve seen have this team towards the bottom of the ACC. What do the Terrapins have to do to at least claim a spot in the middle of the conference?

Pete: They’ve got to find someone who can rebound and defend inside. There’s no lack of options at guard, and they will surely be able to find a combination of Pe’Shon Howard, Stoglin, Faust and Mosley that works. One of the guys inside has to be a consistent rebounding option, and be able to defend some of the ACC’s premier post talents. Weijs has good shot-blocking ability, but not many other discernible skills. Pankey and Len are giant question marks. Padgett has disappointed. One of those guys has to break out, and in a big way, for Maryland to do anything.

BB: How far away do you think Maryland is in terms of getting back to winning consistently? The roster isn’t too deep right now, so do you think Turgeon can turn it around with one recruiting class? Or are they 2-3 years away?

Pete: With Hill and Ranson, anything is possible. They’ve already got three solid commits in Seth Allen, Shaquille Cleare, and Jake Layman lined up for next season. They’re currently chasing some big fish, and catching any of them will give them a great opportunity to compete next year. The one advantage Maryland has right now is youth – if all three of their young guards stay and if Len can ever play, adding some solid freshmen to the mix can make them a competitive team as soon as next year.

BB: If you had to pick today, where exactly do the Terrapins finish in the ACC this season?

Pete: Honestly, any where from 3rd to 10th. There’s just so much that we don’t know about this team. But, gun to my head, I say 8th, right below the middle of the pack. There are just too many question marks inside to see too much success right off the bat.

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