The final domino has fallen.
After Diamond Stone was first reported to be heading to the NBA Draft without an agent, it’s been confirmed that he has hired one. Since the initial report, Robert Carter Jr. (somewhat surprisingly) announced his NBA plans, and finally, Melo Trimble will jump too, albeit without an agent. With seniors Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon also departing, Maryland will not retain one member of their starting five for next season.
The general consensus there is, that’s not good.
The loss of the seniors was guaranteed, and the departure of Stone, while maybe a debatable decision, was quite foreseeable. But, the decisions of Carter Jr. and Trimble to leave have definitely disappointed Maryland fans.
Carter Jr. was a junior who transferred from Georgia Tech, and made an immediate impact as a power forward. But, as a player usually seen as the third or fourth option on offense for Maryland and not renowned for his defense, his choice to leap to the NBA is questionable. He’s projected as a second round pick, and can certainly grow into a good NBA player, but many thought he would have benefitted from sticking around in College Park for his senior year.
Trimble could have been a first round pick after an outstanding freshman season, but opted to come back to be a part of what was supposed to be one of the best Maryland teams ever. His season did not nearly go as it was expected to, and his NBA stock fell to the point where he is projected as a second round pick at best, and could even go undrafted. The silver lining for Terps fans is that Trimble elected to declare without an agent, meaning he will have the option to return. But, with all four of his fellow starters on their way out, it seems quite unlikely that Trimble would stay in College Park.
Some experience does return, as centers Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky have both seen some time on the court. Shooting guard Jared Nickens had an off year, but will return with hopes of regaining the shooting touch that made him a valuable asset two seasons ago as a freshman. Point guard Jaylen Brantley spent a season as Trimble’s understudy, and while he isn’t nearly as dynamic, he’s definitely an above average point guard and a solid shooter. Finally, after sitting the season out with a torn ACL, shooting guard Dion Wiley will also return to the court for the Terps.
This team pales in comparison to last season’s star-studded Maryland lineup, but it’s a decent start. If these players can develop some cohesion on the court, along with some incoming recruits, Maryland can still be an above average team, but it may take them a while to get back to where they were at the beginning of the season––a top three team.
The main issue with all the departures, believe it or not, may come from Carter Jr.’s decision. His leaving means Mark Turgeon is without a proven power forward. Dodd and Cekovsky are listed as forwards, but their size and limits as athletes may prove as issues for them as forwards. Ivan Bender, whose brother Dragan is expected to be a lottery pick in June, is a viable option but he has little experience aside from the occasional handful of garbage time minutes.
The incoming freshmen include Anthony Cowan, a point guard, Kevin Huerter, a shooting guard, and Micah Thomas, a 6’7” small forward who could be stretched to power forward, but may not be effective in that role.
The loss of all five starters can be detrimental to a team, and Maryland may not be the top team fans have come to expect after two strong seasons in a row. Mark Turgeon will have a lot of work to do in preparation for another year of Terps basketball.