Terps Basketball: Looking Ahead To 2020-’21
With the NCAA basketball season cut short and March Madness suddenly stripped away because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, many are still trying to wrap their head around the abrupt ending to college hoops.
And while this year’s Terps team and every other college basketball program won’t have a chance to compete for a national championship this season, Maryland’s lasting image of the 2019-20 season is cutting down the nets at Xfinity Center as Big Ten regular season champions.
Not a bad way to go out, considering the circumstances. But with this season officially in the books, what else to do besides look ahead to next season?
There are many aspects of Maryland basketball’s future to cover. So let’s get right into it.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
End of an era… or is it?
The Anthony Cowan Jr. era in College Park was an impressive one, and perhaps the saddest part of the postseason being canceled is that the senior will not have one last chance at a Big Ten Tournament championship or a national championship.
The NCAA has already announced that participants in spring sports will receive an extra year of eligibility because their season was cut extremely short. And while there is still some hope that the same could happen for winter sport athletes like Cowan, everything I’ve read and heard suggest that is highly unlikely. Even Terps’ head coach Mark Turgeon said on a conference call with reporters the other day that he doesn’t see how that could be feasible.
“I don’t expect when you play 99 percent of your season for a kid to get a year back. I mean, what would that do to record books and things like that. I know it’s an unusual circumstance, but I don’t even know if Anthony would come back. I haven’t talked to him but I don’t know if he would or not,” Turgeon said.
The chances of Cowan returning for another year seem slim, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate what a fine career he had in College Park. The do-it-all point guard finishes his career at Maryland ranked as the all-time leader in consecutive starts (130) and free throws made (579). He also ranks in the top of the record books in:
2nd – career minutes (4395)
2nd – career minutes/g (33.8)
2nd – career starts (130)
3rd – career 3-pt field goals made (206)
4th – career double-figure games (107)
5th – career assists (584)
7th – career points (1881)
The three-time All-Big Ten selection (First Team- 2020, Second Team – 2019, Third Team – 2018) is also one of two players in Big Ten history with 1,800 points, 500 rebounds, and 500 assists, joining Penn State’s Talor Battle. The Bowie, Maryland, native represented his home state as well as he could, becoming the only Maryland player in history to lead the program in scoring, assists, minutes, steals, and free throw percentage for three straight seasons.
What’s next for “Stix” Smith?
While we likely won’t hear a definitive answer for several more weeks, the consensus around Maryland media is that sophomore forward Jalen “Stix” Smith will eventually declare for the NBA Draft and be playing pro ball next season.
Smith made the wise choice of not leaving school after his freshman season and taking another year to develop his body in game. He did just that. Smith came into the season with 25 pounds of more muscle and increased his production across the board. Finishing tied for third nationally with 21 double-doubles, Smith averaged 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game for the Terps this season.
Smith finished the 2019-20 season First Team All-Big Ten and on the conference’s All-Defensive Team. He is also a Sporting News and CBS Sports All-American and was a Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award finalist and Naismith Player of the Year Award semifinalist.
I think I speak for everyone when I say thank you “Stix” for two great years in College Park.
2020-21 without Cowan and “Stix”
So without Maryland’s two leading scorers and First Team All-Big Ten members returning next season, what is the Terps’ roster going to look like?
As of now, the only committed recruits coming in are Baltimore native Marcus Dockery, who currently plays guard at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and Chicago native Aquan Smart, who also plays guard but is more of a true point guard than Dockery. Both are rated as three-stars by Rivals.com.
Guards Eric Ayala and Darryl Morsell as well as forward Donta Scott will be the returning starters for Maryland and all see their roles increase even further as they attempt to pick up the slack left by Smith and Cowan. Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, Aaron Wiggins, will be asked to step into a starting role and could very well take over as the team’s leading scorer because of his athleticism and offensive versatility.
The fifth starter is completely up in the air at this point, and if I had to guess, it will be a big man that eventually transfers in this offseason. Perhaps Columbia’s Patrick Tape or Seton Hall’s Taurean Thompson. Harvard forward Seth Towns has also been connected to Maryland, but at 6-foot-7, he would not be a traditional big and the Terps would have to revert to a small starting five.
Besides those initial names, many more will likely pop up in the coming weeks and months. But at this point, Maryland’s frontcourt is looking like a big question mark.
Many want to turn to 7-foot-2 Chol Marial for help in this area or perhaps think that Ricky Lindo Jr. can take the next step in his game and contribute more in the frontcourt. However, there are rumors that either or both could transfer in the offseason. Nothing is definite in that regard, this is simply just speculation by some who follow the program closely and are connecting some dots. But even if they decide to stay in College Park, their games look far from ready to peg them as potential starters. Health is also always a major issue with Marial, who hadn’t played basketball in over two years because of injuries prior to his arrival at Maryland.
Joshua Tomaic, Hakim Hart, Dockery, and Smart will be Maryland’s core of bench players, and they could be joined by Serrel Smith Jr. if he doesn’t decide to seek more playing time elsewhere.
Some work needs to be done still on the recruiting trail and transfer portal, but Turgeon is typically good at finding some diamonds in the rough and Maryland should still produce a formidable team next season. However, back-to-back Big Ten championships will be a stretch unless the Terps shock everyone much like Wisconsin did this season. But hey, crazier things have happened in college hoops.
Pat has been covering sports in the DMV area since 2012. He is a former Washington Redskins beat reporter for PressBoxDC.com and has been covering University of Maryland football and basketball recruiting and daily beats for Rivals.com's Terrapin Sports Report since 2013. Pat graduated from College Park with his master's degree in journalism and has received bylines in publications such as USA TODAY Sports, The Philadelphia Inquirer, SB Nation, and Yahoo! Sports. A Philadelphia native, Pat enjoys fishing, golfing, and playing fantasy sports when he's not covering or watching a game.