NCAAB: Maryland starts anew under Kevin Willard against Niagara
After 28 straight winning seasons, Maryland tumbled to 15-17 in a year defined by the surprise resignation of coach Mark Turgeon.
Now it’s up to Kevin Willard to pick up the pieces. The former Seton Hall coach will make his debut with his new team on Monday when Maryland hosts Niagara in College Park, Md.
Maryland returns eight players after the departure of Turgeon. The returners include starters Donta Scott and Hakim Hart and rotation pieces Ian Martinez and Julian Reese.
After years of playing Turgeon’s passive scheme, the Terps will have a more up-tempo approach under Willard, who expects to go “nine to 10 deep.”
“We’ll have to play small at times and we’re going to play faster and press more,” Willard said. “We’re really focused on controlling tempo, especially in conference play against some bigger teams.”
Playing fast should suit transfer Jahmir Young, who averaged 19.6 points, 3.7 assists and 5.9 rebounds last year at Charlotte.
Another backcourt transfer, long-range marksman Donald Carey, averaged 13.5 points at Georgetown. Frontcourt transfer Patrick Emilien averaged 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds at St. Francis (N.Y.).
The slimmed-down Scott, who averaged 12.6 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds, and Hart, who averaged 9.9 points, are 6-foot-8 seniors with perimeter skills. The Terps are thin inside but look for growth from the 6-foot-9 Reese.
Meanwhile, Niagara fourth-year coach Greg Paulus is guiding a team with less familiarity. The Purple Eagles return three players from a 14-16 squad, a major reason why the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference coaches picked them to finish tied for eighth in the 11-team league.
Last year’s top scorer, Marcus Hammond, transferred to Notre Dame, leaving Noah Thomasson (10.8 points per game) in the lead role in the backcourt, while 6-foot-7 Sam Iorio, the team’s top rebounder (6.1 ppg), bolsters the frontcourt.
The new Purple Eagles include five incoming freshmen, three junior college players and three transfers.
“It’s a brand-new team,” Paulus said. “We’ve seen a lot of progress in a short amount of time.”
–Field Level Media