SNYDER: Out with the old: Maryland is Turgeon’s team now

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

And then there were two. Mark Turgeon replaced Gary Williams as Maryland’s men’s basketball coach last May. Exactly one year later, only two players from the old regime remain at College Park. So let’s hear it for the sole survivors, rising senior James Padgett and rising junior Pe’Shon Howard.

The housecleaning was unplanned and a bit unsavory. But it actually works out well for Turgeon, whose first recruiting class now has more space to make its mark.

Would-be junior guard Terrell Stoglin and his ACC-leading 21.6 points per game won’t be back to alternately carry and bury the Terps. That should keep Turgeon’s gray patch from expanding further. Stoglin’s ability to exasperate and exhilarate — often on the same possession — was unparalleled.

But his off-the-court decision-making was as questionable as when he had the ball, considering the one-year suspension (reportedly for marijuana use) that prompted his entry into the NBA draft.

Two other Terps were eligible to return but have decided to move on, which probably was in their best interests. Rising junior Mychal Parker opted to transfer before Maryland announced that he was suspended for next season, too. Even if he wasn’t banned, there was no guarantee he’d play more than the 18 minutes per game he averaged last season.

The same is true for rising redshirt sophomore Ashton Pankey, who this week announced he’s leaving for family reasons. He averaged 20 minutes per game and almost surely faced reduced time in a crowded frontcourt featuring Padgett and Alex Len, along with incoming recruits Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell.

Basketball didn’t have anything to do with Pankey’s decision according to a statement released by the school. “My mom is the rock in my life, and I promised her I would take care of her like she did for me,” he said. “Therefore, I am choosing to put my family first and look for a school closer to home.”

Now Turgeon can make the program more like his own home, instead of essentially sub-letting Williams‘ old residence like he did last year. There wasn’t much furniture, either, only seven scholarship players available when the season started. But we’ll barely recognize the Terps after Turgeon’s makeover, as eight of the 10 scholarship players will be freshmen and sophomores.

Maryland fans have been burned too often to put too much stock in recruiting-class ratings. The Terps’ class of 2002 — right after the national title — was highly touted. It turned out to be highly disappointing as well. The class of 2003 received similar acclaim and delivered similar results: Maryland missed the NCAA tournament in three of four seasons between 2004-05 and 2007-08.

For what it’s worth, Turgeon’s first recruiting class is ranked among the nation’s top 20 by several outlets. That’s a promising sign for a coach coming off a 17-15 season. He has pledged to pursue elite players, even those who might not stick around long. His success in luring Cleare, one of the country’s top big men, could pay off further next year if he signs the sought-after Harrison twins (Andrew and Aaron), 2013’s top-rated guards.

Cleare and the twins are close friends from Houston who play on the same AAU team. The Harrisons, who have narrowed their choices to Maryland, Kentucky, Villanova and Baylor, would be the second major coup for Turgeon, likely leading to more high-profile signings the next year and the next year, etc.

It doesn’t take long for youngsters to make an impact nowadays, as evidenced by Georgetown’s newcomers last season. Freshmen and sophomores routinely play leading roles or make major contributions on teams throughout the Top 25.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Turgeon’s renovations for next season will be enough to keep us interested. We’ll also get an idea of where he’s headed with this project, now that the previous owner’s stuff is almost all gone.

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About the Author

Deron Snyder

Deron Snyder is an award-winning journalist and Washington Times sports columnist with more than 25 years of experience. He has worked at USA Today and his column was syndicated in Gannett’s 80-plus newspapers from 2000-2009, appearing in The Arizona Republic, The Indianapolis Star, The Detroit News and many others. Follow Deron on Twitter @DeronSnyder or email him at deronwashtimes@gmail.com.

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