Nick Faust looks around the Maryland locker room, and there isn’t much familiar from his freshman season.
The Terrapins’ top two scorers and five of the nine recruited scholarship players are gone. Coach Mark Turgeon’s first full recruiting class (four freshmen and three transfers) is in place.
“Our team is totally different,” Faust observed. “It almost looks amazing to me how we made that 360 turn from last year to this year.”
One of the few constants on the floor between the two teams is Faust. The 6-foot-6 guard played significant minutes last season and started both before Pe’Shon Howard returned from a broken foot and after Howard’s season ended with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
He is likely to be on the floor for the opening tip Friday when the Terps face defending national champ and third-ranked Kentucky at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. And he’s been no small factor in helping to assemble the team surrounding him.
In an oft-repeated vignette, coach Mark Turgeon was forced to re-recruit Faust after he took over for the retired Gary Williams in May 2011 and told the Baltimore product’s mother if Faust didn’t come to Maryland it would mean Turgeon wouldn’t be there a few years down the road.
It was a slight exaggeration, but there’s little question Faust’s value in recruiting nearly matches his importance in games. He’s a longtime friend of swingman Dez Wells, who transferred from Xavier in September and was declared immediately eligible this week. He showed around several prospective players, including Charles Mitchell, when they visited College Park.
“He’s helped us recruit all these players,” Turgeon said. “He’s hosted most of these guys. Even Sam [Cassell Jr.], who’s not here, he hosted Sam. He’s done a lot. He didn’t do all of them, but he was involved with almost all of them. He’s been a big part of it. Nick’s got personality, he knows people on campus. He’s helped us recruit. Because he’s a good kid, he’s helped us recruit other good kids.”
Mitchell described how Faust refused to sugarcoat the reality awaiting any recruit at Maryland. Turgeon, as he discovered last year, was a demanding coach. He also would extract as much out of individuals and a team as players would allow.
Faust was proof. At 6-foot-6, he didn’t look like a prototypical point guard. In fact, he wasn’t one. Yet out of necessity, he played there early in the season and down the stretch. The two stints running the offense were substantially different, with Faust much improved late in the year.
If he was candid, he also was charismatic. After all, he (like Turgeon) knew the Terps needed helped to make a leap this season and was willing to do his part to ensure an influx of talent.
“It’s very important,” Faust said. “I came here to win games, so you have to recruit good players to be a good team. That’s definitely a big part.”
There was an on-court element for Faust to work at as well. Even though he reached double figures in scoring in eight of the last nine games, there still were issues to chip away at. He slogged through an almost season-long slump, shooting 37.4 percent from the floor. His 3-point shot (27.1 percent) was inefficient. Even his foul shooting (61.9 percent) was unreliable.
By the time mid-May arrived, he had overhauled his shot. Coupled with an offseason emphasis on decision-making, it should ensure a more productive sophomore season.
“Every year, you should just cut out a fatty part of your game,” Faust said. “Just look back and try to cut out some of the little things. It definitely made me a more complete player.”