Summer school: Five offseason basketball subplots

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Yes, it’s more than five months until Gary Williams rides into Comcast Center in/on some high-powered vehicle to celebrate the start of basketball practice.

So yes, that seems like a long time. And it sort of is. But plenty can happen between now and then, and five things in particular come to mind.

1. Will Greivis Vasquez return?

This rightfully overshadows anything else going on in the program. Should the senior-to-be eschew the NBA and withdraw his name from the draft, Maryland’s ceiling will substantially rise. If he doesn’t, the Terps might have to win even uglier than they did this past season.

Yes, Maryland will have more size when the fall rolls around, and that’s nice. But you don’t just go down to the Basketball Player Emporium and get a guard who tosses up 17-5-5 every day. The expectations for next season hinge directly on where Vasquez plies his trade next year.

2. Is anyone else on the way?

With Braxton Dupree leaving the program, a scholarship opened up. Can Maryland snag someone in the next few weeks, namely former Florida commit DeShawn Painter, a 6-foot-9 forward who seems destined for ACC land one way (Virginia Tech) or another (N.C. State) or another (Maryland). If there isn’t a reasonably big fish out there, it might be best to pocket the scholarship for 2010.

3. Will Jerome Burney get well?

The hard-luck junior-to-be seems to encounter a foot or ankle injury around every turn, and it’s only reasonable to think his chances of a fully healthy season decrease every year. The easy-going, upbeat Burney could be a candidate for a medical exemption, which would permit him to finish up his degree and not count against the Terps’ scholarship total. But realistically, Maryland would rather have Burney’s athleticism in the middle for 10-15 minutes a night, especially with a somewhat up-in-the-air frontcourt situation.

4. How far ahead can the Terps get in recruiting?

Make no mistake, Maryland has a fondness for trolling around in the spring to fill out its roster. Dave Neal and Parrish Brown (2005), Bambale Osby (2006), Cliff Tucker (2007) and Steve Goins (2008) were all spring additions – a list that doesn’t even include Tyree Evans, who came and went in a span of six weeks.

Depending on other attrition, Maryland could be looking at a 4-6 man class in 2010, and it already has two guys (Terrell Stoglin and Terrence Ross) committed. Solidifying – if not wrapping up – matters this summer will allow a head start on 2011, an important step forward in the accelerated world of basketball recruiting.

5. Will things stay quiet?

From pretty much the Vomit Comet game against Virginia Tech in 2008 right through to getting drubbed by 29 at Clemson this past season, Williams endured his rockiest year since enduring the probation era at Maryland.

There was the late-season collapse in ‘08, the Evans and Gus Gilchrist sagas in the offseason, the Jin Soo Kim eligibility subplots, the diminished expectations overall, the scrutiny of the program seven seasons removed from a national title, Vasquez’s occasional outbursts and some ugly, ugly losses (at Duke and Clemson come to mind, and so does falling at home to Morgan State).

But since an upset of North Carolina on Feb. 21, things have mostly skewed positive. A couple victories in the ACC tournament to extend the season, a first-round defeat of California in the NCAA tournament, some early 2010 commits and the possibility Vasquez could still be back. Other than that loss at Virginia in early March, nothing astonishingly bad has happened (yes, there was the loss to Memphis in the tournament, but it wasn’t astonishing).

It’s fair to say that quiet equals good for the Terps. And if things just hum along without attracting too much attention in the next few months besides maybe a recruiting coup or two and definitely Vasquez’s pending decision, it will probably bode well for the health of the program.

Patrick Stevens

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