Seth Allen’s first mention in the box score of his first Maryland exhibition was a steal shortly after entering. It would not be his last. Far from it.
This was an ideal way to make an introduction. Seth Allen, Maryland fans. Maryland fans, Seth Allen.
The freshman point guard was never viewed as the gem of Mark Turgeon’s first full recruiting class with the Terrapins. And one exhibition game, Friday’s 73-61 dismissal of Indiana (Pa.), does not a career make.
Yet there was Allen, ever steady and ultra-disruptive, rolling up 16 points, five assists, five steals and no turnovers in his Comcast Center debut.
“Seth’s a good player,” Turgeon said. “I’ve been trying to tell a lot of people that for about a year. Just because he wasn’t ranked nobody would believe me, but he’s a really good player.”
It was easy to listen to Turgeon and imagine another coach who prowled and scowled on the sideline in College Park, another former guard with quite a bit more gray mounting a defense of an unheralded player.
There wasn’t as much defiance from Turgeon as his predecessor might have mustered. The content of his message wasn’t too different, though: Scouting and fit do matter.
Allen looked like a suitable match for Maryland on Friday. He was in control while running the offense, sketching an impressive case for why he might belong in the Terps’ starting lineup —- perhaps as soon as the Nov. 9 opener against Kentucky in New York.
The assists and the 3-pointers and the perfect day at the foul line no doubt satisfied Turgeon. Yet nothing defined Allen’s debut quite like his defense, a trait Turgeon so desperately craved a year ago.
Maryland’s roster was not littered with plus defenders a year ago, and this team is still unpolished, however effective it was Friday. Allen, though, repeatedly flustered the Crimson Hawks, anticipating passes and quickly igniting breaks in the other direction.
“All day in practice, I showed him I could play defense, guard the ball, off the ball and I thought we played great team defense,” Allen said. “If you play defense, you stay on the court longer and that’s what everybody wants is minutes.”
There is a substantial risk-reward element to Allen’s defense, and the freshman was not torched against the evening’s Division II visitors. The gambling tendency will have its drawbacks, and opponents will surely adjust in time.
Allen, though, could be the sort to rapidly adapt in kind. His speed, coupled with his sure hands, will provide some wiggle room as he finds his place in Maryland’s rotation.
“A lot of people don’t know about him,” guard Logan Aronhalt said. “He was really underrecruited coming out of high school and he’s making a name for himself already. I’m super-impressed. All the coaches are impressed with him. He’s very quick.”
No, a lot of people aren’t aware of Allen. That’s life on the fringe of ballyhooed recruiting rankings, life when you commit to a school in the spring of your junior year.
There’s not much to be done about that now. One exhibition game carries no guarantees, either next week or three years down the road.
Nonetheless, Allen’s initial impression, his how-do-you-do, to Maryland fans was unmistakable. The Terps might have a steal, however unheralded he was upon arrival.
“I don’t really think about it that much,” Allen said. “I just try to go out and play the best I can play. I feel like I was a little underrated coming into college, but I kind of like being the underdog. A lot of people don’t know what to expect, but you can’t be the underdog forever. You can’t hide it anymore. Come Kentucky, national television, you can’t hide your game. Everything’s going to come out then.”
—- Patrick Stevens