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Getting to Know Navy Basketball’s Veterans Classic Opponent: Maryland Terrapins

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Q & A with Lamar Johnson of the Testudo Times talking all things Maryland basketball related

NCAA Basketball: Delaware at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We were fortunate to get in contact with Lamar Johnson, managing editor for the Testudo Times, to hear his thoughts on the Maryland basketball program at the start of the 2018 season.

Check out our Q and A session below to better understand who Navy is up against tonight in the Veteran’s Classic.

When it comes to Maryland basketball, many fans think of the Gary Williams era of success while the Terrapins were in the ACC. Now that Maryland is entering its 5th year in the Big Ten, how would you describe the “state of the state” as it pertains to to the Maryland basketball program?

In a word: building. The Terps lost Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson to the NBA Draft last offseason and brought in the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation. There’s one scholarship senior, one junior, three sophomores and six freshmen on the team. Maryland showed equal promise and concern in its first game: there were a lot of missed shots and a 22-point lead turned into a six-point win. This is a team that’s going to take it’s lumps, but should win its fair share of games.

The most common name non-Maryland fans know on the Terps roster is likely Preseason All-Big Ten selection Anthony Cowan. What other returners should Navy fans be paying attention to this Friday night?

In terms of returners, there are just two more to keep an eye on: Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell. Both are sophomores and both will start and play big minutes on Friday. Fernando flirted with the draft last offseason, but ultimately decided to return. He’s working on controlling his intensity and was on his way to a monster game before a couple fouls derailed him. He looks more confident and is a more vocal teacher, and for a player who’s constantly hype, seeing that energy channeled constructively is promising. Morsell on the other hand was a jumpshot away from being a legitimate threat. He seems to have added that over the summer, something he attributed solely to confidence, and scored the first points of Maryland’s season by swishing a three-pointer. If his shot holds up, he could be a problem for opposing teams this season who lose sight of him while covering Cowan, Fernando or Jalen Smith.

What freshmen are likely to make a significant impact this season? Any newcomers destined to be household names by season’s end?

There are three freshmen to keep an eye on and at least one that should end up as a household name from this class. Jalen Smith and Aaron Wiggins join Cowan, Morsell and Fernando in the starting lineup, while Eric Ayala came off the bench in the opener and played heavy minutes. Smith is the most likely one-and-done from the class, as a gifted offensive talent with stellar shot-blocking timing on the other end. He became the first Terp to debut with a double-double this century against Delaware, finishing with 19 points, 13 rebounds and two steals. Ayala and Wiggins had rougher opening outings, but each displayed why they were trusted with the minutes. Wiggins went quiet from beyond the arc, arguably his best trait, but made a living on defense with a team-high five steals. Meanwhile, Ayala kept feeding Smith for a team-high five assists and added a couple clutch buckets in the lane. Those three should continue to get starters minutes.

Realistically, what are the expectations for the team this year? While an NCAA tournament bid is always up for grabs, how far can this team go?

I think this is a realistic tournament team. Maryland should finish towards the upper-middle of the Big Ten this season and a 22- or 23-win season isn’t out of the question. Road games and close games were the issue last year, but the returners have experienced what it takes and it sounds like the freshmen have embraced the fact that Maryland missed the postseason. I’d be surprised if the Terps end up outside of the tournament field again.

What are the team and fan thoughts on the Veteran’s Classic and playing down the road at the Naval Academy on opening weekend?

It seems like playing around the state of Maryland was a priority for Turgeon in this non-confidence schedule. Friday night should provide an early road test environment without having to leave the state. In terms of fans, it will be interesting how many students make the trip, but, regardless, Maryland fans should travel relatively well given the short distance.

Editor’s Note: If you are planning to come, get there early as parking will be a challenge and then you will have to walk through a check point that is a good distance from Alumni Hall. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Okay, federal law has changed and head coach Mark Turgeon is required to serve in the military (this is hypothetical, I think). What service branch does he join and what is his role in the armed forces?

So, I phoned a friend and consulted fellow editors Thomas Kendziora and Justin Fitzgerald on this one. We agreed that it’s definitely between the Navy and Air Force, and I’m leaning towards a captain in the Air Force. Can’t really explain the thought process.

Well, there you have it - Coach Turgeon is either a junior officer in the Air Force likely sitting at a desk at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia or he is the Captain of a nuclear aircraft carrier. Those are my picks!

Thanks again to Lamar and feel free to give him a follow on twitter for all things Maryland and hoops related - @im_lamar