Mark Turgeon isn't relying on a single player to replace 7-foot-1 lottery pick Alex Len. Besides, that kind of length doesn't exist on next season's roster. What the Maryland coach has up front are multiple and varied options, from those that can pound inside to those that can drain shots from outside.
Gam situations will influence lineups. Though the senior-less Terps have only nine scholarship players, five are at least 6-foot-8. When shot makers are required, Turgeon will tell Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman to toss aside their warm-up jacket. Springy but raw freshman center Damonte Dodd is a running big man in training. In terms of providing an inside presence in place of Len, the coach will deploy power-packed rising sophomores Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell.
"They're going to have too," said Turgeon of Cleare and Mitchell. The coach also expects the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Dodd to help man the middle. Regardless, that's a tall task seeing as Len led the ACC in blocks, the Terps in rebounds and finished second behind Dez Wells with 11.9 points per game.
Cleare entered last season as the highest-rated recruit among Maryland's heralded incoming class, yet finished fourth within the group in scoring (3.7) and minutes (12) per game. Chalk up some of the lacking statistics to playing behind Len. The 6-foot-9 Houston native's physique was also stockier then desired.
That won't be the case this season. Listed at 265 pounds in 2012-13, Cleare finished last season at 285, Turgeon said at an event last month. Cleare dropped around 20 pounds by the start of Maryland's off-season workout with the hopes of losing another 10 before the season's start. Based on this recent picture, he clearly has not regressed on that plan.
"Shaq's always been one of our hardest workers if not our hardest workers. ...People forget Shaq was a top-50 player coming out of high school. He just had a lottery pick ahead of him," Turgeon said. "Shaq still had a really good year for us I thought."
The 6-foot-8 Mitchell flashed more offense initially than his classmate, including a season-high 19 points against Delaware State. He also finished second behind Len with 5.4 rebounds. With higher minutes and expectations coming his way, the listed 260-pounder is also on the get trimmer plan.
"Charles is doing the same thing, he's trimmed down," Turgeon said. "He's got a ways to go still. He's to learn to work hard every day. Even though they are sophomores, they're veterans for us. We need them to be good for us to be good."
At 6-foot-9, Smotrycz has the height for interior play, but his 3-point range and position flexibility will have Turgeon using him at four spots. The former Michigan transfer knocked down 43.5 percent of his 3-point attempts as a sophomore for the Wolverines. Even with the now graduated Logan Aronhalt shooting an almost identical percentage for the Terps last season, Maryland collective finished 33.9 percent from beyond the arc.
"You don't want to put too much pressure on the kid, but he's a weapon we don't have," Turgeon said of Smotrycz. "He gives us another dimension; he can shoot three, he can do it off the dribble, he can post up. He can guard multiple positions. We really worked him a lot at the 2-3 last year in practice. I think it really helped his game. We have a lot of high goals and expectations for Evan this year."
Having a stretch-four option is becoming necessary in this era of 3-point shooting small ball. While it wouldn't be the norm, Turgeon said it's no stretch to see Smotrycz receiving some minutes at the center.
"He won't always guard the biggest post, but when we play bigger teams, he'll guard it," Turgeon said. "He didn't come here to play the five, but certain lineups we can really spread the floor by putting him at the five, when we're down in a game or they're playing a really small lineup, not posting their center. We can go to that lineup ourselves."
Other recent local basketball stories:
* Georgetown's John Thompson III , including how the team moves past the loss of Otto Porter and Greg Whittington, and possible starting
*Q& A with George Mason coach Paul Hewitt on incoming Georgia Tech transfer Julian Royal and the Patriots backcourt depth
*Q&A with Virginia Tech coach James Johnson on how the Hokies hope to replace the nation's top scorer, Erick Green