By Chris Knoche
It goes without saying that injuries are a part of any sport and leads to that great clich that coaches use all the time about one players misfortune is another players opportunity.
Yet even with those truisms in mind the Maryland Mens Basketball team must feel particularly snake bitten with the events of the last couple of days.
A team that was already down to eight players until the NCAA Clearinghouse reaches some kind of conclusion on eligibility issues surrounding Ukrainian recruit Alex Len lost a vital cog for what could be a long stretch when sophomore guard PeShon Howard broke a bone in his foot.
How long Howard will be sidelined has not been definitively determined but it could be as long as 10-12 weeks. According to reports the injury was one that was sustained over time rather than with some kind of incident. He had been practicing with some pain for a few days prior to having it examined and was immediately placed in a walking boot to prevent further damage.
The loss of a veteran guard and team leader like Howard will impact the team in a number of ways.
His feel for the game, leadership skills and passing acumen had convinced first year Head Coach Mark Turgeon to project him as the teams starting point guard for 25-30 minutes per game.
The injury now makes sophomore Terrell Stoglin the only alternative on the ball for the Terps. Stoglin had an outstanding season last year as a freshman and was named to the ACCs All-Rookie team at the end of the season. He is a natural scorer who is crafty and fearless with the ball in his hands.
Thats the good news.
The bad news is that on a team desperately in search of offensive firepower, Turgeon would much prefer that Stoglin play as the off-guard rather than run the team from the point.
Perhaps more importantly, Howard is a pass-first type of player that can score when needed from the point. He is also a bulldog of a defender with a great physical presence for the position. In short, a Mark Turgeon kind of point guard. On the other hand, Stoglin has proven to have a shoot first mentality at the point and will dominate the ball in a way that can frustrate both his coaches and his teammates. His talent as a scorer is both impressive and undeniable. Yet his mentality leads to a number of questions:
When his team is struggling for points and that might happen regularly- will he revert to playing one against five rather than concentrating on running crisp offense where he may or may not be the beneficiary?
Will he be a better defender than he was last season? He concentrated so much on his scoring last season his defense suffered particularly down the stretch of the season. This year he has clearly put in time in the weight room and it should help on the defensive end of the floor. He looks like a new man. That said, defense is largely attitude and effort and he has to want to excel there.
Lastly, can his team win with him on the ball?
The Howard injury officially makes senior Sean Mosley the Swiss army knife of this team. He now becomes the back-up point guard and until Howards return will play at four different positions in virtually every game.
It also means that Terp fans are going to get huge doses of two wing players that they have reason to be excited about.
Freshman Nick Faust has excelled in early practices and looks to be a top-notch defender with an aptitude for scoring in transition. His jumper might be a bit shaky but his confidence is not. He carries himself like he is certain he belongs. To have a freshman of this caliber certain to get major minutes will be exciting for the fan basethough it is sure to have Turgeon and his staff shaking their heads from time to time.
Sophomore guard Mychal Parker is also destined for big minutes. He seemed lost last year in practice and didnt get many opportunities in games as a result. This year he appears far more confident and assertive and appears intent on seizing minutes rather than just inheriting them due to Howards injury.
Both players will provide length and athleticism on the wing.
That and inexperience.
The program expects news any day from the NCAA regarding Lens status. The interminable investigation has severely limited and has probably had an isolating effect on the player. Apparently the data is in and a decision is imminent.
I guess nobody told the NCAA that its the last week of October.