Maryland Basketball: Ranking Each Maryland Starter in Order of Importance
For the first time in a few years, Maryland seemingly has no holes in their starting lineup. With a solid group of returning players and one of the most underrated freshman in the country, the Terrapins may find themselves back in the NCAA tournament mix around mid-March.
Of course, Mark Turgeon hasn't specified what the starting five will exactly look like, but I took my best guess at what we may see from Maryland at the beginning of every game early in the season.
Here is what I project:
PG - Pe'Shon Howard
SG - Nick Faust
SF - Jake Layman
PF - Alex Len
C - James Padgett
Inevitably, don't be surprised if players such as Shaquille Cleare, Logan Aronhalt or Seth Allen start eating away some minutes from a few of the aforementioned players as the season rolls on.
Here are my rankings of the Terps' starting lineup in order of importance.
5. James Padgett
If there is one Maryland player in recent years who has shown outstanding incremental progress and extreme improvement from his freshman year onwards, it's James Padgett.
Now entering his senior season, Padgett looks to be a strong contributor in the low post and maintain his reputable status as arguably the ACC's most prolific offensive rebounder.
The reasoning behind his modest level of importance is how replaceable his slot in the starting lineup is.
Padgett has top-40 recruit and incoming freshman Shaquille Cleare standing closely behind him on the Terps' depth chart. Don't be surprised if Cleare is the starter come conference play if Padgett doesn't continue his gradual maturation and improvement.
4. Jake Layman
Massachusetts' own Jake Layman hasn't quite been receiving an incredible amount of love from recruiting databases, checking in at just 67th in ESPN rankings. Layman doesn't seem to care.
The versatile forward had himself quite a summer, competing on the USA 18-U squad and earning a gold medal. Layman edged out top-notch players such as McDonald's All American Kris Dunn and top-five 2013 twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison to make the roster.
Layman fills a need that has haunted Maryland ever since the departure of combo guard Eric Hayes in 2010. That need is outside shooting.
While Layman is likely to be a starter, he probably will not see huge quantities of minutes right away, which is the main reason for his relatively low level of importance.
3. Pe'Shon Howard
No team can succeed without a true point guard with great intangibles and commanding leadership. Just look at the past few national champions.
Kentucky had Marquis Teague, Uconn had Kemba Walker, Duke had Nolan Smith, UNC had Ty Lawson and Kansas had Mario Chalmers. You get the point.
This season, Pe'Shon Howard needs to be Maryland's true point guard. Without Howard's presence, Maryland simply falters.
Howard misses more than half of last season with a wrist injury in the fall and then an ACL tear in February. A sense of leadership was evidently absent when Howard was on the sideline, and their subpar record reflected that fact.
Howard's health is the focal point of his overall importance to this Maryland starting lineup, and is the main reason why Howard checks in inside the top three.
2. Nick Faust
Typically, when a freakish athlete vastly underperforms during his freshman season, it can be attributed to immaturity and inexperience.
Well, yeah, that was the case with Nick Faust.
A truly gifted sophomore shooting guard from Baltimore, Faust has all of the physical tools and natural talent to evolve into an all-conference player. He just needs to go out on the floor and show us.
Maryland's 2012-13 success is primarily contingent on Faust's offseason development. His performance early on will highlight whether Faust is the real deal, or just another high flyer with an underwhelming on-court IQ.
While Faust's potential warrants his high placement on this list, his situation doesn't nearly rival the oozing potential that our most important Maryland starter possesses.
1. Alex Len
Why in the world is a player who averaged just six points per game last season a projected lottery pick next summer?
Because he's 7'1'', he can run well and he can shoot.
To say that Ukrainian big man Alex Len struggled to adjust to basketball stateside would be quite an understatement. But to say that Len has the physical attributes to succeed in the ACC would be quite an understatement as well.
Most people his height can't come close to matching Len's coordination and finesse, which is why Len is so highly heralded as a pro prospect.
For the time being, Len desperately needs to show improvement if Maryland can be looked at as a complete, well-rounded NCAA tournament candidate.
Far and away, Len is the most important piece to this starting lineup, and I simply do not see a 20-win season without major contributions out of the sophomore from Ukraine.
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