By Zach Phillips.
The University of Maryland lost another starter from the 2016-17 season Wednesday. Melo Trimble announced he was signing an agent and declaring for the NBA draft.
Damonte Dodd, a senior, is the other starter who will be departing from the team. Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter will all be sophomores next season.
The easy first question is: who will start next season? It’s safe to assume the three returning starters will remain in the starting lineup for the 2017-18 season. Jaylen Brantley will be a senior next season, and he has proven himself as a strong reliable player. He doesn’t take a lot of shots, but he has shot at a respectable percentage coming off the bench. Brantley obviously isn’t a replacement for Trimble, but look for him to step up and be more than just a role player.
Underneath the basket the Terps need to make up for the Dodd’s departure. Michal Cekovsky will also be a senior next season, and the 7-foot-1 center could be a menacing presence underneath. Cekovsky’s season ended prematurely due to injury. If Cekovsky is healthy, he can contribute by scoring inside, grabbing boards and establishing a defensive presence.
That said, who exactly will step up to become the team’s new leader? Regardless of the stats Melo put up, he was an on-court leader, and his presence will be missed. Maryland will have to turn to an experienced player to lead them next season, and based off the end of the regular season and their play in their lone NCAA tournament game, nobody has stepped up.
This is not to say that Maryland can’t play as a team; Cowan, Huerter, and Jackson all seemed to work together well last season. If the three of them continue to grow and work together as a team, Maryland can be as strong a team, if not stronger than they already were.
Justin Jackson has proven he can play well. He can snatch rebounds and score from long distance. But Jackson’s problem is consistency. He would drop anywhere between 15 and 22 points one night, then turn around and barely make a shot the next. If Jackson can score consistently, look for him to step up and take over as the new leader of the Terps.
The Big Ten is getting more competitive. Seven teams made it to the NCAA tournament this year, but the highest ranked was a 4-seed: Purdue. There is competition within the conference but teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference and even the Southeastern Conference are proving they are better. If Maryland can establish a strong on-court leader, they have a strong chance of performing at a much higher level in conference, and earning a better seed than this season.