Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gibbs first member of 2011 class

Maryland got some good news after learning that assistant coach Chuck Driesell was leaving to take over the head coaching job at The Citadel when New Jersey point guard Sterling Gibbs decided to commit to Maryland. The 6’1” guard comes from Seton Hall Prep and right now is rated a 3-star recruit by most services. I expect he will climb to a 4-star ranking by the end of the year and likely crack the top 100 players in the nation. Gibbs played on the U16 USA national team that won a gold medal and will play on the U17 team that will play for the FIBA gold medal this July in Germany. On the U17 team he will play with a who’s who of the elite high school players for the 2011 class including Michael Gilchrist (Kentucky), Marquis Teague (Kentucky), James McAdoo (UNC), Adonis Thomas and Brad Beal (Florida). It should give him some great experience practicing against some of the best players in the world for his age group.

Gibbs has an older brother, Ashton, who just finished a breakout sophomore year with Pittsburg. Sterling is more of a pure point guard who can distribute the ball, drive the lane and defend. He has good quickness and doesn’t seem to have a problem getting by defenders off the bounce. His long arms help him defend and grab steals. He’ll need to add some bulk like most high school players coming to college. Gibbs’ jump shot has a low release point and is flat but it is similar to his older brother’s shot and Ashton is a very good shooter (~40% from 3-point range and 80% from the foul line) so that may not be a major concern. Maryland will be losing Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker after 2010 so Gibbs is a nice addition and the fourth guard on the roster for 2011 to go with Terrell Stoglin, Pe’Shon Howard and Sean Mosley. They also will have wings Mychal Parker and Haukur Palsson. Gibbs has a great reputation as a hard worker and a very coachable player much like current Terp Sean Mosley. I think this will make him a great fit for Gary Williams and Gibbs is likely to be a significant factor as a freshman reserve.

Overall Gibbs’ commitment is a very good start to an important 2011 recruiting class. Maryland has a good young core and you could persuasively argue that the young players on the team the next few years are an upgrade over the talent that Maryland has pulled in over the previous three or four seasons. There doesn’t seem to be a Greivis Vasquez level player in the bunch but the overall level of talent has improved significantly. Along with Jordan Williams and James Padgett and then continuing to a very solid 2010 class the addition of Gibbs is a sign that the staff realized they needed to upgrade the recruiting to stay competitive in the ACC. You can see some highlight videos below.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Driesell departs for Citadel

Assistant coach Chuck Driesell will be the next head coach at The Citadel replacing Ed Conroy who took the Tulane head coaching job. Former Maryland Dave Dickerson resigned from Tulane earlier this year after five unsuccessful seasons as the head coach there. Maryland had managed to keep the assistant coaching staff intact since Michael Adams quit in the middle of the 2007-8 season. Driesell had to leave Maryland to get some head coaching experience at some point and this move was rumored for at least the last month. Given the miserly salaries that Maryland pays its assistants it isn’t surprising. With Keith Booth and Rob Ehsan the only official assistants currently (Joe Harrington does have some coaching input) that leaves the Terrapins pretty thin with game experience. Ehsan is reportedly an excellent recruiter but neither he nor Booth, who is most famous for calling the timeout that negated Grievis Vasquez’s game winning runner against Georgia Tech, add much on game day.

I’m not optimistic that the athletic department will come up with the kind of cash needed for a top notch assistant head coach ($400,000+) given that Driesell was making less than half that. It will be another test for Debbie Yow and her commitment to making the basketball program competitive on a national level.

Short draft for Terps

Only two Maryland players were drafted over the weekend, OT Bruce Campbell in the 4th round to the Raiders and CB Nolan Carroll to the Dolphins (my old favorite NFL team) in the 5th round. Last year four Maryland players were drafted but it isn’t surprising given that this was a terrible 2-10 squad this past season. Campbell plummeted out of the 1st round after an impressive combine as concerns began to grow about his ability to apply that talent on the field. It may look at first glance that Campbell made a poor decision by coming out early this season but you have to keep in mind that the impending NFL lockout would have made the decision to stay very risky. With the possibility that the entire 2011-12 season may be cancelled and that if there is a new collective bargaining agreement it is unclear what terms would be in the new CBA, a rookie salary cap is likely, then coming out early wasn’t as bad a decision as it seems. Campbell probably has the capability to develop like former Maryland tackle Jared Gaither. I felt that Campbell was a harder worker than Gaither ever was at Maryland so I don’t think that will hold him back. Injuries have been an issue for Campbell so his struggles to stay healthy may have hurt his draft status as well.

 

It was great to see Florida native Nolan Carroll not only get drafted but go to a team in his home state that has a good opportunity given the Miami Dolphins struggles in pass defense. Carroll has a good chance to be moved to safety or as a nickel or dime back for the Dolphins. Miami cut safety Gibril Wilson and let nickel back Nate Jones go as a free agent so it would appear that Carroll has an excellent shot of being on the opening day roster for the ‘Phins. Carroll will join Maryland alums DT Randy Starks and undrafted free agent DT Travis Ivey in Miami.

Other undrafted free agents getting deals were FB Cory Jackson (San Diego) S Terrell Skinner (Minnesota), and C Phil Costa (Dallas).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Terps sign two more for 2010

Maryland announced that it has formally signed two basketball recruits to letters of intent. In addition to the three players who had already been on board for this fall the Terps added forward Haukur Palsson and guard Pe’Shon Howard. The signing of Howard helps to soften the blow of losing Terrence Ross who flaked out on Maryland and Stu Vetter at Montrose Christian. The 6’2” Howard is a mature physical specimen and will probably be one of the more physical guards in the ACC when he walks onto campus this fall. He played for the always loaded Oak Hill Academy team with some elite talent including Doron Lamb and Roscoe Smith. Howard didn’t get lost in the shuffle like Oak Hill alumni Landon Milbourne though and was a major factor on a team that played elite competition all season long. Howard is a jack of all trades who can drive to the basket and shoot from outside as well as distribute the ball. He is more of a combination point and shooting guard but has good ball handling skills and should be able to guard either position in college. Howard was a good catch for Maryland so late in the recruiting season after Ross backed out of his commitment. I expect he will have a significant reserve roll from the start as he gives Gary Williams a physical defensive presence to go along with Sean Mosley.

 

Palsson also plays for a high school powerhouse in Montverde Academy in Florida. A native of Iceland Palsson does fit the mold of a “Euro” style player. He can shoot and handle the ball well for his 6’6” height and seems like a decent rebounder. He has to put on some muscle to be able to play inside in college. With Mychal Parker coming in as another wing player in 2010 and Sean Mosley entrenched as the third guard I would not expect much from Palsson for the first few years. Like Landon Milbourne he is the kind of player that will contribute when he is a junior and senior.

 

Howard and fellow guard Terrell Stoglin make a very nice pair of guards in this class and they showed well in the Capital Classic last week. Stoglin reminds me of a bigger and better version of Clemson’s Andre Young. He is a sharp shooting lefty who is a good ball handler and runs the floor very well. He is bigger than he seemed when I saw video of him last spring and the big question for Stoglin is can he guard at the ACC level. I think his offense will be excellent and he will run the fast break very well for Gary Williams.

 

The word is that the other 2010 recruit power forward Ashton Pankey is mostly recovered from an injury that ended his senior season. Maryland needs a fourth player in the front court as it looks like Steve Goins will never be healthy enough to contribute.

 

Gary Williams will be the subject of the Lunch With a Legend at Morton’s The Steakhouse in downtown D.C. on Monday the 26th. You can call (202)955-5997 for details on getting a reservation. It will be broadcast live on ESPN980.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spring Football

There have been a few developments for the football team during the spring practice sessions. Starters like LB Alex Wujciak and OG Lamar Young are not participating but it is normal for a few players to miss time recovering from injury. The injury bug already got one starter as fullback Taylor Watson tore a ligament in his knee and will miss the rest of the spring and summer. The staff is hoping to have him back at the start of the season but I wouldn’t count on that. Haroon Brown takes his place and has some experience at fullback but the knock on Brown has always been a lack of motivation. We’ll see if that changes. Other positions of interest in the spring are at the second corner spot opposite Cam Chism and pretty much the entire defensive line. Trenton Hughes and Dexter McDougle are battling for the other corner spot and it looks like Hughes has a slight edge at the moment. Chism, Kenny Tate and Antwine Perez look fairly solid at the other spots but Eric Franklin will see time like Tate did last season. The defensive line is up in the air besides A.J. Francis with new players like David Mackall getting into the mix. Isaiah Ross and Carl Russell are out with injury so it may just further muddy the water when they return over the summer. If players like Masengo Kabongo and Drew Gloster want to see any playing time this fall they better makes some waves in the spring game.

There is a potential tsunami coming as the rumors of the Big Ten expansion plans have heated up in recent weeks. This could lead to another round of devastating conference raiding like the ACC initiated in 2004. The Big East seems to be in the crosshairs again and while I don’t think the ACC is looking to expand you never know what might happen once the Big Ten makes its move. The folks at West Virginia have suggested that they would make a move to the ACC or SEC if the Big East breaks up its football members. I don’t think the ACC would have any interest in West Virginia but then again I didn’t think Miami, Boston College or Virginia Tech were good fits for the league either. Those moves, like the Big Ten expansion rumors, are all about selling NCAA football tickets along with television revenue. The Big Ten created this monster when they started their own network and now the monster needs to be fed. The next few months could be a perilous time for a number of programs and the fall out might also touch the ACC. The broken system of college football is driving this movement and it could lead to a wasteland of haves and have nots in college sports.

 

I’ll have some thoughts on a few of the 2010 men’s basketball signees shortly.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

ACC News & Notes

Duke (aka Mike Krzyzewski) won its fourth national title last night defeating a scrappy Butler squad in an ugly 61-59 death march. Butler was able to drag Duke down into a quicksand game but the Blue Devils did what they have done all year, play great defense and make shots when they needed. Though the game was close Duke lead the majority of the game and it was difficult for me to imagine that Butler was actually going to win. The difference was that Duke had Scheyer, Singler and Smith while Butler’s star players all struggle to score. The Butler starters combined to go 14/50 (28%) from the floor while the Duke trio went 17/40 (42.5%). The repeated references to the movie Hoosiers because Butler is a small school from Indiana were flawed for a host of reasons but the most glaring was that this Butler team couldn’t hope to shoot like the fictional Hickory High did in the film. In six tournament games the Bulldogs only shot above 40% three times. They play ugly, stall ball offense and it nearly got them a national title. In the end though the talent deficit caught up with them. Without Alabama transfer Avery Jukes scoring 10 points off the bench the drama would have been over long before the last few minutes. The game was certainly dramatic and tension filled but it wasn’t a great performance by either team, except on defense. Neither team shot the ball well which isn’t shocking given the defense played but neither team had more assists than turnovers. Butler only had 7 assists the whole game while Duke only managed 12. If you enjoy the art of passing and efficient offense this game didn’t offer much in that regard. It is interesting to consider that many sports writers called Maryland’s win over Indiana in the national title game an ugly game. Statistically the game wasn’t all that different than last night’s affair with Indiana shooting exactly the same percentage as Butler (both went 20/58) and Maryland shooting 0.4% under what Duke shot in last night’s game. Because neither team could pull away and the winner was Duke many will hail this game as one of the best finals ever.

This cements Mike Krzyzewski as the greatest coach in the modern era. His four national titles are behind only John Wooden and he amassed those in an era that was far more difficult to dominate than the pre-64/65 team tournament era. You may hate Duke with its smug superiority, annoying fans that have morphed into conceited caricatures of themselves, and fawning media attention, though that seems to be turning the other way lately, but you cannot deny that Krzyzewski is the gold standard in basketball head coaches. This team was undoubtedly the weakest team (and most unlikely winner) out of his four championship squads but I had a sense in listening to him during the year and after the game last night that that fact made it all the more sweet for the old coach.

In other ACC news Clemson’s Oliver Purnell has left Clemson to go to Big East doormat DePaul. This is a shocking development and taken with the departure of Al Skinner from Boston College not a good sign for the ACC. Skinner and Purnell were clearly two of the better coaches in the ACC and it is highly unlikely that either BC or Clemson will be able to replace them with better coaches. At the very least both programs will probably take a step back with a new coach. After Coach K, Gary Williams and Roy Williams the coaching in the league is pretty thin and it just got thinner.

The curious second year exodus at Virginia continues as junior Jeff Jones will transfer. It is odd for a junior to transfer in the first place but to add him to Sylven Landesberg and Tristan Spurlock who have both left Virginia this off season in addition to Jamil Tucker who was kicked off the team in mid season there is perhaps more turmoil in Charlottesville than was apparent. Jones would probably have been a major scoring option for Toney Bennett next season and his departure probably means another long season for the Wahoos.

Greivis Vasquez was given the Bob Cousy award for the best point guard in college basketball the other night. Coach Gary Williams had some nice words about his beloved senior that you can read here.