Shane Walker to Transfer

This is a developing story, but this is what I have from the press release:

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland head basketball coach Gary Williams announced Monday (April 28) that freshman forward Shane Walker (Northampton, England/Montrose Christian) has decided to transfer. Walker will finish the spring semester at Maryland and leaves the program in good academic standing.

“We wish Shane the best of luck in the future and will assist him in his transition this spring,” said Williams.

Walker played in 24 games during the 2007-08 season. He averaged 1.0 rebounds and scored 0.5 points per game. A native of Northampton, England, Walker scored a personal-best four points at Virginia Tech on January 12. He pulled down a personal-best three rebounds on four occasions and played a season-high 13 minutes at Charlotte on January 5.

There is no mention as to where Walker will be going or if the Terps will be filling his vacated slot this season.

Henderson Undrafted

I am shocked. I noticed a few comments in the last post about Erin Henderson and I thought I should at least make mention of this surprising turn of events. I saw draft previews and mock drafts that had Henderson going as high as late in the 2nd round, but mostly in the 3rd-5th rounds.

Nobody picked him. Why? The guy has proven bloodlines. The guy was a warrior, playing hurt, yet still leading his team in tackles on a regular basis. He came up with big plays against quality ACC competition. I don’t understand how he could have dropped out of the entire draft. When kickers and punters go and you are still sitting at home, it’s heartbreaking. I feel very bad for the kid.

And now the big question. Should he have come back to school for his ‘senior’ season? Now, Henderson had already graduated, so he would have had to take some grad school courses or something, but the decision was made to enter the draft pretty early. He was quoted as saying he didn’t need the money for his family since EJ had taken care of that. I wish he would have come back since he was our best defensive player, but he was also a guy who battled injuries from the start of his career. I think he was worried about getting hurt again if he returned to college, but now the poor kid is going to have to try to make a team as an undrafted free agent. I know he’ll get a chance (rumors have him signing with the Redskins), but it’s a long road and one small nagging injury in mini-camp or training camp and you are done. He’s gotta have a lot of luck now, stay healthy, and prove himself.

Congrats to Dre Moore, who was picked up by Tampa in the 5th round. Moore was another guy who was projected much higher, but fell. Unfortunately, Moore was the only Terp drafted this year. This is not a good sign for our program, but I feel it’s just a bad year. We have plenty of guys who have a chance to be drafted in the next few years. I think with all the injuries across the board this past football season, it cost the Terps players a lot.

Now I know we usually just talk hoop, but it’s nice to get back to football, if it’s only for a moment. That being said, did anyone out there check out the Red/White game this past weekend? I’m interested in hearing how the players looked. I heard the QB’s were not that impressive.

Greivis Rumors

The date to declare for the NBA draft is two days away and still no word from Senor Greivis Vasquez. All indications (and by that I mean Diamondback Russ) are that Vasquez will indeed declare himself eligible.

Now, before Terps nationwide go bonkers; it is important to understand that Vasquez is 99% likely to return to Maryland this year. Declaring himself eligible is a way for him to measure himself against NBA talent as well as get feedback from the pro scouts on what he needs to work on in order to get drafted.

Anyone who watched more than 15 minutes of Maryland basketball this year knows that Greivis is not yet ready for the pros. He has yet to play an entire game under control and he needs to improve his shooting and decision making. Despite his shortcomings, GV just missed the ACC first-team and is likely to be a pre-season all-conference selection going into next season.

I encourage fans not to read too much into this impending announcement. Yes, Gary Williams has been hitting the road and will be bringing in many new faces into the backcourt next season. The arrival of Sean Mosley and Tyree Evans will certainly shake things up next season. Hoever, do not be fooled into thinking that Greivis will not be playing a prominent role

Vasquez led the ACC in minutes played and the optimist in me thinks that fatigue may have been part of the reason behind the Terps failure to put ANYONE away all year, as well as the being the culprit behind their well-documented collapses. A rested Vasquez should be able to shine next season if he can learn trust his teammates.

I have visions of a backcourt that electrifies in the much same way that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili do for the San Antonio Spurs. Will it be Evans who plays Parker to Vasquez’s Ginobili? Only time will tell.

Be assured Terp fans, that no matter what happens over the next two days, you can pencil Vasquez into the starting lineup next season. As for the other four positions, I’m not so sure. Neither is Gary Williams.

Yo Adrian! (Bowie)

This off-season is barely a month old and already it is proving to be one for the books.  Between the musical chairs occurring with the incoming class (Maze and Evans), rumors of players transferring (Hayes), or going pro (Vasquez); the message boards have been full of chatter.  Oh and I forgot to mention that our prized recruit, Sean Mosley, has yet to academically qualify.

It is clear that the uncertainty that surrounds this offseason exists because of what happened on the court last season.  Almost all of the successes and failures rest on the shoulders of Greivis Vasquez. He either did not do enough or he did too much, depending on the game or depending on who you ask.  Simply put, he was all over the place.

Pushing Vasquez in practice throughout the season was Mr. Adrian Bowie.  It’s was a familiar role for Adrian.  Both he and Vasquez are alumni of Montrose Christian– a program that has quickly become Gary Williams’ feeder school.  In high school, Bowie and Vasquez brought out the best in each other.  We have yet to see that on the court in the ACC.

Personally, I like what I saw from Bowie.  He demonstrated two things that prove to me he will be a solid contributor with the Terps.

1.  He played excellent defense and was the best on-the-ball defender.

2.   He got better offensively as the season went along.

Coaches love good defense.  Gary Williams is no exception and you should expect to see Adrian Bowie on the court if for no other reason. His defense will serve as an example to the newcomers on how to earn playing time.  However, for Adrian to maintain his hold on a spot in the rotation; his offense will need to improve.

He showed flashes of being able to get the rack (he has a great first step), but I am not convinced that he can knock down the open look with consistency, or has mastered how to get open in the flex offense.  By all accounts, Tyree Evans and Sean Mosley will be able to fill the stat sheet, so Bowie will need to make a huge leap offensively this summer in order to stay ahead of those guys.

Truth be told, his best route to playing time would be to master the point guard position.  That is a stretch to say the least as his skills (like every other guard on the roster) lend itself to the shooting guard slot.  So Bowie will have to compete against six other players (Vasquez, Hayes, Tucker,  Milbourne, Mosley and Evans) for three starting slots.   Gary Williams will be playing lots of three guard sets but our small forwards (Tucker and Milbourne) are too small to play the four; so I am lumping them in with the guards.

There is tons of talent in that group, but the skills overlap rather than complement.  Unfortunately, for Mr. Bowie, none of his offensive abilities stand out amongst his peers.  In the final analysis, I am afraid that Bowie will have to carve out a niche for himself as a stopper and shut down defender.  If his offensive game can improve, he just might find himself at or near the top of the depth chart, but I don’t think that is realistic with the horses the Terps have coming in next year.

Maryland Nabs Juco Tyree Evans

This is a developing story, but it appears that Tyree Evans will sign with Maryland when the national signing period begins tomorrow. This came out of nowhere and just like anything having to do with the Terps program these days; this story has good and bad to it.

The Good: His juco coach claims “he could have scored 40 points per game if he wanted to.” Evans wound up averaging 21.2 points per game last season and hit on 44% of his three point attempts. The only individuals to score more points than Evans in the history of Virginia High School basketball are Moses Malone and Allen Iverson. So, Tyree Evans compares favorably in terms of scoring with two of the NBA’s Top 100 players of all-time. Read that sentence again.

The kid sounds like an absolute game changer. His coach calls him “a pro” and a potential all-ACC performer. Quite simply, Evans could have a Steve Francis-like impact in his first year in College. This is BIG news.

The Bad: In 2004, Evans was charged with statutory rape when he was in prep school in Massachusetts. (queue the “rapist” chants at every venue in the ACC outside of Comcast). The charges were DROPPED but Kansas State recinded it’s scholarship offer and the stigma remains. He followed up that sad episode by getting kicked off his first juco team. By all accounts, his second stint at juco seems to have been a positive one, but questions remain. Oh, and he is 22 years old.

Aside from his personal trials, the Terps appear to be overcrowded in the backcourt. It is safe to assume that Bobby Maze is no longer coming to College Park, but that still leaves Sean Mosley, Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Adrian Bowie. Hayes and Vasquez are the only two who can play the point; and we have seen all the problems that come with that.

I can only assume that Gary and the coaching staff have serious concerns as to whether or not Mosley can qualify academically. Either that or Evans is such an insane talent that Gary couldn’t pass up the chance to grab him.

Complicating matters even further is that if Mosley is viewed by his hometown as having been treated unfairly; then the tenuous relationship that Maryland has with the city of Baltimore is all but severed. Does bringing in a juco transfer to eat up Mosley’s minutes from out of nowhere qualify?

Lots to contemplate for sure. I will end with this: if you believe that it is Gary Williams’ job to put the best possible combination of players on the court that he can; then I don’t see how signing a scoring machine like Evans could be a bad thing. IF he can stay out of trouble (swallowing own tongue…)

Better Know A Cliff Tucker

I think I am starting to lose control of this blog. When I am checking my own blog for updates from Diamondback Russ; I think it is safe to say I am no longer in control. I have to say that I love it. Keep up the great work, Russ.

Now, back to my 12-part series on the returning/incoming players to the program. Over the last few weeks, I’ve profiled Mosley (briefly), Eric Hayes, and Braxton Dupree. Now, let’s tackle the player that I think will make the biggest improvement over last year’s performance.

As a point of comparison, let’s look at Cliff’s freshman stats as compared to Terrance Morris’ freshman year. Morris nearly doubled Tucker in points, but to be fair, T-Mo played with a less crowded bench and at the same time a better supporting cast of starters.   Three of Morris’ teammates would play in the NBA (Ekezie, Profit, and Jasikevicus), and Terrell Stokes was a steadier point guard.  Sure, Vasquez delivered more dimes, but as we all painfully know; he also led the ACC in turnovers.

Nevertheless, I think the comparison is fair.  Both Morris and Tucker are gifted athletes that have a knack for making the tough plays look easy.  Both are lean and possess a smooth stroke.  Sure, Morris is taller and played a different position, but I think we could see a similar leap in production with Tucker that we saw with Morris between his freshman and sophomore campaigns.

Morris improved from 7.4ppg to 15.3ppg.  I think Tucker can do the same.

Last season, Cliff Tucker displayed flashes of absolute brilliance.  Against Illinois, Tucker dazzled with a barrage of threes  and dazzling finishes.  Simply put, Tucker is the best athlete on the team.

Despite his natural abilities, Landon Milbourne will be the starter heading into fall practice.  Tucker, however, should be breathing down his neck.  Tucker has the better repertoire of skills, but Milbourne is more game tested.  My sense is that whichever man can play consistently on both ends of the floor (something that rarely happened last year); will get the starting nod.

Someone will need to replace James Gist’s point production next year.  To me it is clear that Tucker has the higher ceiling than Milbourne and is the only returning player with the potential to give the Terps 15ppg (besides Vasquez). Gary Williams must give Tucker the opportunity to assert himself and become the number 2 option in the half court.

A Cliff Tucker who averages 15ppg will take tons of pressure off the Terps young frontcourt.  Maryland will still need  inside scoring, but if Cliff Tucker and Grevis Vasquez are giving the Terps 30 points per night, than the big guys (Glichrist, Burney, and Dupree) can focus on rebounding and defense.

Clearly, much is in flux.  Mosley needs to get eligible.  Bobby Maze may not come to College Park, but Tyree Evans could.  Who knows?  Even Greivis could leave.  One thing is for sure, Cliff Tucker will be an integral part of both the success and failure of next year’s team.

Braxton Dupree’s Upside Potential

Braxton Dupree was by all accounts, the most heralded recruit in the Terps Class of 2007.

And here are the stats he turned in:

  • 2.5 ppg
  • 278minutes played
  • 8 games started
  • 2.2 rpg
  • 9 blocks

Not exactly living up to the “heralded” moniker, eh?

The Terp that Dupree is most often compared to, Lonny Baxter, turned in the following stats during his inaugural campaign:

  • 6.8 ppg
  • 462 minutes played
  • 10 games started
  • 3.6 rpg
  • 18 blocks

At first glance, these stats actually look similar; although clearly, Baxter got the best of it. He scored three times more points and played nearly twice as many minutes. But as far as pure numbers go, Baxter and Dupree’s stats look similar.

There is something is missing that numbers don’t tell you. Most of Dupree’s production came at the beginning of the season against inferior competition; whereas Baxter took over the starting role later in the season. I even began an early season post by saying, “I saw the future tonight and it’s names are Braxton Dupree and Cliff Tucker”. As the ACC Season would prove; I could not have been more wrong.

Dupree found himself buried on the bench. First, he backed up Boom Osby. Then he was third string behind Shane Walker. Finally, he was fourth string behind Jerome Burney (Burney also leap frogged Walker). To say that Dupree has been heading in the wrong direction is the understatement of the century.

There are a couple of theories as to why Dupree found himself heading South. Most pointed to his weight. Dupree carried extra pounds that prevented him from keeping up in Gary’s running and pressing style of play. Surely, anyone need only to look back at old game tapes to find evidence of his rotundity.

However, there is another theory to which I subscribe. Braxton Dupree let the mental side of the game get the best of him. There were some early season games (vs. Illinois in particular) where Dupree played like a beast. He dominated the paint and ran out on the break. It was only after these flashes of brilliance that we saw the descent to sitting-on-the-bench obscurity. This regression seemed to coincide with Maryland’s own collapse. The defeats to Ohio U. and American left the entire team in a scramble to save the season.

Somewhere in that chaos, the basketball education of Braxton Dupree became stunted. Suddenly, terrible habits emerged. He was putting the ball on the floor when he grabbed a rebound in traffic. Braxton stopped boxing out. His effort waned as well. It was as if, he lost his will to play.

My guess is that Gary really started to ride the team (perhaps Dupree in particular) extremely hard after those disastrous losses, and Braxton Dupree simply was not able to respond. Perhaps his skin was not yet thick enough to deal with a prickly coach like Williams and he became demoralized. Maybe other players just improved more quickly or tried harder in practice.

No one outside the team knows what happened.

The bottom line is this: the kid has the body and the skills to be a stalwart in the paint. Maryland will need a big man to step up and play consistently next season. Landon Milbourne proved that a guy can go from non-existent to a significant contributor in the span of one off-season. Will Braxton Dupree do the same next year?
Dupree has proven he can contribute. He just needs to recapture that confidence he displayed in November and December. I believe he will return to form (I need to believe this, otherwise just knock me on the head with a 2×4). People, basketball players or not, often change dramatically between their freshman and sophomore years. You should have seen me when I was a freshman. I was timid little boy, not the cocky-punk I would later become.

What say you? Is Dupree a bust or is he going to win most-improved Terp next season?

Irrelevance Continued

If you haven’t already seen it, Andy Katz came out with his always meaningless Top 25 for next season. Of course Maryland wasn’t on the list. I didn’t expect it to be. But, the thing with these lists that invariably come out as soon as the season ends is that they are based on historical information.

It is impossible to handicap 300 Division I programs and factor in things like: the contributions for incoming recruits, or the losses from outgoing seniors. Usually, the author fills the list with teams that always seem to the end the season in the Top 25 and then adds in a few dark horses just for fun.

Maryland always made these lists because you could write it down in uneraseable ink that the Terps would be there at the end of the year. Yet another reminder that we are what we are. A middling ACC team.

Tip of the Cap

Sure, Kansas deserves praise for their valiant comeback last night. Superintendent Chalmers hit one of the most clutch threes in the history of college basketball. When the chips were down, they demonstrated greatness.

However, I didn’t title this post to praise them. In fact, it has nothing to with college basketball and everything to do with the first week of the baseball season.

I know that there are many readers of this site who are not from Baltimore and/or have no rooting interest in the Orioles. Regardless of that fact, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to comment on what Dave Trembley and his band of no-names have done in the first week of the baseball season.

At 6-1, the Orioles stand atop the American League. Read that sentence again. What were the chances of that?

Now, I am a realist. I am fully aware, and frankly would not be surprised if the Orioles wound up losing 20 of their next 25 games. But for one week, they reminded me and everyone in Baltimore what it is like to root for a team that comes together to find greatness– even if it turns out to be fleeting.

No matter what happens during the rest of the season, I have gotten more enjoyment from Orioles baseball this week than I have in the previous 10 years.

For Baltimore sports fans, the last five years have produced the worst Terp seasons since the late 80’s, the most consistently anemic offense in the NFL (Ravens), and a hoplessly undermanned baseball team (aforementioned Orioles).

So thanks, Dave Trembley. I’d love to see this thing keep rolling, but no matter what, you have reminded me why I love sports: you never know when the next dream season is around the corner.

OK, next post its back to the Terps….

The Case for Memphis

Most sportswriters are busy dissecting the merits of the Kansas Jayhawks and the Memphis Tigers in an effort to hypothesize who will emerge victorious tomorrow night. I say, who cares about the handicapping? The real question is which team is worth your rooting support?

The University of Kansas draws its basketball bloodlines straight from the source. Their venerable and winningest coach, Phog Allen, whose eponymous Allen Fieldhouse serves as the Jayhawks homecourt; learned the game of basketball from James Naismith himself (Naismith also coached at Kansas). It doesn’t get much more pure than that. When the inventor of the sport coached at your school, then I think it is safe to say that you are a basketball school.

Another interesting fact about the University of Kansas is that their mascot, the Jayhawks, dates back to the 1850’s and was the name of the Kansas militia that defended the “free staters” of Kansas from the pro-slave Missourians on the other side of the border.

With such outstanding tradition that stretches beyond basketball and into the annals of US history; it is hard not to throw my support toward the Jayhawks. But, I can’t bring myself to do it. Perhaps it’s my perpetual hatred of Duke and Carolina. I just can’t root for a perennial contender. Kansas and their fans are the ultimate “haves”.

It is a poverty of riches in Lawrence, Kansas every national signing day. Flush with McD’s All-America’s and blue chippers Kansas always gets the best of it. As a die-hard Terp fan used to playing the perpetual third-fiddle in the ACC; I am turning my back on the Jayhawks and their tradition.

Yes, I’m pulling for sleazebag, John Calipari and the mid-major powerhouse, Memphis. Sure, they are filled with immeasurable athletic talent and a disturbing habit of missing free throws, but they have my support. The Tigers have never won a title and as a former long suffering fan (and now, newly suffering), I am pulling for Memphis and their alumni.

There is nothing like seeing a school celebrate its first Championship (except for Maryland celebrating its second) and when the nets are cut down tomorrow night; here’s hoping that they are singing in Memphis.