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.

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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?

Eric Hayes Dissected

Let’s get this out of the way. In the case of Eric Hayes vs. Steve Blake, any jury would find unanimously for Steve Blake. After all, Steve Blake was the starting point guard upon his arrival in College Park. Hayes has not been able to prove that he is the best point guard in his own recruiting class.

Blake never appeared tentative. Hayes rarely appears sure of himself. Blake always played at full speed. Hayes has done so only on occassion. When Hayes has the ball, he seems to be moving in slow motion. Usually this leads to him either getting trapped, or making a telegraphed pass. Sometimes those two things occur in tandem.

It remains to be seen if Hayes’ slowness is simply a genetic flaw or caused by his uncertainty about the Terps’ offense and his position within it. At this juncture in his career, Eric Hayes is incapable of penetrating to the hole in the half court set. That dog won’t hunt in Division I.

Steve Blake could get into the lane almost at will. Deceptively quick, Blake could almost always take his man off the dribble. Once in the lane, he made the right pass every time.

To be fair, Blake played with better players than Hayes does. It is easy to rack up assists with Juan Dixon draining threes and hitting 10 footers. Oh, and Blake also had two legit post players to feed (Wilcox and Baxter).

Nevertheless, Hayes plays with a tentativeness that Blake never displayed. Eric is the son of a coach. He should be able to pick up the flex offense in his sleep. Why does he play like he is clueless out there?

I can think of two explanations:

He is completely overmatched in the ACC. He lacks the quickness to compete at this level. If true, Hayes’ lack of basic athletic ability would be an indictment of Gary Williams and the entire coaching staff. How did they not see that he was a step slow in high school. What’s more, Hayes was rated one of the top point guards in the nation coming out of high school. How could all of those recruiting gurus been so wrong?

The second, and in my opinion, more likely option is that he has played out of position for two years. Perhaps I am talking myself into this, but because Hayes has been the best shooter on the team during his two years in College Park; that forced the shooting guard role upon him. In a way, his shooting prowess has actually worked against him.

Greivis Vasquez is the best player on the team and needs to be out on the floor, but he can’t play shooting guard. He’s not accurate enough. Williams could never commit to Hayes as the point guard because Greivis is not reliable as a catch and shoot guy. Thus, Hayes was relegated to the two.

This argument has been played out ad nauseum by Terp fans everywhere. I think that is because it remains unanswered. If Gary commits to Hayes as the point guard, will Eric’s confidence return? So far, Gary has been unwilling to make that gamble. I think it is clear that no matter what, we will be seeing less of Vasquez at point guard next season. Hayes should have his chance to prove that he run the offense.

Next year’s newcomers will provide the answer as to Gary’s intentions with Hayes. My guess is that Bobby Maze would not have been offered a scholarship if Gary felt that Hayes could handle the PG duties.

The good news is that we get to find out in seven short months.

“His Real Name Is Mosley”

“I’m MOSLEY!!!” That is my favorite line from “Midnight Run” and what better way to introduce a discussion about Maryland’s most heralded incoming freshman? Alonzo Mosley (played by Yaphaet Kotto) has to be one of the great all-time buddy movie characters and I am looking forward to the joy I will get from making endless references to him over the next four years.

(By the way, How amazing is YouTube? I mean if you are looking for an obscure movie clip, it is just a click away. I love technology.)

Now, our Mosley, Sean Mosley, will be coming to Maryland from Baltimore, my hometown (actually I’m from the suburbs, but whatever). Mosley just capped a phenomenal senior season in which he averaged 27 ppg. He finished his career as the second all-time leading scorer in the history of Maryland High School basketball with over 2900 points (Rodney Monroe is #1 and he fared pretty well in the ACC I’d say).

There has been much talk about how Mosley will provide much needed balance to the Terps offense by giving the Terps a legitimate three point shooter. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

The only problem is that the information I find on the young man, seems to indicate that perimeter shooting is a “weakness”. Did Gary recruit another Adrian Bowie? The Terps desperately need a three-point shooter who isn’t going to kill the Terps in other ways (see: Eric Hayes). If Mosley can’t knock down treys, are we going to have to rely on Hayes to be Mr Three Ball?

Can someone talk me off the ledge here? Why is scout.com saying that Mosley needs to work on his perimeter game?

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