Former Alabama center Galin Smith says he chose Maryland as a graduate transfer because of the plan head coach Mark Turgeon and assistant coach DeAndre Haynes have to help him to expand his game — and hearing from a rising senior during the decision-making process didn’t hurt, either.
Assuming there’s a season, the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Smith will be immediately eligible to play for the Terps in 2020-21 after a three-year stint at Alabama. Smith, a native of Clinton, Miss., has no prior connections to Maryland, but he heard from Haynes shortly after he entered the transfer portal. Smith averaged 12.8 minutes, 3.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game for the Crimson Tide from 2017-2020.
“[Haynes] just let me know that him and Coach Turgeon were very interested in my game and felt like I could make a bigger impact than I was doing at Alabama — come play for him and be able to do some things and put myself in a good position for later in my basketball career,” Smith said on Glenn Clark Radio May 14. “Just building that relationship over time, I really felt like they had a really good plan set out for me as far as on the court and off the court, so they really built that trust pretty fast.”
The Terps needed frontcourt reinforcements – and still do – after the offseason losses of Jalen Smith (NBA Draft), Ricky Lindo Jr. (George Washington) and Joshua Tomaic (San Diego State). Mahki and Makhel Mitchell (Rhode Island) left the program last December after coming to College Park, Md., as key parts of Turgeon’s 2019 recruiting class.
With those five gone, Turgeon’s only frontcourt players prior to landing Galin Smith were center Chol Marial and forwards Donta Scott and Jairus Hamilton. Marial played a total of 65 minutes in 2019-20 after undergoing surgery on both shins in September, and it’s unclear whether Hamilton will be eligible next season after transferring in from Boston College.
Smith entered the transfer portal in late April and announced his commitment to Maryland May 12. Smith is confident his production will tick up with more playing time – and there should be plenty of minutes available at the center spot.
“Me personally, I always have that confidence in myself, so I definitely feel with more opportunity I definitely would’ve produced a lot more, but I ended up [going through] a coaching change, so that’s out of my control,” Smith said, referring to Avery Johnson being replaced by Nate Oats in 2019. “But I feel like with Coach Turgeon and being with Maryland, they’re a great group of guys. It’s a system that fits me better, and I’ll be able to not just help myself but help the program.”
Smith attempted just two 3-pointers during his three years with the Tide – both as a junior, and he didn’t hit either. Smith said he was given the freedom to shoot threes late in his high school career, but he focused on high percentage looks for Alabama. He shot 56.4 percent from the field the past three years, though he averaged just 2.4 shots a game.
Smith is confident he can expand his offensive game and show off a little range next season.
“I do have a traditional five-man game,” Smith said. “But the thing that me and Coach Turgeon and Coach Haynes talked about is just me developing my game more and making me even more of a threat at the five spot along with my post presence on the block.”
“Coach Turgeon, he let me know that he’ll have that confidence in me to let me go and play and be free,” Smith added. “That’s what I feel like I need to be able to just grow.”
The Terps are coming off 24-7 season and a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith won’t be back, but four other players whom Turgeon leaned on heavily last year will return: guards Eric Ayala, Darryl Morsell and Aaron Wiggins and Scott, who evolved into the starting power forward last year.
Though Turgeon and Haynes did the heavy lifting in recruiting Galin Smith, a key returner pitched him on Maryland as well.
“Darryl, he reached out to me and let me know I was welcome to the program and that he’d really like to have me,” Smith said. “I think that was something that really stood out to me the most, just feeling that welcome because I’d be going far away. Having somebody that I feel like really wants me around just helped me out a lot.”
To hear more from Smith, including what it was like playing 3 on 5 against Minnesota in 2017, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Alabama Athletics