Five Things To Know About Maryland Men’s Basketball Ahead Of Season Opener

The season has arrived for the No. 21 Maryland men’s basketball team. Here are five things to know ahead of the season opener Nov. 9.

1. The Terps have new pieces and a strong veteran presence.

Maryland only has seven players from last season on its 16-man roster. Just three of those seven — senior guard Eric Ayala, junior guard Hakim Hart and junior forward Donta Scott — will be in the starting five.

Head coach Mark Turgeon welcomes nine new players this season, including six from the transfer portal. Fatts Russell, a graduate transfer from Rhode Island, will provide the Terps with a strong point guard, a piece that Maryland missed last season.

The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Russell averaged 14.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game as a senior at Rhode Island. Russell was rated the No. 19 overall player in the Big Ten by Andy Katz and the No. 59 overall player in the country by CBS Sports for the 2021-2022 season.

Russell’s skills shined brightly during an exhibition game against Fayetteville State Nov. 5. Russell’s speed was evident all over the court, as he forced turnovers and set up baskets. He finished the night with 10 points, going 4-for-6 on free throws, 1-for-2 on 3-pointers and 1-for-2 from the line.

“He might be as complete of a guy that I’ve had in a while,” Turgeon said. “He can do it at both ends. He’s really smart. He’s making the right passes, the right decisions. … His speed is remarkable.”

The Terps will also look to Qudus Wahab, a junior transfer from Georgetown, to take over as the starting center. Wahab made his presence known Nov. 5 as his size presented issues for Fayetteville State. His 6-foot-11, 240-pound frame allowed him to follow up on several shots and box out opponents.

A starting lineup of Ayala, Hart, Russell, Scott and Wahab will provide Turgeon with the veteran presence that he has been searching for.

Other transfers include graduate guard Xavier Green (Old Dominion), sophomore guard Ian Martinez (Utah), sophomore forward Pavlo Dziuba (Arizona State) and graduate forward Simon Wright (Elon).

2. The Terps will struggle less on the boards than they did last year.

Freshman forward Julian Reese (St. Frances) and Wahab will be responsible for many of Maryland’s rebounds this season, another area that the Terrapins strived to improve upon this past offseason. Reese and Wahab were everywhere against Fayetteville State, grabbing loose balls and setting their teammates for shots.

Wahab finished the exhibition with six rebounds, while Reese came off the bench to grab five rebounds. An undersized Maryland team finished ninth in the Big Ten in rebounding margin last year.

“The sky’s the limit for [Reese],” Russell said of Reese’s performance. “He’s only 18 and where he’s at now is just unbelievable. So I can only imagine what he’s going to look like in a couple years.”

3. Qudus Wahab will play a major role for the Terps’ offense.

Terrapin fans can expect Wahab, a 6-foot-11, 240-pound forward, to have a crucial role on Mark Turgeon’s squad this season. Rated the No. 3 overall transfer of the offseason by CBS Sports, the Lagos, Nigeria, native earned a spot on the 2022 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award Watch List ahead of this season.

Wahab averaged 12.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for Georgetown last season and led the Hoyas to the Big East tournament championship in March. He showed his talent Nov. 5 as the new Terp finished with 12 points and six rebounds.

The transfer will be the top option at center this season, a position the Terps struggled with last season. Scott was the de facto center at times last season, but he did not fit the position compared to other Big Ten centers such as Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn.

“I just want to continue doing what I do, which is like scoring. Be more physical in the post and just improve my game,” Wahab said of what he expects from himself this season. “More offensively and rebound, I feel like that is my role, like to score and rebound.”

4. The Terps have more depth than last year.

The Terps showed against Fayetteville State that they could generate offense outside the starting five of Russell, Ayala, Hart, Scott and Wahab, with the bench scoring 42 points.

Ian Martinez produced five points, going 1-for-4 from the floor. Turgeon applauded Martinez’s performance and added that he would play starter minutes this season.

“He’s terrific,” Turgeon said. “He’s a great on-ball defender. He did have some nice blocks, which is good.”

Depth goes beyond Martinez. Reese showed what he can do in a little more than 14 minutes. The freshman started firing shots when he entered the game finished the night with a team-high 16 points. Reese went 6-for-10 on field-goal attempts and 4-for-6 on free-throw attempts.

The Baltimore native’s strengths go beyond the offense he displayed Nov. 5, as Reese produced five rebounds and one block.

“He showed you that he can be a really good player,” Turgeon said of Reese. “He has great hands. He can finish around the basket. He has a great presence about him. It’s good to have low-post scoring.”

5. The Terps begin the regular season on Tuesday, Nov. 9.

Maryland will host Quinnipiac for the season opener on Tuesday, Nov. 9. After their victory from the season’s lone exhibition game, the Terps have their eyes set on a season that they hope leads to a championship.

“I’m just looking forward to keep playing together,” Wahab said. “Keep winning together as a team, I think that’s what’s going to really help us … to get to our goal.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Emma Shuster

See all posts by Emma Shuster. Follow Emma Shuster on Twitter at @emmashuster1.