Fatts Russell: Maryland’s Difficult 2021-22 Season Was Still Good Experience

Despite Maryland’s weird 2021-22 season, All-Big Ten honorable mention pick Fatts Russell enjoyed his time at the University of Maryland.

It was an extraordinarily strange season for the Terrapins. In early December, Mark Turgeon stepped down as head coach following a lackluster 5-3 start to the season, which included losses to George Mason and Louisville and close wins against George Washington and Hofstra.

Maryland finished the 2021-22 season with a 15-17 overall record and 7-13 record in the Big Ten, disappointing results given that Maryland was ranked No. 21 in the country in the AP preseason top-25 poll and was picked to finish fifth in the loaded Big Ten.

Despite all these difficulties, Russell enjoyed his time in College Park, Md. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound point guard averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from the field during his one year at Maryland.

“It was definitely a ride full of ups and downs,” Russell said on Glenn Clark Radio March 29. “[It consisted of] things you couldn’t really expect to happen, but all in all, I’m happy I made the decision to come to this amazing university. I met a lot of great people and built a lot of great relationships. It looked more difficult than it was, for sure.”

Russell is grateful for the relationships he was able to build during his time as a Terp and is appreciative of how well the fans treated him.

“I’m big on relationships and big on meeting good people,” Russell said. “It was a university full of good people and the fans embraced me with open arms. It was fun, I got to play with some of my friends. It was a good experience, all in all. It was a difficult season but a good experience.”

It was tough for Russell and the rest of the team to ignore rumors about why Turgeon left, what exactly happened and who the next coach might be. Russell was disappointed in how it all unfolded, but he made sure his focus was on his team and the remainder of the season.

“The human nature is to be disappointed,” Russell said. “You committed to a certain coach and then he steps down at the beginning of the season, that was definitely a disappointment. Soon right after that, you get your mindset on trying to build with [interim coach Danny Manning].

“At first it was difficult. We didn’t really have an identity. He was trying to implement what he wanted, and we were still kind of in Turgeon’s system, but after a while we started to get in a rhythm and we started to figure each other out. The season is only but so long. If we had more time, I feel like we would have finally turned the corner, but things happen for a reason.”

Russell played four years at Rhode Island (2017-2021) before spending his final year of eligibility at Maryland. He is the all-time leader in steals in Rams program history and earned first-team All-Atlantic 10 and first-team all-defense honors in 2019-20.

Russell played for David Cox from 2018-2021. Prior to becoming the head coach, Cox was assistant coach for four seasons under Dan Hurley. Cox was fired by Rhode Island after this season, but new Maryland head coach Kevin Willard decided to hire the Landover, Md., native as an assistant.

Russell had nothing but nice things to say about Cox and how he helped him take his game to a new level.

“Coach Cox means everything to me,” Russell said. “Our relationship … you can’t really describe it. We’ve been through a lot together, a lot of ups and downs. He’s like a family member to me and to see him come here and me not being able to play for him, it kind of hurts but I’m just glad he’s getting the opportunity to coach at the University of Maryland.”

Russell thinks Willard made a great move bringing in Cox to help the program.

“The type of guy you’re getting is he is a competitor. He’s going to do whatever it takes to win,” Russell said. “He’s a relationship guy. He’s good with all of the players. He’s a very good [at] player development. It’s exciting. I’m happy for him, I’m happy for the university to have him. [Hopefully] he can turn this program around.”

Maryland is surely hoping Cox can bring in recruits like Russell, who is now preparing for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in mid-April with the NBA Draft in mind.

“I feel at home at Maryland,” Russell said. “It’s been great to me, and I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to come here. The living situation is great and everything about this university is top tier.”

For more from Russell, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox