National analyst confident in Maryland basketball heading into 2023-24

Maryland basketball enters the 2023-24 season with a handful of proven veterans mixed with a trio of portal additions and a four-man freshman class. Head coach Kevin Willard and the staff will look to leverage summer workouts to get comfortable with his new-look roster ahead of the Italy trip set to begin in late July, but the core group of returning starters is why one national analyst believes the Terps are the best team currently sitting outside of the consensus preseason top 25.

“I think this is going to shock you because nobody is talking about this team, and yes it’s in my Big Ten—I’m taking Maryland here,” Greg Waddell said on The Field of 68. “I love Jahmir Young. I think he’s awesome. I think he was extremely awesome for the final two months of last season and I think that we’ve seen a lot of these up-transfer point guards really have breakout seasons in year two at their school like Jalen Pickett did last season. Jahmir Young, I expect to take a leap beyond what he was at the end of last year, which was a top-four player in that conference. You’re pairing him with a guy, a true freshman in Deshawn Harris-Smith, who I absolutely love the talent-level of. I think he could potentially be a one-and-done, kind of a Jalen Hood-Schifino type impact on this team. And if that hits, that’s one of the best backcourts in the country. They got their frontcourt back— Julian Reese, Donta Scott. Yes, they lost Hakim Hart, that would’ve been a really nice fit piece on the wing but I think they’ve got enough bodies they can interchange there off the bench.”

Young’s arrival at Maryland gave Willard and the roster a dynamic scoring threat, and heading into year two, benefits from the added comfort within the system. Young’s ability to create offense was evident last season after Young scored in double figures in all but four of Maryland’s games last season while becoming the first guard since Greivis Vasquez to record at least 30 points and ten rebounds in the home win against Ohio State. Young will also have a chance to lean on Harris-Smith, who was among the initial batch of invites for the Team USA U-19 training camp. The former PVI star, who also gives the backcourt a capable ballhandler, wrapped up his high school career named Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year, Naismith High School All-American, WCAC Player of the Year and All-MET Player of the Year. Averaging nearly 15 points and eight rebounds per game, the addition of Harris-Smith gives the Terps an impact player now tasked with filling the void alongside Young to give Willard a dynamic backcourt.

The frontcourt has a pair of proven commodities in Scott and Reese while transfer Mady Traore will help fill the role left by Patrick Emilien in the rotation. A second-year jump from Noah Batchelor, along with the emergence of former four-star Jamie Kaiser, could fill the void at the wing but the ‘core four’ is why Waddell has early optimism in the Terps’ chances.

“That core of four with the two guys in the frontcourt, the two guys in the backcourt, I absolutely love and I’d be shocked by the end of the season if this team is not in the 15-25 range in the polls,” Waddell added.

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