VIP: setting the stage for another busy offseason for Maryland basketball

Maryland basketball saw their season end in a 73–51 loss on Saturday night to Alabama, making the official end of year one in the Kevin Willard era. After assembling his staff and roster in a matter of weeks, head coach Kevin Willard and the coaching staff now enjoy a full off-season where they’re able to fill the remaining holes in what could be a big year two. So, where are the needs? Who should fans keep an eye on? We set the stage for what’s expected to be another hectic offseason.

What about the veteran trio?

The biggest question is whether, Maryland can return any of its three veterans— Jahmir Young, Donta Scott and Hakim Hart. Young entered the 2022-23 season with the intention that it was his final season of college basketball, and while he is someone who could be incentivized to return, the transfer guard has consistently attracted NBA and professional scouts inside Xfinity Center for practices and games as he evaluates his professional options. Hart, however, may fill the biggest roster need with limited wing players on next year’s roster. As for Scott, the fourth-year starter routinely drew praise from Kevin Willard since his hire and was a key piece in stabilizing the roster through the coaching transition as he now prepares for the next phase of his playing career.

While fans await a final decision from the veterans, Maryland currently enters the offseason with just one open scholarship. A return from one of the three would give the roster a key veteran to lean on as Willard gets his guys in the program, but optimism isn’t high heading into the offseason that any of the three will be back. Meanwhile, Georgetown transfer Don Carey has exhausted his eligibility as he prepares for likely an international career.

What about Juju?

Even in the closing minutes of the Alabama loss, the announcers hinted that the flashes Reese play with give confidence to him becoming the next dominant big man in College Park. And with three highly touted freshmen guards joining the roster next season, Reese is expected to return and be that anchor to establish Maryland’s low post presence. Reese was the center of transfer speculation last offseason in the midst of the coaching transition, while older sister Angel Reese’s transfer to LSU fueled the fire, but the Baltimore native will step into a big role next offseason. Who gets the chance to shine alongside Reese remains to be seen, while Caelum Swanton-Rodger will fill out the rotation after getting his feet wet in year one, but Reese is expected to give Willard a key piece as the staff finds a complementary big man.

Portal frenzy & needs

If you take a look at the type of players Maryland has already been linked to, it’s a perfect representation of the biggest roster needs: three-point shooting, a wing and a big man.

Maryland was among the long list of schools to inquire about Towson guard transfer Nick Timberlake, a proven shooter who averaged 17.7 points and shot 41.6% from three. While Maryland leaned on Carey to bolster its perimeter shooting in year one, Timberlake is an example of the staff looking to elevate that. Maryland was also among the teams to hold a Zoom with Timberlake last week as the staff keeps close tabs on him, but no visits have been set up heading into the weekend. Meanwhile, Maryland was already among the schools to contact ECU guard Javon Small, another proven scorer who averaged 15.8 points this season. While Small, a sophomore, would provide the backcourt with another shooter, he’d also give the roster another ball handler as Deshawn Harris-Smith prepares to fill the position.

Maryland also reached out to Harvard wing Chris Ledlum, one of the top prospects available in the portal, with head coach Kevin Willard already familiar with his background. Willard and assistant Grant Billmeier recruited Ledlum to give them familiarity heading into the portal pursuit, but with no proven option on the wing next year, Ledlum would fit that role to a T.

Lastly but arguably most importantly, three of the six portal targets the staff have been publicly linked to reside in the frontcourt. Assistant Tony Skinn initiated contact with Dartmouth forward Dame Adelekun as he begins to schedule visits elsewhere. Maryland has also been linked to both Pitt forward John Hugley, who averaged 14.8 points as a true freshman, along with St. Francis 6-foot-10 forward Josh Cohen who was named the NEC most improved player in 2021-22.

Maryland will be as active of a player this season as they were last offseason, but more scholarships will need to open. With Reese expected back for a third season and Swanton-Rodger playing a bigger role in the rotation, all eyes will be on Pavlo Dziuba and Arnaud Revaz in the frontcourt along with Ike Cornish in the backcourt.

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