COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — In Kevin Willard's first season as Maryland coach, the Terrapins made it to the NCAA Tournament and won a first-round game.
They also had one obvious area for improvement.
“I always respected the Big Ten looking at it from the outside," Willard said. "Going through the league was really eye-opening. I learned a lot about how we have to play at home to win, how you have to play on the road to win — which we didn't do a good job of, obviously, last year.”
The Terps went 16-1 at home, 2-9 on the road and 4-3 at neutral sites in 2022-23. That wasn't such a bad tradeoff for a new coach — if you're trying to win over a fan base, playing well at home is an important first step. Still, if Maryland is going to compete for Big Ten titles, the Terrapins are going to need more success on opposing courts.
Maryland returns three of its top four scorers from last season in Jahmir Young, Donta Scott and Julian Reese. Young averaged 15.8 points per game in his first season with the Terps after transferring from Charlotte.
Scott is entering his fifth season at Maryland and has scored 1,320 points in his career.
“Practices have been unbelievable. We can’t go that long because they’re so competitive, they’re so physical,” Willard said. “We look like a Big Ten team, where last year we had to really fight to be a Big Ten team. This year we look like a Big Ten team, and I think we can compete a little bit higher level because of that.”
FROM THE PORTAL
The Terps welcome 6-foot-6 transfer Jordan Geronimo, who played three seasons at Indiana. He averaged 4.2 points last season with the Hoosiers.
Willard said Maryland's 73-51 loss to top-seeded Alabama in the NCAA Tournament last season made his team's shortcomings clear.
“We really needed to change our athleticism. Again, I had a great team last year. They were so fun to coach, but there was some limits on what we could do physically and athletically,” he said.
Mady Traore, a transfer from New Mexico State, brings some size to the roster at 6-11.
Maryland has the nation's No. 19 recruiting class arriving this season, according to 247 Sports. Guards DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jaime Kaiser were both four-star recruits.
“Our freshman class is the best freshman class I’ve ever had,” said Willard, who previously coached at Seton Hall. “DeShawn Harris-Smith is by far the most talented player, probably the most physically gifted basketball player I’ve ever been able to coach so far. Jamie Kaiser was a former quarterback and played football. So they’ve been able to come in with Jordan and really kind of embrace how we want to play at the level we want to play at.”
The Terps open the season against an in-state opponent when they face Mount St. Mary's on Nov. 7. Other nonconference highlights include trips to play Villanova and UCLA. The Bruins were the one visiting team to win in College Park last season, routing Maryland 87-60.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll