Saturday's 20-minute scrimmage was an intriguing first look at the future of Maryland's basketball team. While four freshmen flashed enormous promise, three skilled transfers demonstrated their polish.
But amid the excitement over the Terrapins' new players, one of the most encouraging signs was the friskiness of veteran guard Pe'Shon Howard. Coming off a disastrous season that began late because of a broken bone in his left foot and ended early because of a torn ACL in his right knee, Howard looked in superb physical condition, showing quickness and confidence running the point.
"For Pe'Shon to be this far along is pretty encouraging," Turgeon said after the scrimmage. "He looks good for only going for three weeks."
Last year, Turgeon saw Howard at his worst. His shooting was off from a solid freshman season, dropping from 42.3 percent to 36.9 percent on field goals, 35.9 percent to 27.0 percent on 3-pointers and 68.0 percent to 65.5 percent on free throws. His production also declined from 11.6 points, 1.7 steals and 6.9 assists per 40 minutes as a freshman to 7.9 points, 1.0 steals and 4.5 assists last season.
Still, Maryland was a better team with Howard on the floor. After going 8-6 with him in the lineup, the Terps went 3-6 after Howard injured his knee in practice.
According to Turgeon, Howard made good use of his time while injured.
"I would tell him, 'I know it stinks that you are hurt, but this will help you. Sit back and study me and watch what I want and understand what the team needs you to do,'?" Turgeon said. "He has been hurt for seven months, but he is already better in the past week and a half than he was at any time last year."
Howard said that the layoff from basketball did him good. It forced him to take stock of his career and refocus on his goals. He returns this fall with more drive and ambition. While he is close to 100 percent physically, he says he now must work on the mental part, the hesitation that comes after a serious injury.
"A lot of things you think about that you didn't think about before, just trying to get over that every day," Howard said.
There will be competition at point guard. Freshman Seth Allen is an explosive athlete with shooting range and the ability to get to the rim. But Turgeon has said that he has to remind Allen that he's not "with a high school team" and is urging him to distribute the ball.
Sophomore Nick Faust will contend for minutes at the point, as well, especially if Xavier transfer Dez Wells is cleared by the NCAA to play this year.
Turgeon said Saturday that 7-foot-2 Alex Len is the only player assured of starting. His words on Howard, however, suggest that he wants him to run the offense.
"I expect him to be a heck of a lot better. Sometimes when you are able to practice with a coach but then get hurt and have to watch, you become a much better player," Turgeon said. "Already his leadership skills are much better, and he is not as moody on the floor."