COLLEGE PARK — — Mark Turgeon brushed his hand across his head in a gesture of exasperation.
There is still much for the Terps to learn about playing in the first-year Maryland coach's system, he said Tuesday. "We're just going through growing pains," he said as the team prepared to host a Wake Forest team Wednesday night that has improved since last season.
But with Maryland (10-4, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) now plunging into its ACC schedule, that education must occur not only in practice, but in the games that will define its season.
And that means that Turgeon must summon all of his patience — an attribute he said has honed by helping raise his three kids.
"Kids teach you patience. I've mellowed a lot," he said. "I have more patience today because I am a father."
The "kids" he largely focused on during his Comcast Center media session Tuesday afternoon were named "Ashton," "Terrell" and "Alex."
Like many other parents, Turgeon is quick to dispense praise when warranted. But, in response to media questions, he outlined some of the improvements he hopes to see from his Terps — notably power forward Ashton Pankey, shooting guard Terrell Stoglin and center Alex Len.
Turgeon wasn't singling out those three players for criticism. Following Maryland's 79-74 loss at North Carolina State on Sunday, he said generally that the Terps didn't always get back on defense and "didn't compete as hard as we can" during a critical 13-2 run by the Wolfpack in the second half.
But Turgeon was asked most about Pankey, Stoglin and Len by reporters on Tuesday, and — characteristically blunt — this is what he said about each:
• Pankey: Before the season started, Turgeon had said of the redshirt freshman: "From what I've seen, he's by far our best rebounder." He told reporters a month ago that Pankey "has gone brain-dead at times, and he's a very smart player."
Pankey had started the two games before Len arrived against Albany on Dec. 28 and immediately became a starter. Len had to sit out the first 10 games as a sanction for having previously signed a deal with a club overseas.
Pankey hasn't started since Len arrived. Against the Wolfpack, Pankey had just one rebound, two blocks and no points in 16 minutes.
"Ashton's got to figure another way to help us. We can't sit around and sulk and pout," Turgeon said Tuesday. "We've talked at length with Ashton about it. We need him to play well for us to win a game like that. We're trying with him. We just keep plugging."
• Stoglin: The sophomore leads the ACC in scoring (21.4 points per game) and had 25 points against N.C. State. But he had no assists.
"You look at the games Terrell has two or three assists, I guarantee you we probably won those games," Turgeon said.
Stoglin is averaging 2.1 assists. In Maryland's four losses, he had a total of five assists.
Stoglin is such a potent scorer and often thinks "shot" before "pass.'
"I can see the challenge for him," said point guard Pe'Shon Howard, who said the team is working on sharing the ball better. "Any tough shot for any normal human being is like a layup for him."
• Len: Turgeon has been quick to praise the 7-foot-1 center, who had his first career double-double against N.C. State and was named ACC Rookie of the Week. But Len was slow to get downcourt on at least one defensive series against N.C. State and may have been tired.
"He's not in game shape," Turgeon said.
Notes: Wake Forest (10-5, 1-0 ACC) has won four of its past five games and beat Virginia Tech, 58-55, in its conference opener. The Demon Deacons, led by junior guard C.J. Harris (18.3 points per game) and sophomore forward Travis McKie (17.5 points per game), won only one conference game last season.